Inside the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is iSimangaliso Wetland Park in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, is a place with a mystical, magical atmosphere. Surround yourself with waterways and lakes, walk in a raffia forest, dine by the romantic light of candles and paraffin lamps, sleep in comfort under a large milkwood or Natal fig tree, wake to the sound of bird song. This is the tranquillity of Kosi Forest Lodge and its romantic forest setting.
Kosi Forest Lodge huddles in an indigenous sand forest along South Africa’s Elephant Coast. A giant Zulu podberry tree with gnarled limbs dominates the main deck with its open-air lounge, bar and dining area. Eat your meals al fresco in the balmy Maputaland air or around a crackling fire in the boma. Lunch might be beef fillet kebabs and salads, dinner a trio of mussels, lamb and delicious yoghurt pannacotta. There’s no doubt you will eat well here.
Another highlight at the lodge is the swimming pool that has a fabulous view out over Lake Shengeza. Relax in a lounger with a book and a cool drink, watch and listen for some of the resident hippos. Then marvel as the sun kisses the horizon and sets the clouds aflame with crimson.
Other things to do at Kosi Forest Lodge
We loved our stay here, both for the enchanting forest environment and for the slew of things to entertain you. Here are some other appealing things to do at Kosi Forest Lodge or nearby.
1. Take a walk in the raffia palm forest
The trees grow to about 25m high and have some of the largest leaves in the plant kingdom. Being very long and straight, the fronds can be used for fences or as the structural basis for a house. Since they float, the locals also use them to build canoes. The trees live around 25-40 years and have flowers once in a lifetime and then die.
These fruits in the highest reaches of the tree are a favourite among the palm-nut vultures that occur here. They hang upside down below the fruit, use their beaks to pull the palm nut off the tree and then grasp it in their feet to eat it. We saw one of these unique vultures – the only ones in the world that eat fruit instead of carrion – swoop across the sky but sadly too fleeting for a photo or even to focus the binos properly.
2. Go canoeing
3. Go snorkelling at Kosi Mouth
If you have a 4x4 you can drive yourself to Kosi Mouth about an hour away from the lodge. Or you can join a full-day excursion from the lodge. Snorkelling equipment is provided. At Kosi Mouth you’ll be able to explore the forest, see some of the traditional Tsonga fishing traps and maybe spot whales or dolphins. The highlight is to snorkel in the clear water of this fresh and saltwater breeding ground. Species to look for include an abundance of nudibranches, starfish, anemones, sea urchins, hermit crabs, wrasse, angelfish and other fish species. Float on the water and discover the colourful world below the surface.
4. Enjoy a guided boat tour of the Kosi lakes
This is home to the rare raffia palm, to palm-nut vultures, date palms, sycamore fig forests and mangrove swamps with five different species of mangrove. Learn from your guide about some of the red data plant species to be found in the area.
On a motorised boat trip, you might spot hippos and crocs, otters, flamingos and other marine life. You’ll also get a chance to see and learn about the traditional Tsonga fishing traps that are still used by locals today.
5. Look for turtles
6. Go fishing
7. Visit Tembe Elephant Park for the day
Read more about the Isibindi Foundation’s projects at Kosi Forest Lodge
Need to know
- There’s lots of open space at the remote Kosi Forest Lodge, perfect for social distancing during the Covid pandemic. Strict masking and hand sanitising procedures are in place and someone will take your temperature when you arrive.
- Kosi Forest Lodge is about 420km or a six-hour drive north of Durban.
- The lodge is very near the border with Mozambique and in a malaria area. Talk to your doctor or travel clinic about malaria prevention before your visit.
- You need a 4x4 to get to the lodge. If you don’t have one, you can arrange to park securely in nearby Manguzi/Kosi Bay and for the lodge vehicle to pick you up and take you back.
- The quoted rates include all meals as well as a canoe trip and raffia forest walk.
- Try to stay at least three nights, not only because your soul will thank you but also because it gives you a better chance of being assured of a windless day for a motorised boat trip. If you have two windy days back to back, you’ll be gutted to be leaving the lodge on the first wind-free day.
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