ACTIVITIES AT THONGA BEACH LODGE

Snorkelling

Mabibi offers superb snorkelling opportunities with a great diversity of underwater seascapes and marine flora and fauna. The shallow reefs along this protected stretch of coastline are home to an array of brilliant sub-tropical fish including moorish idols, parrot fish and blue surgeons. The warm waters of the Indian Ocean make this the ideal spot to snorkel or guests can simply soak up the sun and savour the tranquility of this pristine, sandy beach.
 
Snorkelling at Thonga Beach Lodge 
Snorkeling at Thonga

Scuba Diving
Scuba diving at Mabibi is phenomenal, with reefs located a short distance from the lodge. Shoals of game fish, sharks and schools of bottlenose dolphins are often seen. Our professional lodge diving team accommodates all enthusiasts; from the beginner to the veteran, wanting a tour of the very best our reefs have to offer. 1,250 fish species (Great Barrier Reef has 1500) occur on the reefs in this area. Dives are from a semi-rigid dive boat which accommodates a maximum of 8 divers at a time. The boat launches from straight in front of the lodge directly through the surf. This can be exciting and strenuous so a reasonable level of fitness is required. Diving is limited by weather and the tides and cannot be guaranteed. Guests must have proof of their diving qualifications. We regret no children under 12 years or adults over 65 years.
 
Diving at Thonga Beach Lodge

 

 

Open Ocean Experience

This adventure activity offers guests a rare opportunity to experience the variety of marine life that lives along the Elephant Coast.  An exciting launch through the surf, in front of the lodge, takes you beyond the breakers to a world of dolphins, whales, whale sharks and snorkelling.  The warm Indian Ocean supports a myriad of fish and marine life.  Guests can sometimes swim with dolphins or whale sharks or snorkel with manta rays and giant turtles.  No experience is required for this activity, but the launch through the surf can be strenuous. We regret no children under 12 years or adults over 65 years.  Maximum number of guests is 10.  Weather and tide dependent.
 
Thonga Beach Open Ocean Experience, view from the sea
Thonga from the sea


Lake Sibaya
The lake is 6km from the lodge, a 25-minute drive.
 

  • * Sundowners are offered on the shores Southern Africa’s largest fresh water lake - Lake Sibaya (70 square km).  The Ramsar Convention assures its international conservation status. The lake has 125km of untouched shoreline, good bird watching and a great diversity of fauna and flora.
* Guests can also explore parts of the lake by guided kayak with the chance of seeing hippo and crocodile en route. A reasonable level of fitness is required.
 
Lake Sibaya 
Lake Sibaya

 

Lake Sibaya has 100km of untouched shoreline and at 70km2 is South Africa’s largest freshwater lake. The lake falls within the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, now a World Heritage Site, and the Ramsar Convention assures its international conservation status.

The lake’s diverse flora provides a variety of habitats for birds, mammals and aquatic life. Research reveals that hundreds of years ago the lake was once connected to the sea and with the natural closure of the estuary, numerous fish and aquatic creatures were trapped in a fresh water environment.

Lake Sibaya contains the second largest population of hippopotamus and crocodile in KwaZulu-Natal and is an important breeding, feeding and roosting area for a host of bird species. Surface water in the surrounding coastal plain often disappears completely during dry spells, making the lake the only source of permanent water for birds and mammals.

The wetland also supports many of the rural people of this region, who in many cases are totally dependent on the water resource and its associated flora and fauna. Good management, careful conservation and controlled use of resources make Lake Sibaya an example of the concept ‘wise use in action’.

Lake Sibaya and its feeder streams support 18 species of fish.  The fauna reflects a marine origin and has close affinities with tropical forms.  A freshwater goby (Silhouetta sibayi) is almost endemic to this water system, as very few records of it have been received from other localities.

Plants and trees growing around the lake are typical of coastal dune forest vegetation.  Of particular importance is the growth of an orchid Vanilla Roscheri, which only occurs at Lake Sibaya.  Another orchid, Oecevelades decaryanum, was collected at the Lake for the first time in South Africa and an unknown Oecevelades sp. occurs near Sibaya.

Mammals
There are 6 mammal species associated regularly with the Lake.  These are white-tailed mongoose, water mongoose, hippopotamus, reedbuck, vlei otomys and African marsh rat.  Other mammals associated with the area include tona red squirrel; suni; four-toed elephant shrew; samango monkey; red duiker and blue duiker.

 Nile Crocodiles
Nile Crocodile
 
Amphibia and Reptiles
There are 22 species of frog recorded at Lake Sibaya, 20 of which are tropical forms. Common species are Reed Frogs, Grass Frogs and toads. Larger reptiles include Water Monitor, African Python, Forest Cobra and Nile Crocodile.
 
Painted Reedd Frog
Painted Reed Frog
 
Birds
Lake Sibaya is a birdwatcher's dream come true with 279 species recorded at the Lake alone. The water system is environmentally important for breeding, roosting and feeding habits. The most numerous are Red and White Breasted Cormorants; Pied, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers; Fish Eagles and a variety of herons, darters and egrets.  Waders include White-Fronted Sand Plover, Black-Winged Stilt, Avocent, Greenshank and Spoonbills.  The sheltered bays are home to jacana, crakes, gallinules and bitterns.  Also recorded at the lake are the much sought-after Pel’s Fishing Owl, Pygmy Goose, Palmnut Vulture, flamingoes, Woodward’s Batis and Rufousbellied Heron.
 
Birding at Lake Sibaya
Birds at Sibaya

 

Bird Watching

Birding at Mabibi and its surrounds is excellent and the variety of habitats attracts a great diversity of species.  Typical coastal species include Livingstone’s and Purplecrested Lourie, Green Twinspot, Grey Waxbill and Green Coucal.  Waders are common along the shoreline, and Pinkthroated Longclaw and Rufousbellied Heron frequent the marshy areas.  Lake Sibaya has recorded 279 bird species including the Palmnut Vulture, the only fruit-eating vulture in the world.  Pel’s fishing owl and pygmy goose.
 
 Birding at Thonga Beach Lodge is fantastic!
Birding at Mabibi, Thonga Beach Lodge


Guided Walks

Guests can head out on foot and explore this natural wonderland through coastal dune forests, unspoiled sandy beaches and grasslands. The wild beauty of Maputuland will enthrall naturalists and photographers alike.


Turtle Tracking

In summer, nocturnal walks and drives along the beach in search of egg-laying turtles can be arranged.  Guests can witness the culmination of an incredible journey as Giant Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in carefully prepared nests.  Turtle tracking is offered in the evening from November to end February.  Every precaution is taken to ensure these magnificent creatures are not disturbed during the laying process.
 
Turtle tracking at Thonga - Leatherback Turtles
Turtle tracking - Leatherback turtle

 

Research has shown that the mother returns to the same beach and that eggs are laid within metres of where the mother emerged as a hatchling years previously. Guests can view the turtles as they are laying and every precaution is taken to ensure the turtles are not disturbed.

Turtle tracking is offered from November to end February in the evenings. These magnificent creatures return to the Maputuland coastline every year, having swum the length of the African continent, and return to the beach where they hatched.

There are a number of different turtles found off the coast of Maputuland but only two of these lay their eggs on the Maputuland coast: the Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles.
 
Loggerhead Turtle
Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta)

The loggerhead’s limbs each have two claws, which it uses to hunt for crabs, mussels, shrimps and a variety of fish. Nesting takes place at night from the end of October through to January. The round, white, leathery eggs – as many as 120 in a clutch – are laid in the sand and then covered with packed sand.

The Loggerhead, so named because of the shape of its head, is another endangered marine reptile. It is a large, brown turtle which can grow up to 1m long and reach a weight of up to 130kg. Its shell has scutes, which don’t overlap and are smooth.

It is an unforgettable experience to witness these enormous creatures laying their eggs. The hatchlings emerge from the nest about 60 days after being laid and it is incredible to watch the youngsters emerge from the nest simultaneously. It’s a struggle for survival as they dig 40cm to the surface and crawl, en mass, some 50m to the sea, where they often fall prey to kingfish and seabirds. The survival rate is less than one in 50.

This endangered marine reptile is the largest living turtle and can reach a total length of 2,1 metres with a weight of up to 365kg. Unlike other turtles, the leatherback has no visible shell. Instead, it has a carapace made up of hundreds of irregular bony plates, covered with a leathery skin.

The life expectancy of leatherbacks is not known, but first breeding is thought to be between 10 and 15 years old. Female leatherbacks come ashore to nest every 2 to 3 years. The females nest at high tide on moonless, summer nights and lay 6 to 9 clutches of eggs. Each clutch contains 100 to 120 eggs. Seven weeks later, when the eggs hatch, the hatchlings must make their way to the ocean quickly to avoid predatory seabirds.

Well adapted to life in the ocean, the leatherback has well-developed front flippers that propel it through the water. It is one of the few animals that feed exclusively on jellyfish and can dive up to depths of 300m.

 

Fishing

The Maputuland coastline is renowned as one of South Africa’s most popular fishing destinations. Guests can try their hand at surf fishing or fly-fishing. Hully Point at Mabibi, is a well-known fly-fishing spot. The enthusiastic angler can experience the thrill of bagging the catch of a lifetime from these brilliant waters. Thonga Beach Lodge encourages guests to "catch & release".
 
Fishing at Thonga Beach Lodge, Cath and Release encouraged
Fishing at Mabibi


Tsonga Cultural Experience

Visit a Tsonga homestead and learn about their unique heritage and culture. Spend some time with community members discussing their rural lifestyle and their vision for South Africa. You also have an opportunity to see one of the local schools and see how these young South Africans are striving for a better future under trying conditions.
 
Thonga locals
 Thonga local community

 

2010-11-09

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