Umfolozi Big Five Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal welcomed a new lodge on May 1 – the luxury Biyela Lodge, which forms part of the Mantis Collection of properties.

The 12-room lodge can sleep 24 guests, with each set of suites offering different views and experiences of Biyela. The top five suites, often referred to as the ‘honeymoon’ suites, look directly on to the main lodge, with sweeping views of the river and surrounding hills. The three suites to the left of the main lodge are ear-marked to have ‘night beds’, where guests can have the option of sleeping outside under the stars – these should be ready by mid-June. And the remaining four suites are villa-frontage suites that offer the best chance of seeing wildlife walking past, and sometimes elephants drinking out of the pool.

All suites have views over the park and wilderness area, with en-suite bathrooms including an extra-large king-size bed, bath, outdoor shower accessible from the large indoor shower, reception area, lounge and large outdoor patio with glass balustrades to maximise the view.

Bedroom in one of the suites at Biyela Lodge.

“For the fullest experience of the lodge, I recommend that guests time their stay to spend two nights at the bottom end of the lodge in the villa-frontage suites, and two nights at the top in the honeymoon suites,” says General Manager of both Biyela and Mthembu (sister lodge to Biyela) lodges, Geran Ellish.

The main lodge area, which houses the public spaces, has a large lounge, bar, restaurant that opens on to the outdoor deck, with a deck boma outside where guests can relax around a fire in the evenings.

Rim-flow pool at the lodge, outside the lounge and bar area.

Both Biyela and Mthembu Lodge were developed and built by Barry and Sonya Theunissen. “Biyela has a more modern look and feel than Mthembu, which has a more intimate family ambience,” says Sonya Theunissen. “It’s a safari-chic theme, and offers a more upmarket experience for discerning couples or honeymooners. But anyone is welcome. We do also package the two lodges in a safari experience, so guests can get the best of both.”

Sonya and Barry Theunissen - owners and developers of Biyela Lodge.

Activities at Biyela include sunrise and sunset safari drives, and an Africology spa. The developer-owners are also currently in the process of securing rifle licences so that they can offer walking safaris by highly trained guides. They hope that the licences will be finalised in the next four months. In addition to the activities, guests can enjoy the diverse birdlife – over 500 species of birds live on the reserve – with ample photographic opportunities.

Some of the most beautiful sunrises can be seen on a morning game drive.

The area is steeped in history. Across from Biyela is where the Zulu battles took place, and guests can also see the rock scouring that still remains from the Ice Age. “Where else can you go for a history lesson and watch the Big Five in one place?” comments Barry Theunissen. The lodge is also in the process of applying for funding to create community gardens that will then supply fresh produce to the both Biyela and Mthembu Lodges, as well as create more jobs for the locals. Both lodges primarily employ and train local people – from builders to service staff, guides and rangers.

The lodge also caters for intimate meetings of between eight and 10 people, with offerings tailored to business travellers’ needs.

Biyela has signed an agreement with Sky Safaris to facilitate helicopter transfers from Durban’s King Shaka International Airport, and Virginia Airport which is 10km north of Durban, to the lodge, and is currently building a helipad on the property.