West of Port Elizabeth about 25km out is one of Nelson Mandela Bays valuable gems. We are a city by the coast but don’t let this fool you, the forests in the bay have their own mysteries just waiting to be explored. This began an absolutely lavish quest to seek out the perfect picnic spot. Driving down along the coast into Seaview, you are edged deeper inland to the forests that house lavish houses in their secret nooks. You cannot help but glare at their opulent presence. You could call it a secret forest of possibilities.
This led us into the Maitlands where Thunzi Bush Lodge has created a never ending space of tranquility. After a long week, we were in desperate need of the sounds of silence, picnicking seemed like just the thing. The website images and the stories you hear have nothing on the physical experience of being there. We drove past the Elephant Walk and down narrow roads covered by thick bush and gravel roads. That was until we realized we had veered off just a tad, but the GPS quickly rerouted us back to the (M9) De Stades Road and in eight mins we arrived at the gates of Thunzi Bush Lodge a stone throw away from Maitland Local Authority Natures Reserve.
Family of monkeys to greet you once entering the gates.
We pressed the buzzer which easily granted us access and in we drove through a narrow gravel road surrounded by thick thorny bush. We were met by a family of monkeys right in the middle of the road, which hurridly scurried into the forest and glared at us as we drove by. We stopped for a moment and took pictures then ventured on our quest for the reception. As you come off the driveway you are met by a breathtaking view of the entire forest. This blew us away but also made us wonder where exactly was the picnic. My first thought was, oh wait, monkeys! Just then, William, our host, welcomed us knowing exactly who we were. He was an exceptional host, and from back and forth emails as we prepared for the weekend, William was generously helpful in making our needs met.
Reception area of Thunzi Bush Lodge.
After a moment of brief introductions, he handed us our carefully picked picnic basket that consisted of bits and nibbles from a select menu. We had slithers of springbok carpaccio, beef medallions and ham; a greek salad; blue and mature cheddar cheese with bits of figs; smoked snoek and chicken liver pate; freshly baked mini loaves and cracker bread; a basil dressing and for dessert, a delicious sight of chocolate brownies. It was all neatly packed in a delicately blue picnic basket along with some cutlery and two wine glasses just to complete the pack. He then presented us with a selection of drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, however we opted to bring our own at no extra fee. This entire treat was fairly priced and quite worth it.
Thunzi Bush Lodge has the perfect picnic spot for you to escape to.
William then picked out a map from the stack and began to explain the general direction that we had to go. Being bad with directions in general, I hoped I would somehow find the place. Luckily, it was a fairly simple map to look at but, being new to the surroundings, it made everything so much more fun. We physically had to go and find our spot in the clearing of the forest. William must’ve spotted the confused look on my face as he politely offered to have one of his guides take us to our spot. We felt brave enough to wing it, which made it another added treat.
Down the gravel roads we went as we counted past the three other picnic spots occupied by other people. They looked deliciously delighted and this made us even more eager to find our spot. We turned left off the road and into the bush past an elderly couple. At that moment I felt a bit guilty intruding in their peaceful serenity as they overlooked the bushy hill. As we drove into the clearing, we were a little puzzled that perhaps we had made a wrong turn. This until about a few feet further in the cove of a few bushes, was the most immaculately presented picnic spot. The attention to detail was impeccable.
A padded mat was placed on the grass clearing, upon which, were spread a few pillows enough for two.
A padded mat was placed on the grass clearing, upon which, were spread a few pillows enough for two. A small fleece throw to put over the mat and a small foot table just high enough to fit all the nibbles, which was perfect enough for us to reach our carefully prepared lunch. We took a moment to take it all in, the view of the thick forest above and blessed with a slight overcast, made every moment perfect. The sounds of birds chirping and twigs breaking under the hooves of animals nearby made the space exquisitely tranquil and secluded from the rest of the lodge. Before we realized it, we had been there the entire afternoon with the momentary peace begging for a nap, but of course, we were out in the middle of the woods. With that, we decided to venture back, slowly realizing how much of an amazing experience it truly was.
A delicately packed gourmet blue picnic basket along with some cutlery and two wine glasses just to complete the pack.
In a time where technology and cell phones steal every bit of attention from each other, Thunzi Bush Lodge has the perfect picnic spot for you to escape to. It doesn’t need to be on valentine’s day, they are open throughout the season and have small changes during the winter months. After dropping off our picnic basket back at reception, we further enquired about the lodge itself. To top off this amazing service they provide to day visitors, they have 6 chalets hidden in the thick forests with their own private driveways. The entire lodge holds up to twenty people, making the serenity of this tiny forest escape into a hearty retreat. One that throws you far from the screeching city and daily bustle; into the sweet balmy atmosphere of the Maitlands.
Mokeys in the trees.
For a day trip or a weekend away; for family, couples or friends, this is the perfect retreat, twenty three kilometers west, of our beautiful Nelson Mandela Bay. Come #ShareTheBay at Thunzi Bush Lodge, and experience nature like you have only dreamt.
There is more to the Maitlands than meets the eye.