I’m Going Back to Africa


Yes, I’m going back to Africa in May, however, this time, I’m traveling as an independent affiliate of Holden Safaris; a boutique and exclusive safari operator located in Newport Beach, California.

Our first stop is at the INDABA conference, one of the largest tourism marketing events held in Durban, South Africa. After INDABA, our team is driving along a special tour of the KwaZulu Natal province of South Africa. (The route is shown on the map below. Notice how close we are to Lesotho, where I served as a Peace Corps volunteer.)


Our route by car in KwaZulu Natal province.

Have you read The Elephant Whisperer, by Lawrence Anthony?

Anthony rescued and rehabilitated formerly violent, rogue elephants, destined to be shot. When Anthony passed away on March 2nd, 2012, the elephants sensed his death and loitered around his rural compound. In 2013 and 2014, the elephants returned on the exact same day at the same time. It seems incredible how these elephants knew what had happened.

Holden Safaris has arranged for us to visit Anthony’s lodge: Thula Thula Private Game Reserve, in KwaZulu Natal, which is now run by his French widow, Francoise Malby-Anthony. I’m excited to meet and speak French to Francoise and learn more about the rhino rehab center on the Thula Thula Private Game Reserve . This rhino center was built and run by the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization. If you watch her video below, you’ll discover how her veterinarian injects rhino horns with poison and dyes to stop poachers from killing the rhinos. There is a myth that the rhino horn is an aphrodisiac and can cure certain diseases in countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and China, where one kilo of rhino horn powder fetches $40,000. The truth is that rhino horns are made of  the protein, keratin, which is the same as our finger nails, and has no medicinal value.

Francoise Malby-Anthony raises money to save the rhinos through the “Conservation Fund for the Protection and Survival of Our endangered Wildlife.”


Our next stop on the map is the Thanda Safari Private Game Reserve, which is described as:

“More than a luxury lodge, more than a dream safari destination, more than an African escape… Thanda Safari offers an authentically South African wildlife experience, matched with sincere commitment to the Zulu culture and passionate conservation of the environment. “

On the following day, we head towards the Manyoni Private Game Reserve, one of the largest privately owned reserves in Kwazulu-Natal.

Rhino River Lodge-Click on photo to go to website

“This 23,000 hectare reserve is the product of 17 dedicated landowners who dropped their fences in 2004 to create one protected area for our wildlife.  The long term vision of the MPGR is to increase the conservation footprint and to re-introduce species that historically occurred in the area.”

We then continue to The White Elephant Pongola Reserve luxury tented accommodation; our next stop.

White Elephant Lodge, reception and library area-click on photo to go to website.

“Eight luxurious Safari tents, each with indulgent bathroom, out door shower, private verandah and personal bar provide a secluded retreat in an unspoilt savannah bushveld teeming with game and bird life.”

A historical stop at the Fugitive’s Drift Lodge

Fugitives lodge accommodation

Fugitives’ Drift Tours-Click on photo to go to website.

“The Zulu War of 1879 is famous throughout the English-speaking world for the great battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. The spectacular Fugitives’ Drift property, a 5000 acre Natural Heritage Site, overlooks both Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, and includes the site where Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill lost their lives attempting to save the Queen’s Colour of their regiment.”

And our last stop is at the Three Trees at Spioenkop on the Northern Drakensburg.

These wonderful children remind me of the children at my school in Lesotho.

The hosts, Simon and Cheryl Blackburn (ex Singita Private Game Reserve and ex Kwando Safari Experience) are both experienced safari & mountain guides, South African-born, they have spent their time together exploring remote parts of Africa, and they believe in:

“Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) is a non-profit organisation that promotes responsible tourism in southern Africa and beyond.  The aim of FTT is to make tourism more sustainable by ensuring that the people who contribute their land, resources, labour and knowledge to tourism are the ones who reap the benefits.”

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you in May when I return to South Africa. If you feel like learning more about Safaris or actually going on a Safari after reading my blog posts, contact me (sonia@soniamarsh.com) and I’ll put you in touch with Jim Holden, President of Holden Safaris. Jim was born in Zambia, and is an expert on Africa. He has been interviewed on Africa with AAA Travel and Peter Greenberg, the CBS News Travel Editor.

I hope you enjoy my next “Gutsy Adventure” in life, and that you might want to experience your own African Safari one day. Feel free to share my post with anyone you know who might be interested in reading about this amazing adventure I’m about to embark on.


Comments (13)

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  1. Ian Mathie says:

    This sounds far more like Sonia than some of your recent partying blogs. Back to being the gutsy girl I know you really yare. I’m so pleased you’ve got involved with this and hope you have a great time. You’ll certainly see different aspects of Africa from those you encountered in Lesotho and the Zulu War trail is quite fascinating with wonderful people and an intriguing culture.
    I shall look forward to hearing about your progress and hope this is the first step in something new, exciting and worth doing.

  2. Susan Jackson says:

    I am glad you had time to enjoy your friends and life again–will this turn into a tour guide job in The future?

    • Sonia Marsh says:

      Hi Susan,

      I’m looking into booking custom safaris for individuals and small groups through Holden Safaris, as well as getting involved in fundraising for non-profits involved in the environment, animal conservation etc. Still in the research process.
      Sonia Marsh recently posted..I’m Going Back to AfricaMy Profile

  3. Suellen Zima says:

    Congratulations on finding a way of pulling things together that you care about and can fully enjoy.

  4. Linda Luke says:

    This one sounds perfect for you.
    Linda Luke recently posted..A Sense of Order Soothes Your SoulMy Profile

  5. Good for you, Sonia! You’ll bring a lot of knowledge and experience to your new post.

    I just saw The Zookeeper’s Wife, a moving film with rich (and disturbing) footage about elephants.
    Marian Beaman recently posted..Caption Needed: Vintage PostcardMy Profile

  6. Kay Kurtz says:

    Congratulations Sonia,

    What a great time. oh, by the way, I have those days off and my bags are packed. What time shall I be ready?



  7. Debbie MorrisI look forward to reading your says:

    Sonia, I read “Elephant Whisperer” about a year ago and LOVED it! I cannot believe you got to go there and meet the wife. He was an amazing man and did great work. I am looking forward to reading your books and your blog.

    • Sonia Marsh says:

      Debbie, I saw all the elephants and even met the guy in his book, David, who is still involved with wildlife conservation. I did not meet Francoise though as she was on vacation but I did see his lodge at Thula Thula.

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