The Thonga Trail was conceptualised by two Zululanders who begun rediscovering their own back yard after lockdown and were re-awakened to its magic.
Andy Coetzee has lived in Maputaland for many years starting his conservation career there in the early 80's. Andy conducted fisheries-research on the Pongola floodplain, horticultural research on Cashews & Coconuts and research on the leatherback and loggerhead turtles out of early Rocktail Bay Lodge circa '93. As an avid (some might say rabid) fisherman, he walked the open beaches from Mabibi to Kosi Mouth for many years, fly-rod in hand and a hat full of colourful feather flies, coining the nickname “Khanda leNyoni” head of the bird, by the local Thonga fishermen. An unquenchable passion for wide open, unpopulated places kept him exploring the local cuisine, medicinal plants, offshore reefs, birdlife and fossilized dunes, all of which make Maputaland such a fascinating environment. A published author, National Geographic TV presenter and gifted naturalist, he spends as much time as possible freediving the oceans, guiding & filming whales, sharks, orcas and turtles in the open oceans, especially in Maputaland.
Andy and Grant Brokensha met in 2014 diving the Okavango and drifting the Congo River in a dugout canoe for weeks on end fishing for Goliath Tigers whilst filming the fishing series - "Fishing for Giants”. They've subsequently traveled together to Uganda, Gabon, Tanzania and Seychelles. Grant lives in Sodwana and has been around Maputaland his whole life in between extensive travels to every far flung corner of the globe as a successful wildlife filmmaker. He is known locally as "Mfana ga Umkhonto", “The Son of the Spear”. (That's a story for around the campfire). Grants father was the officer in charge of the entire KZN coastline for 35 years in the Natal Parks Board and included the proclamation of the marine reserves and sanctuaries you will walk through today.
Damien is a Frenchman who fell in love with Maputaland, and is an incredible & passionate chef. He lives, breathes and dreams of culinary adventures and creates nearly everything from scratch, sourcing locally and considerately. His family live and success in the area means that we don't have him on all our trails. On our trails you'll still find many of his amazing products, even if he's not there in person. Together with him we will take care of all your needs from carnivore to vegan and adds a 5 star touch to the rural adventure you're taking part in.
My name is Damien, the chef that will be taking care of you during your Thonga
I have been refining my craft in a range of 5 star hotels and fine dining
establishments for 20 years, travelling far and wide to explore and learn unique
My goal is to source interesting products, produced by small sustainable farmers .
I will apply my classical French training, creativity and techniques to bring you
delicious, healthy meals made with love and passion!
Grant and Andy have taken great care, time and thought in putting together this unique and authentic low-cost overland trail packages. They strived to keep the price as low as possible while still adding as much value as possible and including all the local flavours along the way. They combined years of experience on the ground with passion for the area, understanding the value of local economy and looking for solutions where conservation and low-impact sustainable tourism can work hand in hand.
The trails make use of the skills of many local people, including great local guides and local chefs who were sadly laid off from some of top lodges in the region during the pandemic. Together with this team of dedicated people from the area, they are able to make the Thonga Trail happen. These knowledgeable guides and fantastic chefs are striving to make the Thonga Trail South Africa's premium slack-packing trail.