Learn more about Tembe Elephant Park, the breathtaking surroundings of the Thonga land and the Tembe people.

Royal Thonga Safari Lodge is the culmination of a dream of the local Tembe community, private investors, and the Royal Tembe Development Foundation (RTDF), to create a natural paradise for visitors to this unique reserve.

The Royal Tembe Development Foundation is a Non-profit Organisation set up for the benefit and upliftment of the Tembe region and its people. Inkosi Israel Tembe has appointed Prince Hlengiwe Wilfred Tembe to spearhead the Foundation.



Empowerment and upliftment of the Tembe Community through sustainable long term investment and development.



To create awareness of Ka-Tembe Nationally and Internationally
To formulate a long term development strategy for the area
To provide a planning control and advisement centre for the region
To attract investment to Ka-Tembe and serve as an Investor guide / consultancy
To facilitate Investor and Community business partnerships
To facilitate Education and Employment of the Tembe Community
To provide financial monitoring on behalf of Community Shareholdings
To provide a transparent and accountable conduit for Investment funds and grants



The Tembe people are a nation torn apart by the historical ravages of colonisation by Britain and Portugal who were the respective custodians of the region in what is today northern Kwa-Zulu Natal and southern Mozambique.

Inkosi Mabhudu Israel Tembe is a direct descendent of the Tonga King, whose ancestors under the rule of Inkosi Ngwanase fled southern Mozambique to escape the Portuguese colonial governance. The Royal Tembe currently resides in the Ka Tembe area and the Tembe Royal House is still recognised by the local population of southern Mozambique.

As a result of the colonial divide of land between Britain and Portugal the Tembe tribe faced a struggle for survival in economic terms. Once a self sufficient nation, enjoying the fruits of the trade routes of Delgoa Bay (Maputo Bay) and later by tilling the soil and fishing the estuaries of the area, they are now of the poorest communities amongst the inhabitants of South Africa, occupying an area that has poor soil for agriculture with much of the more fertile coastal areas being reserved for conservation.

Being classified as Zulu by the modern political structures after being incorporated into the Union of South Africa in 1910, the Tembe played second fiddle to the Zulu nation that is today seen as the official custodian of the area.

This is a Nation of mixed feelings and traditions, a mixed sense of belonging being influenced by the overwhelming power of western politics and an ongoing struggle to be recognised as a Sovereign Tribe with their own identity and language.



The Tembe Chieftainship is the largest in South Africa, comprising the area south of the Mozambique border to Lake Sibaya and from the Indian Ocean westwards to the Pongola River. The area is over three hundred thousand hectares in extent. Due to the geographic setting, the region has historically been at a disadvantage in attracting direct investment and has therefore missed out on development and economic prosperity.

Economic development in the area has been extremely slow to nonexistent. The R22 road was built in 2002 after the opening up of the borders with Mozambique, resulting in some economic benefits. The region remains one of the poorest in South Africa.

The area is however unique in its makeup within South Africa, in that it forms the southern tip of a geological structure that stretches north through Mozambique to central Africa and also forms the southern tip of the natural migration path of Elephant that stretches northwards to Maputo.

KZN Wildlife has been the one organization that have developed nature reserves over the years and put this area on the map. Tembe Elephant Park is the third largest park in KZN and has the last roaming herd of wild Elephants, as well as Isilo a male Elephant boasting Africa’s largest tusks. 

The Coastal forest from Lake Sibaya to Kosi bay has been preserved and is now a World Heritage Site. As an area of pristine beauty, tourism has developed into the only notable industry of the region.

There have been attempts to establish forestry and agriculture, but with limited success. The region does however produce a large crop of the Illala Palm required for weaving, the bulk of which is transported out of the area and converted to finished products elsewhere.  Traditional skills of weaving and carving are fast disappearing.



The Foundation is a Non-profit organization registered in terms of the Nonprofit Organisation Act, 1997. Prince Hlengiwe Wilfred Tembe, one of the founding members, is mandated by Inkosi Tembe to set up development controls and attract investment to the Ka-Tembe region.

A Constitution has been approved by the Traditional Tribal Authority under the stewardship of Inkosi Tembe. The founding members, persons nominated by the Traditional Authority as well as a person nominated by Inkosi Tembe will represent the first Board of the Foundation and will be required to formulate the founding policies, controls and guidelines of the Foundation. The Board will utilize the services of specialized consultants where required. The board will manage the daily operations, marketing and promotions in order to meet the short and long term goals in pursuance of the objectives of the Foundation. These goals are summarized as follows:


Establish an Identity
Establish Foundation office
Establish Development Requirements
Develop Controls and Guidelines


Create Awareness of the Ka-Tembe Region to Investors and general public
Attract investment and employment in the region
Education, Employment and develop Community Partnerships with Investors
Develop Community project