– Safari Review by Klein Companions, Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby, Klein Collection Safaris
The ‘main’ lodge in the Thornybush collection, Thornybush Game Lodge combines luxury with first-class game viewing. We stay over to see what’s on offer, and come face to face with lions….
Have you ever heard a fully-grown lioness chewing her way through the skin of a fully-grown male kudu? From just fifteen metres away it’s not a sound we’re going to forget in a hurry. “She’s going straight for the tender shoulder,” Craig, our guide, explains, as we sit very still watching this beautiful female of the Monwana pride tearing meat from bones, while the male lies next to her with a bloated belly, hyperventilating. It’s been a great afternoon game drive in the knowledgeable hands of Craig and Alson, a veteran of 20 years and one of the top trackers in Thornybush.
Back from our evening drive, we’re greeted by Precious, who offers us a glass of Amarula, before we head off to our room to freshen up before dinner. Actually, suite would be a better word. With a bed big enough to fit four adults quite comfortably (if you’re so inclined), a well-stocked mini-bar, tasteful colonial style decor, a personalised welcome letter on the desk, air-con and a spacious deck overlooking the Monwana riverbed, it’s hard not to feel very comfy, very quickly. The en-suite bathroom was equally, if not more, magnificent with a bath (fits two!), indoor and outdoor shower area, two basins, beautiful wooden framed mirror, candles, rooibos and tea-tree oil scented soap and so many soft, fluffy towels that we lose count!
Dinner tonight is served by the pool, with lanterns creating a very special atmosphere and we smile as we tuck into a delicious African styled BBQ; what a perfect place to kick off our honeymoon! Back at the suite we find the bed turned down and with a papyrus roll telling us about the Shangaan people’s culture. It’s little touches like this that really make a difference.
The next morning Alson finds fresh tracks and after a few kilometres we see her – a beauty of a cheetah and best of all, she is totally relaxed around the vehicle, walking around us a few times before disappearing into a dry riverbed. What a privileged sighting. Every game drive in Thornybush Game Reserve is special and your chances of seeing the Big Five are outstanding, but it’s cheetah that Thornybush is famous for, and we see why.
On our way back to camp we opt for a short bush walk to stretch our legs, accompanied of course by Craig and his .375. We stop to look at the smaller things – a buffalo thorn tree, guinea grass, the droppings of a marabou stork. Our senses sharpen with every step, listening out for interesting bird calls, lions roaring. Luckily the sun is blazing and all predators are fast asleep in the shade – or so we hope!
After an hour’s walk we are just in time for a fabulous breakfast on the deck – as we tuck into freshly baked bread, fruit salad and eggs to order a nyala comes down to drink at the river and a large family of banded mongoose scurry across the sand.
Thornybush Game Lodge is perfect for small groups and families – children of all ages are welcome here, and babysitting can be arranged in a wink. With a large common lounge area and a great pool (with views of the river) there is plenty of space for little ones to roam – under supervision of course, since the camp is unfenced. For corporate gatherings there is also a conference centre nearby. Lunches are usually a la carte with several main course options, and for dinner you will probably never find yourself in the same spot twice – the dinner venue changes daily – from the pool deck, to a boma under the stars.
A gem of a lodge – if only we could have stayed more than one night…
Good for: Corporate groups and/or functions, and families.
Not so good for: Thornybush Game Lodge can be a little cramped if the lodge is full (it wasn’t when we visited)
Our verdict: Comfortable and well-managed with excellent Big 5 and Cheetah prospects, this is a safe choice. Check out our reviews of the smaller Thornybush lodges if you fancy something a little more intimate.
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Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961