There are no words to describe being back in the African Bush, worlds away from the manic sounds of London. The soft colours of an African dawn, combined with the smells seeping through the heavy dew, can always excuse your very early morning wake up call. Heading out of camp your expectations are always over the top with wish lists an arms length but your eyes are peeled, probing the trees and vegetation for the slightest ear twitch or blatant in your face first contact of the Big 5 of course! What else?
Our first stop was Simbambili Game Lodge, which is the flagship lodge in the Thornybush Collection. This intimate lodge (maximum 16 guests) is a little gem in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve set alongside the Manyeleti River. All suites include a private plunge pool and outside sala, and the Amani Spa blends into the natural environment. The Sabi Sand is famous for its big five and has the highest concentration of leopard in the world.
The following morning we set off for the Timbavati and the Thornybush Private Game Reserve which comprises of 14 000 hectares of wilderness next to the Kruger National Park. This is home to the Thornybush Collection which includes nine lodges in this reserve.
Our home for the next two nights was Thornybush Game Lodge, the original lodge of this collection. I had my reservations about this lodge prior to staying here as it is one of the largest, comprising of 18 suites and 2 family suites however I was very pleasantly surprised by how private the sumptuous suites felt, with their private decks, outdoor showers and sweeping vistas over a active waterhole - which was actually river when we were there! This 5* property has an Amani African Spa, large communal swimming pool and a great kiddies programme.
We visited Shumbalala, which is totally different - and what a lodge. It is 5*, small and intimate with amazing views from the decking area, a jaw dropping wine cellar and gorgeous pool area, this lodge is definitely a hidden gem.
To choose a favourite would not be fair; each lodge in the Thornybush Collection which we visited was unique in its own way - out of the four star properties, Serondella is still my favourite with Chapungu Tented Lodge a very close second! Both are very small, intimate, homely lodges and totally different to each other. They are by far the best value for your money properties on safari, but having said that there is no compromise in the high standards of accommodation and attention to detail.
Going on safari is synonymous with mouth-watering gastronomic food, fabulous accommodation, outstanding and in some cases wizardly game tracking and warm hospitality. Thornybush ticked every box, and more. The game viewing was outstanding and yes, we did see all of the Big 5 and more!
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