Our big five adventure with Thornybush..

We arrived on an overcast afternoon at Thornybush Game Lodge, after a very long and trying drive from Johannesburg tired and quite hungry.

We had underestimated the roads, particularly the last dirt road section and after over seven hours in the car, were relieved to arrive in one piece. Ladies, and gentlemen, right off the bat, if you are opting to self-drive, I recommend a vehicle with high clearance at the very least.

I digress..
The original Thornybush establishment, first built in 1961 has come a long way since those days, evolving into a sophisticated, thatched luxury lodge with a reputation of exceptional game viewing.

After dropping off our luggage and a quick snack, we headed off with our guide-and-tracker team, Kel and Ishmael for our first adventure.
Known for its big five encounters, our first day on safari lived up to that promise with sightings of a host of antelope, Wildebeest, Hyena and a pride of lions.
Our knowledgeable guide tells us that these prides can sleep up to eighteen (18) hours a day, in order to conserve their energy for evening hunts, when things cool down and what struck me most is how these beautiful animals have so many domestic cat features to them.

Time passed quickly, and after the three-hour drive on our vehicle, we reached our iconic, sundowner stop overlooking the African savanna, best enjoyed with an ice cold beverage!

It was at this point that we got to know our guide-and-tracker team a little better. These two have a magical synergy when it comes to the way that they find the animals and interact with animals, big and small. Ishmael, a tracker with twenty-one (21) years experience, is one of the best in the Reserve and judging by our first drive of the trip, we are anticipating more spectacular sightings during our stay.

After packing up, en route back to the lodge, we had the added benefit of encountering one of the most dangerous of all animals to encounter in the wild, a Dugga Boy. These lone males fear very little and as such, it makes them formidable. Our guide Kel, tells us that this particular old male buffalo is called ‘Black Death’. It seems his only companions these days, since leaving the gang, are red-billed Oxpeckers. When he isn’t picking fights, ‘Black Death’ can be found lying around in mud, chewing his cud.

We arrived back at the lodge, exhilarated, to freshen up and after a dusty, hot game drive I had decided that a bubblebath would make for the perfect way to unwind before dinner.
The large windows above the bath and giant sliding doors to the deck offer exquisite views of the riverbed below and whilst in the bath, I was treated to a beautiful family of giraffe enjoying a snack below me, who didn’t seem a bit perturbed to have an audience (and neither did I).

The lodge’s deck (where we ate our buffet-style meals) has unobstructed views of the waterhole, making it our favourite spot to enjoy a glass of wine with our meal, and watch the world go by, day or night.
To me, evenings at Thornybush have such a calming way about them. The hazy, humidity and heat of the day fade away, making way for cooler, fresh evenings with bright stars lighting up the night sky.

Relaxed and tired, after a quick dinner on the deck, we retreated to the privacy of our luxury suite for an early night.

Early the next morning, after a quick cup of coffee, we were off again.
Kel and Ishmael tracked spoor to a leopard kill tucked high up in one of the trees. All that was required now was patience to see who would return to claim their feast..

As nightfall approached, we were rewarded with a leopard so captivating, that I can understand why Thornybush named their luxury tented camp after her. ‘Saseka’ made light work, feasting on this impala lamb with a patient audience of Hyena waiting below – ever the opportunists!

As with most holidays, all good things must come to an end though and it wasn’t long and we had reached our last evening here, but over the course of our stay, the big five (5) encounters just kept coming, with some of the best lion and leopard sightings that I have experienced in Africa.

Our last night ended on a high note after sundowners and a beautiful game drive, in the comfort of our private Villa, complete with a candlelit bubblebath, champagne, the sound of animals all around the watering hole outside and a turn down service to make anyone feel like a true VIP.

It is easy to see why Africa is at its most beautiful, wild. And of course, a little luxury doesn’t hurt either.

The beaches might be closed due to Covid, but the African bush certainly is not so why not enjoy a safe, socially distanced break, positioned for optimum relaxation thanks to Thornybush?