Shumbalala is within the Thornybush Game Reserve, a private fenced game reserve near the southwestern boundary of South Africa’s legendary Kruger National Park. The Big Five (buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino), along with close to 150 species of mammals large and small, roam the reserve’s 14,000 hectares of bush. Although Shumbalala game viewing vehicles shared space with game viewing vehicles of 11 other properties on the reserve we seldom crossed paths with vehicles from other lodges. From the instant I passed through the gate of the Thornybush Game Reserve, the game viewing was indeed exceptional. No more than a 15 minute drive into it, the Shumbalala ranger who had welcomed me at the gate (no private vehicles were allowed in Thornybush) stopped within feet of a scene that made my eyes pop: white rhinos, a half dozen of them, snoozing in an untidy heap in the shade of a roadside tree.
Little Garonga was the last stop on a recent extended trip to southeastern Africa. After three weeks of dawn game drives, hectic transfer schedules and all around high voltage excitement, I was feeling somewhat depleted by the time I arrived. I couldn’t have chosen a better place to replenish my flagging energies and gently say goodbye to the wilderness before the long journey home. Set deep into the self contained 22,000 hectare (85 square mile) Greater Makalali Conservancy, west of the world famous Kruger National Park in South Africa, Little Garonga was a relatively recent luxury addition to the long established Garonga Safari Camp.
It was my first visit to Motswari Private Game Reserve within the larger Timbavati Nature Reserve in South Africa. I had barely settled in and yet, as I made my way along the sandy path toward the common areas of the lodge, I experienced an unexpected sense of familiarity. The azure African sky and blazing early afternoon heat were filtering through the branches of towering native trees. Under their neatly trimmed conical thatched roofs, circular pale adobe structures stood in the dappled shade of the grove. I passed staff members along the way, who greeted me with the earnest warmth of someone who has been looking forward for me to show up.
Our stay at Africa House, an exclusive use six bedroom house within a luxury Big Five safari lodge property in South Africa, was superb. While we much appreciated the well appointed and comfortable house itself, its décor and furnishings lovingly hand picked by the owner, and wireless WiFi connectivity it was the staff that made our stay special. They were always there at meal and game drive times when we might need something. Between activities and meals the staff allowed us private time alone to relax in our luxury bush home. More than once we were tempted to skip a game drive to just relax lazily by the pool and enjoy the house. We plan to return for a slightly longer stay when we can do just that without feeling we are missing out on precious few game drives.
A family friendly Big Five property Thornybush is in the heart of the Thornybush Nature Reserve, a private 11,500 hectare game reserve near Kruger National Park. The small lodge faced north onto the dry riverbed of the Monwana River and offered spacious and comfortable rooms with a riverbed view, modern amenities, meals and twice daily game drives.
Kirkman’s Kamp was named for Lawrence Henry “Harry” Kirkman, a hunter turned conservationist, who established the property as a family cattle farm in the early 1900s. It was one of only two properties we have visited with access to the Sabi and Sand rivers of the well known Sabi Sand Reserve where it is located. Perhaps because of its proximity to two rivers this well run property also offered excellent birding.