After five days in Cape Town, my dad and I headed north to go on Safari. We took CemAir to Hoedspruit, a town located in Northeast South Africa, at the foothills of the Klein Drakensberg and just west of Mozambique and south of Zimbabwe. This area is part of Greater Kruger and there are quite a few private game reserves bordering the national park. We booked a four day safari at the Monwana Lodge, which is part of the Thornybush Collection. Thornybush is both a private game reserve and collection of lodges, where you can book rooms in either four or five star lodging. Each lodge uniquely caters to your interests, whether it’s photography, film making, relaxation, romance, family-friendly, etc. The lodges also range in size. From an intimate eight person lodge all the way up to forty person lodges, Thornybush has it all. I decided to book a suite at Monwana Game Lodge, which houses a max of eight people at a time. It provided for a very personable experience from the staff and with your fellow lodgers.
Monwana Game Lodge is located in the northwest part of the Thornybush Game Reserve. It is easy to navigate because it’s so small but since it’s part of a larger collection, the game drivers and rangers are in constant communication on where the prime game viewing is in the lodge. Our suite had two full beds and a private balcony, where we saw impala and nyala on a daily basis. The lodge includes all food, which is prepared onsite by an incredible check, and the only added cost is alcoholic beverages, which are quite cheap compared to American standards. All meals were served outside under an awning that overlooks the watering hole. We saw so many animals come here, including warthogs, kudu, nyala, impala and elephants! One night, as we were all eating dinner, we heard the timbering of trees (that’s when you know an elephant is nearby because it topples all the trees over). So we looked over to the watering hole and saw two elephants drinking water! The only exception to our watering hole dinners was a dinner we had out on the back deck. It was a wonderful braai (Afrikaans for “barbecue”) under the stars and lanterns. The whole experience was so magical!
We began every morning with a 5am wake up call, 5:15am coffee break and a 5:30am game drive. The drives typically last about three hours and are so exciting. They’re more than just a casual drive on bumpy roads and looking at animals. The rangers and drivers are experienced on every aspect on wildlife, flora and African culture, since many of them are from local villages and grew up in the region. I learned so much, including that each zebra has unique stripe designs, like the fingerprints on a person and that female giraffes have hair at the top of their horns, while males do not. It was so fascinating!
We even celebrated Thanksgiving with our new friends at Monwana!
Throughout our journey, we saw so many animals. Some of my highlights included lion cubs nursing, lions eating a wildebeest and later baby giraffe, male lion roaring at another lion, wild dogs hunting, cheetah cubs climbing trees and tracking and finding a leopard and its kill. My favorite animal was the lions. They were so majestic and powerful. And I loved the wild dogs–watching them hunt was one of my favorite moments of the trip. Overall, we saw lions (and cubs), cheetahs (and cubs), a leopard, rhino (and baby), giraffes (and babies), elephants (and babies), impala, nyala, kudu, hyena, wildebeast, wild dogs, hippos, lots of birds (toucans, etc.) and monkeys. The GoPro video is in the works, so stay tuned to see more!
*Unfortunately, my camera ran out of battery so I didn’t get any photos. But I have video!
Last, but not least, Thornybush supports local charities, including a middle and high school and a community garden. They really do a lot to help support Africa and their local economy, so not only will you be able to experience a wonderful safari but you’ll know that you’re helping local people!