This is a great all-round lodge with a full range of services which would suit both couples and families. The largest of the Thornybush operations, it offers a good standard of accommodation in the form of spacious, comfortable rooms, excellent wellness amenities and, a real plus, a full children's programme. This isn't the most luxury of camps nor is it the most intimate or romantic, however there's a good feeling around this camp which boasts a friendly staff and good viewing. No wonder it's popular with the locals.
The Thornybush Game Lodge is situated within a private reserve of the same name adjacent to the Kruger National Park with which it shares an unfenced border. There are daily flights from Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban into Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport from where you can complete your journey to the lodge by road or charter flight, touching down at the Thornybush landing strip. There are also daily flights by South African Express from Jo'burg to Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport from where a road transfer to the lodge will take approximately 30 minutes. If you are arriving by road then you should enter through the Thornybush Game Reserve gate. The drive from Jo'burg is around 6 hours.
The lodge is part of the Thornybush Collection which also includes the Chapungu Luxury Tented Camp. Although the camp welcomes guests from around the world, Thornybush is especially popular amongst South Africans. The group supports the UTAH Community project, close to another of their lodges, Simbambili. They assisted local ladies in establishing a vegetable garden from which they buy lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, onions etc. They are currently working a large community drive, information of which will follow shortly.
A stay at the Thornybush starts off well with a hearty welcome from the pleasant staff and a glass of homemade lemonade to give you a kick after your long journey. After passing the round table adorned with plants that stands at the lodge's entrance, it is nice to be able to settle straight into the lounge area where the formalities are taken care of. This latter features a seating area with wingback chairs and sofas arranged in a square around a coffee table with orchids and books. Just by it is the lodge's curio shop which sells a variety of jewellery, clothing and arts and crafts from local communities. A little further down the path is the heart of the camp a larger, cosier lounge space with smart seating and a deck looking out into the bushveld. Decorated with an array of pottery, glassware and other forms of art, the thatched room is an ideal place to spend your post-game drive afternoons relaxing with a drink or good book. Another place you could do the same is around the infinity pool which, while well exposed to the sun, doesn't have the best of views with think shrubbery blocking the unfolding wilderness beyond. Surrounded by terracotta coloured paving and neatly constructed low walls, the pool has sun loungers and is totally tranquil.
The Amani spa is perhaps one of the main reasons to consider the Thornybush. Small but perfectly formed, it offers a wide range of treatments in its well equipped, beautifully furnished rooms which also have relaxation gardens with hydrotherapy tubs, outdoor steam showers, rock pools and sun loungers. Treatments on offer include holistic body rituals, massages (aromatherapy, hot stone, reflexology, scalp, foot), facials (anti-ageing, hydrating) and manicures and pedicures. There are also several treatments for men only as well as packages for couples and brides. A novel addition to the spa menu is treatments for kids! A foot massage to improve sleep, a chest massage to alleviate cold symptoms and even manicures and pedicures are available for children between the ages of 2 and 12.
Children of all ages are welcome at Thornybush and as such there are a number of activities available to them. As well as having special snacks during their game drives they can also enjoy picnics by the pool, educational walks with specially assigned rangers and treasure hunts around the lodge. Each child will also receive a backpack with colouring book, crayons and toy. For adults there are also 'extra curricular' activities including an eight-hour panoramic drive to see some of the region's most scenic areas, a visit to a leopard breeding centre, a balloon safari and a flight in a light aircraft or helicopter for some stunning aerial views of the bush and its surroundings.The lodge as a whole is well maintained and is clean and orderly throughout. The abundance of light and the open spaces give it a special atmosphere which is perfect for families (not that couples wouldn't enjoy it too). The staff is extremely agreable and will certainly lake your stay a memorable one. There is no wifi at the lodge although there is a PC for guests to use to surf the internet.
The lodge offers a total of 20 accommodations, two of which are family suites. All the suites are decorated in a similar fashion and all enjoy terraces which face the bushveld. The standard rooms are of a generous size and feature patterned stone floors and high, thatched ceilings. The king beds are well dressed with crisp white sheets, plaids and pillows while a mosquito net is suspended and drawn back elegantly above. To one corner of the room is a small writing table with a half bottle of complimentary wine and some fruit and underneath is the minibar. There are a couple of armchairs in the room as well as a telephone on the bedside tables and a pair of umbrellas hung on the coat hooks by the front door. Opposite the bed the sliding double doors open onto a decent size terrace with wooden furniture and the river bed just below. The bathroom too is spacious and boasts a double vanity with personalised toiletries, a glass walled walk-in shower box and a deep soaking tub with sea salts and candles right under a picture window giving on to the trees outside. You'll also find in the bathroom bathrobes, slippers and a hairdryer. If you feel like washing out in the open then you can choose to use the outdoor shower found adjacent to the bathroom. The rooms are also equipped with air conditioning and a safe.
The two family rooms are almost identical to the standard accommodations, the only differences being the larger seating area allowing space for a sofa bed suitable for two children and the larger terrace which boasts a plunge pool.
The staff at Thornybush likes to shake things up a bit when it comes to meal locations. Thanks to the number of different dining locations, the lodge is able to rotate often meaning plenty of different experiences for its guests. Breakfast, which consists of a continental offering, is followed by, if desired, a hot option in the form of an English breakfast or any of its components and is served on the lodge's deck, in the bush or on the dry river bed. Lunch is usually taken at the lodge on the deck or undercover if the weather doesn't play ball while dinner moves between the lodge, its lawn, the boma, the river bed and the bush. Depending on where the evening meal is taken it can take form of a buffet or an à la carte operation with guests socialising before and after with a drink around the fireplace. Some of the dinners will be hosted by your ranger while others may be communal or private. If, however, you feel like eating in your room, on your terrace, privately in any of the locations or have special requests, dietary or otherwise, the staff will be delighted to cater to your wishes as best they can. In addition to the main meals, you will be given hot drinks and a snack before and during the morning game drive and a tipple and another snack during the evening drive.
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