General Manager of Ker & Downey® Africa’s France DMC, Cynthia Deneux has almost 10 years of experience in the luxury travel industry and has a variety of African destinations ticked off her travel list. Cynthia is an expert in travel to South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Tanzania – visiting as often as she can.
During her most recent trip to the safari mecca of South Africa, the Kruger National Park, she spent some time visiting a number of luxury lodges in the esteemed Thornybush collection. These incredible properties are situated in the world renowned Sabi Sands and Thornybush Private Game Reserve regions of the Greater Kruger and offer guests a truly unforgettable safari experience.
The Thornybush collection of lodges includes: Saseka Tented Camp, Saseka Leadwood Villa, Simbambili Game Lodge, Thornybush Game Lodge and Jackalberry Lodge. On her trip, Cynthia enjoyed the true exclusive guest experience at both Saseka and Simbambili and shared some of her thoughts with us.
“Located in the Thornybush Reserve, Saseka is a relatively new camp, having opened in 2019 just before the COVID pandemic. Though we only stayed for one night, we were able to really appreciate its beauty and stunning design with a chic modern twist. The lounge area, overlooking the river bed, is just beautiful with high ceilings, ornate hanging lamps and opulent furniture. The whole look and feel of the lodge is very luxurious, and would appeal to the most discerning safari traveler.
The camp is intimate, with only 8 tented suites and the one adjoining Saseka Leadwood Villa that can accommodate children and bigger families. Children of all ages are allowed at the Leadwood Villa but only if a private game drive vehicle is booked for the duration of the safari.
The tented suites are very spacious, with a luxurious lounge area, a very big bed and an inviting bathroom with a bathtub and shower.
They have been designed with a tented roof and glass all around to really maximize on the stunning bushveld views. The deck is also very large with one plush couch, 2 sunbeds, an outdoor shower, a dining table and a large private plunge pool – great for a refreshing dip after a game drive!
Only 6 people are allowed on a game drive vehicle at a time – which is great. This means that no one is stuck in the middle seat, and everyone is able to enjoy optimal game viewing on their safari. There were only 4 people in our vehicle and I was informed that the team do their best at all times to keep the minimum number of guests per vehicle where possible. The rangers and trackers at Saseka are extremely friendly and very knowledgeable about the bush.
During my stay, I saw the Big Five in just one drive. Maybe I just got lucky, but Thornybush is renowned for its high density of animals, including the Big 5. The animals flow freely throughout the 14500 hectare reserve which has open boundaries to the Kruger. One the second game drive, we didn’t see as many animals, but the sheer beauty of being on a safari in the bush was breathtaking.
– The staff are incredible and really go out of their way to accommodate guests. We asked to have lunch in our suite instead of in the main restaurant and they brought it right away.
– Incredible game drives.
– Very large room with a private deck and pool.
– Great experience – it is a beautiful property that I would love to share with my clients!
Simbambili is located in the northern part of the Sabi Sands and, though a little less luxurious than Saseka, it is an amazing experience. It is not a tented lodge and is a bit older than its counterpart in Thornybush, but the overall look and feel is great. The thatched roof gives it a really authentic and ‘homey’ feel and the lodge also comprises a spa, gym and a boma.
The food at Simbambili is not as ‘fine dining’ as Saseka, but it is very good and fresh. Again, it has that warm ‘homely’ feel that you come to know and love during your stay. All the Thornybush lodges are involved in a ‘garden-to-table’ project with the local community. The greens on your plate are freshly picked from the community garden project, and you can taste it.
There are 9 rooms in total, 7 of which are luxury suites. The rooms are spacious and lead out onto an even larger deck with 2 sun beds, a private plunge pool and a massive shaded daybed. Unlike Saseka, the plunge pools are much smaller – more like a jacuzzi than a pool, but refreshing for a dip nevertheless! The rooms are all very comfortable and beautifully decorated with large bathrooms and a bathtub looking out into the surrounding bush.
There is also 1 Honeymoon Suite and a Waterhole Suite – both are very similar to the luxury suites but are larger and come with lounge areas. The Waterhole Suite has a lounge area above the deck with glass walls and incredible views.
All the rooms overlook the river bed and it feels like you are in a tree house from the deck which is a really great, unique feature.
The common area is very large with an open sky deck where you can sit and look at the stars at night. There is also a fire pit in the dining section which adds an intimate safari bushveld ambiance while enjoying a homely meal. The dining area boasts unparalleled views of the river bed and waterhole which sees many animals coming for a drink throughout the day and night.
Like Saseka, only 6 people are allowed on a game drive vehicle at a time. We were only able to do 1 game drive while we were there, but what an experience! They say the northern Sabi Sands is extremely rich in wildlife and that’s true! We had a private vehicle and our ranger was extremely knowledgeable. I won’t bore you with everything that we saw, but let’s just say it was a lot. The game drive really blew us away.
– The game drives were extraordinary!
– The large, homely common area overlooking the river bed and waterhole.
– Eating dinner around the fire pit surrounded by lanterns.
– The spacious rooms and the feeling of being in a tree house.
– Delicious food, and lovely, warm staff.
We would like to thank the incredible team at Saseka and Simbambili for hosting us. It was a great experience and we will definitely be back.
If you are interested in experiencing a luxury safari experience at Thornybush Private Game Reserve with Ker & Downey® Africa, get in touch with one of our LuxVenture® Designers today!