Earth Lodge is a sanctuary symbolizing a new era in luxury South African safari lodges. Sculpted into a slope of the earth, almost invisible in the landscape, the lodge uses texture, light and space to present a lodge like no other. Taking its cue from the surrounding environment, it has been described as the most environmentally sensitive lodge in Africa.
Earth Lodge reveals itself in a series of sensory revelations. On arrival a hidden corridor leads you down on a journey to a unique and unforgettable experience. The unexpected entrance opens to a panorama of uninterrupted bushveld. As in nature everything at Earth Lodge exists in harmony and you are immediately aware of a sense of calm and a restoring spirit. Home to 13 ultra-luxurious suites including the Amber Presidential Suite, the lodge breaks with traditional bush lodge style to create a masterpiece of artistry and innovation. Each of the suites at this luxury lodge features individually designed furniture, private plunge pool, en-suite glass fronted bathroom and indoor and outdoor shower. The natural wooden sculptures by renowned South African artist Geoffrey Armstrong add a powerful magic.
Due to the close proximity of Thornybush Private Game Reserve to other reserves such as Sabi Sands or the Timbavati, it is easy and convenient to combine a trip to Thornybush with stays at a number of fantastic Kruger destinations.
A range of accommodation options in the reserve vary from rustically authentic to opulently luxurious and cater to a variety of adventure styles, all highlighting the immaculate wilderness in Thornybush. There are lodges and camps to suit couples, families, and small groups alike. Thornybush is the perfect South African safari destiniation and is sure to leave lasting memories.
Situated near the western border of the Kruger National Park, Thornybush has proved time and again to offer a top notch experience with the reserve boasting a variety of community-based projects with the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre and Cheetah Breeding Project giving visitors insight into the conservation efforts taking place at the reserve. Visitors are able to observe animals on twice-daily game drives, bush walks and hides surrounding waterholes or choose to observe the African wilderness from great heights in a helicopter, light aircraft or hot-air balloon.
At 14,000 hectares in size, the Thornybush Private Game Reserve is considered one of the smaller private Kruger Game Reserves. Although it may not be as large as nearby reserves such as Timbavati and Kapama, Thornybush offers an excellent Big 5 wildlife safari experience and has been the setting of choice for many wildlife documentaries. Other feats include having the first recorded white wildebeest born in the wild as well as being one of the first reserves in the Lowveld to start rhino-horn treatments in order to combat poaching.
Under the guidance of expert game rangers, guests can look forward to sighting any number of predator species that call the reserve home including lion, leopard, giraffe, wild dogs, elephant and more totaling 147 mammal species, 114 reptile, 507 bird species, 49 fish and 34 amphibians.
With its sprawling plains, soda lake and acacia woodland, it is well able to support a wealth of wildlife. For good reason, it is known as ‘the garden of Eden’ and ‘the cradle of life’! Cats that roam the Crater floor include plentiful prides of lion and leopard as mentioned, benefiting from the influx into the area of wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra and further game species throughout the winter months. In fact, the Crater boasts the highest density of lion worldwide!
As mentioned above, leopard like to spend their days around the rim and can often be seen around the Lerai Forest. Cheetah numbers are very low, but the small population can often be sighted. The real prizes for cat lovers, however, are serval, caracal and golden cat. The last two are very rarely in evidence, but serval are often seen on game drives.
Located in northern Tanzania, the Ngorongoro Crater is one of Africa’s most famous parks. Two to three million years ago, this ancient volcano, supposedly as high as Kilimanjaro, imploded, leaving the world’s largest intact caldera, complete with 600m-high walls. Over the years, the fertility of the volcanic soil and year-round water supply has attracted one of the highest concentrations of game in Africa.
The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the best places in Africa to see the Big Five (buffalo, lion, leopard, elephant and rhino). With approximately 70 lion, huge buffalo herds, 40 rhino and some of the largest tusker elephants left in Africa today, the only somewhat tricky Big Five sighting is leopard. As elusive as ever, nevertheless leopards can be found in the Lerai Forest and even seen openly on the Crater rim. As the Crater has 600m-high walls on all sides, it has created its own self-contained ecosystem. The vast majority of animals live in the Ngorongoro throughout the year, choosing not to migrate but to rely on the Crater’s remarkably fertile grazing grounds and water supply. As a result, game viewing is reliably brilliant throughout the year.
In addition to wildebeest and zebra, the Crater is home to black rhino, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles, eland, topi, spotted hyena, hartebeest, jackal, black-faced vervet, baboon and warthog! The lake and its tributaries attract hippopotamus, waterbuck and many other species, while the higher regions are populated by mountain reedbuck, Cape buffalo and elephant. The elephant numbers are not overwhelming, but some of the oldest and largest tuskers have taken up residency here. With tusks hitting the floor, it is well worth looking out for these exceptional creatures.
The birdlife is excellent in the Crater, with over 200 species to keep avid birdwatchers busy! A particularly spectacular sight is the congregation of vast numbers of common and dwarf flamingo in the Crater’s soda lake, feasting upon crustaceans and algae. The area has many raptors, such as marsh harrier, augur buzzard, black kite, tawny eagle and white-backed vulture. Other feathered beauties comprise avocet, hoopoe, black-bellied bustard, cattle egret, ostrich, fan-tailed widow-bird, grey-rumped swallow, little grebe, red-billed firefinch, speckled pigeon and wattled starling.
The lions of Gorongosa Park suffered one of the biggest losses of any large mammal during Mozambique’s civil conflict, from over 200 in 1977 to single digits at the end of the fighting. Since the restoration project began, lions have begun their steady recovery, and over the past two years, researcher Paola Bouley and her team — the Gorongosa Lion Project — have already identified over 65 lions in just 20 percent of the park. Together with park vet Rui Branco, the team has deployed satellite tracking collars in many of the prides starting in 2013 with the first male “M02,” who was then ruling the Sungue Pride.
Nature is resilient, but its sighs of relief, its trends of recovery and resurgence, require more than reforestation of mountainsides and protections against poaching. A pack of African wild dogs (a native predator, lost during the war) was released into the park in 2018, after weeks of acclimation in a large pen. A small herd of zebras also trotted cautiously from their corral into a trailer and then into the wild. And a solitary leopard was spotted.
This incredible park is making an equally incredible come back and is well deserving if a visit on your next Mozambique safari adventure!
The park has experienced a remarkably fast recovery. In 2008, the Gorongosa Restoration Project, a Mozambican registered NGO, entered into a 20-year co-management agreement with the Government of Mozambique for the restoration and development of the flagship National Park. The park’s fragile success is due largely to that partnership, which has implemented a new form of conservation in the park. More than 650 elephants now inhabit Gorongosa—a robust increase since the days of the country’s civil war (1977-1992), when most of the park’s elephants were butchered for ivory and meat to buy guns and ammunition. With the population rebounding, Gonçalves wanted a GPS collar on one mature female within each matriarchal group.
Stretching across a floodplain at the south end of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, encompassing savannas, woodlands, wetlands, and a wide pan of water called Lake Urema, Gorongosa was once a hunting reserve: Portuguese colonial administrators established it in 1921 for their sporting pleasure by removing the people who once shared the landscape with wildlife. In 1960, when first designated a national park, it harbored about 2,200 elephants, 200 lions, and 14,000 African buffalo, as well as hippos, impalas, zebras, wildebeests, eland, and other iconic African fauna.
But, two years after Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975, the country was engulfed by a civil war. By the time the war ended in 1992, the park was left in tatters.
To get the best view that takes in much of the park, visitors should head up to the rocky Out of Africa Lookout. The incline is steep, but it offers sweeping views out over the lake and will bring back fond memories for fans of the movie. Two other lookout points are Lion Hill and Baboon Cliff.
Lake Nakuru National Park has very well-established roads that make most parts of it accessible by 2-wheel-drive vehicles. Some less-traveled parts and most viewpoint hills require 4-wheel-drive vehicles.
Nakuru means “Dust or Dusty Place” in the Maasai language. Lake Nakuru National Park, close to Nakuru town, was established in 1961. It started off small, only encompassing the famous lake and the surrounding mountainous vicinity but has since been extended to include a large part of the savannahs. The park has recently been enlarged partly to provide further sanctuary for the continued reintroduction of black rhino of which there are now more than 25, one of the largest concentrations in the country, plus around 70 endemic southern white rhinos. There are also a number of Rothschild’s giraffe, again relocated for safety from western Kenya, as well as zebra, baboon and waterbuck. Among the predators are lion, cheetah and leopard as well as large pythons that inhabit the dense woodlands and can occasionally be seen crossing the roads or curled up in trees.