Where the Lion Sleeps
The family-owned Shumbalala Game Lodge, located on the 14,000 hectare Thornybush Reserve now part of the Greater Kruger National Park, offers guests the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the mightiest animals in Africa – from lion and leopard, to wildebeest and buffalo, and almost everything in between.
Our stay at Shumbalala started with an exceptionally warm welcome: a bunch of friendly smiles, hot towels, and warming sherry to drive the cold from our bones. The Thornybush Reserve can get very chilly at night during Winter.
We were ushered to the Presidential Suite where a fire was raging in the fire place, and a soft orange glow was painted across the walls. The suite was decorated in what I like to call relaxed luxury. The king-sized beds in the two en suite bedrooms were equipped
with mosquito nets that framed the bed to look like something out of a fairy tale – the kind of bed that Sleeping Beauty would lay her head upon. The bathrooms boasted with glossy-white, standalone bathtubs – relaxing in the tub was one of the ways I recharged my batteries after a long day in the sun or out on a game drive, and the other was indulging in the extensive selection of gin on offer.
Both bedrooms also include a veranda, an indoor and outdoor shower, large windows, and sliding glass doors to the deck that allow for light to stream through. The stone walls give the impression of a cosy cottage, and while the rooms cool down at night, the sunlight makes them bright and warm during the day. Being able to wake up, open the curtains and look out onto the seasonal Monwana River and the wildlife that wanders past the lodge
is a truly memorable experience. We saw various animals quenching their thirst at the watering hole on the other side of the dry river bed – mostly elephants, but we also noted a cheeky vervet monkey taking a sip right next to a kudu bull, plus a young male lion, and plenty of nyala. The wildlife on the Thornybush Reserve is incredibly diverse, and Shumbalala offers their guests one of the best viewpoints from which to enjoy the sights.
During the game drives, the guide and tracker work tirelessly to ensure that guests are comfortable and safe while on board their open game viewing vehicle. In only four days at the lodge, we saw a female leopard and her two cubs, two female lions, one adolescent male lion, elephants (including one born with no tusks), a family of giraffes, a pack of wild dogs, a porcupine, two happy hippos, vultures, and a massive range of bird life.
Due to the reserve being privately owned, Shumbalala vehicles can go where game vehicles in the Kruger cannot: off-road. I do not just mean on dirt tracks, I mean bundu bashing. This allowed us to get as close to the animals as anyone should get to a wild animal – we heard the crunch of bone as two female lions made short work of a young wildebeest.
Dining is the icing on the delicious, freshly baked cake that is the Shumbalala experience. Their menu changes daily and Chef Danielle prides herself on making classic dishes with local ingredients, and serving them looking as stunning as the natural surroundings. On the first night, we dined in the main area by the fire, and as we tucked into our starter, a lone hyena wandered past the open door – even the hyenas want a taste of the delightful menu crafted by Chef Danielle! On the second night we dined al fresco, and tucked into one of the best lamb shank dishes anyone at the table had ever tasted. Their dessert selection was also delicious; you could get your sweet tooth fulfilled twice a day – once at high tea and again after dinner.
Our stay at Shumbalala left a mark on our hearts and smiles on our faces. We dined in style, saw some of the most beautiful creations in nature, and enjoyed seamless South African hospitality. As we drove away from Shumbalala and the Thornybush Reserve, we said to each other that we would simply have to return – and this time keep a closer look out for hyenas.
For more info, visit www.shumbalala.co.za or call +27 11 253 6500.