Thornybush, Klaserie, Kapama, Balule

Thornybush Private Game Reserve comprises 11,500ha of bushveld adjacent to the greater Kruger National Park. Other reserves include Kapama, Balule and Makalali...


There are several other game reserves close to the Kruger National Park. These are make up the Greater Kruger Park alongside the Sabi Sands and Timbavati.

All of these reserves are accessed most easily from Hoedspruit Airport which has direct flights from Cape Town, Johannesburg and soon to be the Garden Route. All offer an excellent safari experience.

Klaserie Private Game Reserve  - Open to the Kruger

Klaserie Private Game Resereve has an open borders to the Kruger National Park. Klaserie offers similar game-viewing to the Timbavati with good lion sightings.

Safaris in Thornybush Private Game Reserve

Thornybush comprises 14 000ha of bushveld adjacent to the greater Kruger National Park. The biodiversity of Thornybush attracts a wide variety of wildlife and bird species including good sightings of the Big Five whilst on safari. Thornybush has an open border with the neighbouring Timbavati, which in turn has an open border with the Kruger. So the animals can wander freely without fences. It offers some top and mid-range game lodges.

Kruger park safari, on safari at The Royal Malewane

Safaris in Kapama Private Game Reserve

Kapama Private Game Reserve lies adjacent to Thornybush, a 13 000ha private reserve which has four camps. An added benefit of Kapama Reserve is that you can easily visit the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre for endangered animals which lies close by.


Balule,  Manyeleti , Makalali & Karongwe

North and east of Hoedspruit is the private Balule Game Reserve. Makalali Private Game Reserve lies slightly away from Kruger but its size enables it to offer the Big Five as well. Balule and Karongwe offers a number of well-priced safari lodges.

The Manyeleti Game Reserve lies just north of the Sabi Sands. It borders the Kruger National Park to the east. So diverse is its habitat and wildlife that you have an good chance of spotting many of the Big 5 – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. Leopard are less frequently seen at close range.  But the Manyeleti is unusual in that it only has three private safari concessions. This allows for an exclusive game-viewing experience.

Thornybush cheetah


Cedarberg Africa has visited nearly every safari lodge in this area. The important issue to evaluate is the quality of the game-viewing and not just the price!


Why you may love it

  • Smaller reserves close to the Kruger, but they still offer great Big Five safari experiences at good quality safari lodges.
  • Great diversity in habitat and wildlife so you have a good chance of spotting many of the Big Five, but the leopard might a little more elusive.
  • Access is quite easy with direct flights into Hoedspruit from Johannesburg or Cape Town. You can opt for a private road transfer to your safari lodge or if you are comfortable with driving there are car rental options available.

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Natasha’s review of Mohlabetsi safari lodge in Balule

Mohlabetsi continues to offer great value for money with friendly, welcoming staff!

This is an unpretentious, moderately-priced lodge, with traditional rondavel-style rooms. Important to note that they only have outside showers, which may be a little chilly in winter! Rooms can accommodate a 3rd adult (on an extra bed). Alternatively they have 2 sets of inter-leading family rondavels, each with en-suite bathroom. These can also sold individually (as  each room has an en-suite bathroom).

We had good game viewing right off the bat! We were spoiled with large herds of buffalo and the largest pride of lions I’ve certainly ever seen (approx. 18). We had seen all of the Big Five by the next morning’s game drive, with great leopard sightings. (Leopard sightings are quite frequent in the Balule). Our tracker displayed some of the most phenomenal skills. And the guiding was very informative and entertaining at the same time. Their food was of a very good standard. (There was a Dutch couple returning for the 7th or 8th time, having been to many reserves in Southern Africa, yet Mohlabetsi is the only safari lodge in Africa to which they return every year. They mentioned the staff as one the key drawcards.)

Children of all ages are allowed on game drives, still at the ranger’s discretion - which is very unusual in the Greater Kruger Park. But they have no babysitting facilities or family safari programme. So its ideal if you are happy to entertain children in between game drives.

NEW: They were busy converting an old storage room to a luxury suite, set further way (now open). The room is a definite notch up from the rondavels. It has a private plunge pool, and they will offer some meals privately in the suite, with the option of dining with other guests.


Cedarberg : Natasha Jantjies
Did you know
  • ParkThornybush is managed as an eco-tourism destination
  • HistoryKapama Game Reserve was founded 1993

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Gloria Darvall

Africa Travel Specialist

Hi I’m Gloria, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

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