Thornybush, Kapama & Others

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 game reserves close to the Kruger National Park which don’t share an open border with the Kruger. Safaris in Thornybush, Kapama and Makalali offer an excellent safari experience, nevertheless.

Safaris in Thornybush Private Game Reserve

Thornybush Private Game Reserve 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.

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 visit the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre for endangered animals which lies close by.

Balule, Klaserie & other reserves

North and east of Hoedspruit are the private Balule Game Reserve and Klaserie Game Reserve. Makalali Private Game Reserve lies slightly away from Kruger but its size enables it to offer the Big Five as well.

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.

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 lowness of the prices!

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Tasha Eygelaar

Africa Travel Specialist
Our experienced band of Safari Planners can create a bespoke plan for you. More enriching, more restorative and making more of a difference. Discover how working with a specialist adds value to your African adventure.


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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Thohier’s review of Thornybush Game Lodge

Thornybush Game Lodge runs like a well-oiled machine. They are very precise with time and schedule, which is probably a good thing for a lodge of this size. The lodge itself is on the large side: spacious and very well constructed (with 18 suites and 2 family suites). The rooms are all aligned along the seasonal riverbed and there’s a beautiful walk way that leads to the rooms where you can see some animals grazing. Rooms are quite spaced-out, given the number of rooms, so perhaps not the best option if you have difficulty walking long distances.

They also have 2 family suites which have a small sitting area with sleeper couch for children and private plunge pool on the deck. There’s a kids safari programme.

The food was fantastic - great variety of food and very well presented. Plus the staff were some of the best I’ve seen. They call you by name and you feel as you are the only guest in camp.

Game viewing was very good given the time of year. We’ve seen the Big Five on our two drives, with an unexpected and magnificent black rhino sighting! They now have completely open borders with the Kruger reserves (via the Timbavati), as fences were dropped a couple of years ago. Definitely good place for game-viewing as the guide and tracker were excellent.

Great game-voiewing, good food and amazing staff, is definitely a big YES to me. Overall, we really enjoyed our short stay.

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