Amid the patchwork of private conservancies strung out along the western border of the Kruger National Park, a handful stand out as the icons. The likes of Sabi Sand, Timbavati and, of course, Thornybush Nature Reserve.
This last has been synonymous with luxurious five-star safaris for more than 50 years, with the original Thornybush Game Lodge welcoming its first guests as far back as 1961.
And lately there’s been a flurry of activity among the lodges that share this 15,000ha property. In 2022, The Royal Portfolio opened Waterside, a riot of colour and whimsical style carrying all the trademark touches of hotelier Liz Biden. Monwana Game Lodge recently joined the MORE Family Collection portfolio, offering a second premium luxury safari property alongside Lion Sands Ivory Lodge to the south, while Thornybush Game Lodge itself has enjoyed a major refurbishment, bringing an updated look and feel to this classic safari camp.
And now it has been joined by Kamara House, a wonderfully indulgent exclusive-use bush villa that promises an abundance of privacy while offering easy access to the facilities of the original lodge.
Kamara House is aimed squarely at small groups and multi-generational families. The villa — which stretches across 251m² — sleeps up to six guests in three spacious suites, with a seamless flow out onto a large deck overlooking a small riverbed. There is, of course, a private pool to enjoy too.
Indoors the two main suites lead off a spacious communal lounge and dining area, with a third interleading suite to ensure younger children can be easily and safely accommodated. A dedicated butler takes care of guests throughout their stay, with a private chef on hand to create a highly individualised dining experience. Kamara House also comes with its own guide, tracker and private vehicle, allowing for maximum flexibility in curating the daily safari schedule of drives and walks in the reserve.
If you can be tempted to leave, that is.
Interior design studio Artichoke — together with architects Lankers & Fry — have created a gloriously contemporary space that is the perfect counterpoint to the more traditional main lodge. While retaining the sense of timeless safari that has long been a hallmark of Thornybush, with striking Ardmore wallpapers and signature pieces throughout, “our aim was to create a sense of tranquillity by combining classic and modern design elements,” says Artichoke’s Caline Williams-Wynn.
“We have made sure not to overdesign the spaces, which allows for a sense of comfort and relaxation throughout ... allowing the beautiful open spaces to speak for themselves.”
And while it’s tempting to cocoon yourself away amid the comforts of Kamara House, aside from the remarkable game drives — this is prime leopard country after all — it’s well worth stepping out to discover “The Library”. This new addition to the main Thornybush lodge offers an immersive space filled with reference tomes, artworks and cabinets filled curiosities intended to offer new insights into the bushveld.
“Our aim is to nurture the guests’ curiosity about the flora and fauna of the area … [they] are encouraged to rifle through the library cupboards exploring specimens that have been collected in the Thornybush area,” explains curator Gina Waldman of Waldman Studios.
“This experience is very different from viewing live animals in the wild. It’s rather exciting to pick up a giraffe bone and feel the weight of this, or look at how thick a giraffe tail hair actually is up close, enhancing the game viewing experience. The idea is that the collection will be a growing library and will evolve yearly.”
There’s more evolution to come for the lodge too, with a brand-new wellness spa and fitness centre opening in late-June — just in case you needed one more reason to book a winter safari break at Thornybush Nature Reserve.