Thornybush Private Game Reserve Budget Travel


Thornybush Private Game Reserve is renowned for its exceptional wildlife viewing, offering an authentic African Safari experience. The richness of the plant and animal life here was recognised in 1955 when its 14 000 hectares were mapped out as a conservation area of outstanding value. Part of the Greater Kruger National Park, Thornybush shares unfenced boundaries with the Kruger National Park so the local wildlife can roam freely between habitats as they always have done. Since the eastern boundary fence with the Greater Kruger National Park was dropped, packs of African wild dogs have been more frequently seen, including pups! There has also been a notable increase in lion, leopard and cheetah encounters in Thornybush Private Nature Reserve. 

Thornybush Private Nature Reserve is located between Kapama Game Reserve and Timbavati Private Nature Reserve in Greater Kruger. These private reserves of the Greater Kruger National Park are very valuable in extending the protected habitat of the animals of the Kruger area, helping the wildlife populations to thrive and maintain biodiversity.

Thornybush Highlights

  • Private budget wildlife safaris with no day-trippers and limited over-night guests  - so the only herds you’ll see are the animal kind.
  • Professional guides and trackers with specialised local knowledge.
  • Walking Safaris for a unique, close-up look at the flora and fauna of the African bush.
  • Sunrise and sunset wildlife safaris in the heart of the African savannah in open-sided 4x4s.
  • Exceptional wildlife viewing including endangered and nocturnal animal and bird species.

Wildlife of Thornybush

Big Five of Africa

Visitors to Thornybush are sure to experience the thrill of seeing the legendary Big Five of Africa - elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhinoceros. Thirsty elephants refreshing themselves at the waterhole can actually be seen from the lodges that African Budget Safaris use for our safaris in Thornybush Private Nature Reserve.

Other African Animals Great and Small

Thornybush offers much more than the Big Five animals, and the vast range of other wildlife in this Lowveld savannah reserve is simply breathtaking.  A large variety of antelopes are attracted by the grazing in the Thornybush savannah, including impala, eland and kudu. No African safari is complete without seeing herds of these beautiful, gentle creatures. Where the zebra have been grazing on medium height grasses, the wildebeest often follow, as they prefer shorter grass, while mysterious giraffes browse the savannah trees and scrub. Families of warthog and colonies of mongoose live here too, as well as jackals, the endangered African wild dogs, and of course numerous rodent species including ground squirrel and the elephant shrew.

Amongst the amazing diversity of wildlife species in Thornybush Private Nature Reserve, the nocturnal animals should not be forgotten. These are some of the quirkiest and cutest looking animals in the Kruger area – of which rustling porcupine, odd-looking aardvark and the elusive, solitary aardwolf, and the endangered honey badger and pangolin are just a few.

The insects of Thornybush are equally remarkable and absorbing, from the distinctly African dung-beetle to colonies of African termites, rhino beetle and antlions, you can see and hear these and many more here in Thornybush, all playing an important role in the ecology of the Greater Kruger National Park.

Birds of Thornybush

Birding in Thornybush Private Nature Reserve is exceptional, with well over 300 species to be seen here – both resident and migratory. Visitors have a good chance of seeing the lappet-faced vulture, Kori Bustard and martial eagle. Other exciting birds include African scops owl, Southern ground hornbill and the white-crested helmet shrike.

Wildlife Viewing in Thornybush

Your 4x4 wildlife safaris in Thornybush Nature Reserve are a unique and exclusive bush experience. Only guests staying at the 13 low-impact lodges sited in Thornybush are permitted on game drives in the reserve, so you will never encounter crowds of people and vehicles as your sharp-eyed guide seeks out wildlife sightings for you. All the lodge guides in the nature reserve communicate by radio, to ensure you get the most out of your wildlife excursions – as they share the location of outstanding animal sightings, and also co-ordinate what route to take. The Big Five is abundant here, along with numerous species of antelopes and other smaller wildlife. Apart from lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and leopards are the top predators, and you might see the endangered African wild dog too. Your guides are permitted to go off-road when they want to get you really close to something special in Thornybush Nature Reserve, as they are all expertly trained in doing so without causing environmental damage.

Your wildlife drives take place in the early mornings and in the late afternoons - when you’ll enjoy sunsets in the African bush. As darkness falls, some wildlife species are on the move looking for shelter for the night, while the nocturnal creatures of Kruger are waking up. You might see porcupines snuffling about and civet cats on the prowl. Your guides are experts on all the wildlife here, big and small, and will amaze you with their detailed knowledge about all the wild animals that you see. Thornybush has a particularly rich plant environment, and you’ll have many opportunities to learn about the ecology of the African savannah, as well as experience some extraordinary bird watching.

Walking Safaris

Take an optional bush walk with your professional guide and tracker, and you get even closer insights into the natural world that makes Thornybush such an amazing African safari destination. You can get a close up look at the amazing termitaria, where African termites farm fungi to break down the plant matter that keeps the soils of Thornybush Nature Reserve fed and aerated. This is an opportunity to appreciate the expert knowledge of guides and trackers – examining spoor and scat – and other bushcraft too, as they share how they look at the African bush with you. The grassland of the savannah will come alive as you understand that not all grasses are the same, and why some animals have their preferences for grazing different types at different times. Face-to-face wildlife encounters are not unknown, which is part of what makes walking safaris so thrilling. We highly recommend that you take up this opportunity as walking safaris in Thornybush Private Nature reserve are unforgettable.

Geography & Flora of Thornybush Reserve

Thornybush Private Nature Reserve is situated near Hoedspruit, in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. It lies north-east of Johannesburg which is five hours away by road, and one hour by plane. The land formations are mostly flat and undulating plains, supporting very varied flora of many different types of grasses, and Lowveld mixed woodland trees such as marula, acacia, bushwillow and camel thorn. The soils vary with the underlying rock strata, predominantly comprising granite and gneiss with some dolomite, but the plains tend to have heavier, richer soils with sandier soils on the slope formations.

When to Visit Thornybush Private Game Reserve

Thornybush is in the summer rainfall area of South Africa, and rains here are expected from the end of October through to March. Temperatures are at their highest from November to April. The abundance of water and new foliage and grasses at this time can make it harder to see the wildlife.

In the winter months of May to August when the bush is dry, the animals have to gather at the watering holes that have not dried up, making it easier to see them there. Within the bush, because it is dry with few leaves, the wildlife can also be easier to see. The best months to visit are April to September/October.

Conservation and Community in Thornybush

Thornybush Nature Reserve itself has a rich history of successful wildlife conservation, to which the reserve is passionately committed. Thornybush Private Nature Reserve was chosen to receive lions, and an elephant herd, from the Kruger National Park. Thornybush is also a leader in the fight against wildlife poaching in Africa and was an African low veld pioneer in rhino horn treatment. The reserve is involved in various community projects with the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre and the Cheetah Breeding Project too. The first recording of a baby white wildebeest being born was filmed here in Thornybush Private Nature Reserve, and it has been the filming location of African wildlife documentaries aired on the Animal Planet channel!

Thornybush takes an active role in giving back to the local community through various community development projects. These include direct involvement in the local primary and secondary school, as well as a health project to support workers from local farms who are suffering from HIV/Aids and TB. The reserve tries to employ local people as much as possible. Thornybush also helped to establish an agricultural business, which has grown to supply many of the lodges of the Greater Kruger National Park with fresh produce, as well as primary school food garden to add to the nutrition of local children.


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Tours Focused on Thornybush Private Game Reserve

5 Day Greater Kruger Budget Lodge Safari to Thornybush

Duration 05 Days, Travel Style Lodge Safaris
Priced from pps R23300 $1576 £1234 €1393 A$2227 C$2075 NZ$2418 Full pricing info
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Thornybush tented lodge Experience exceptional private wildlife viewing on this 5 day budget lodge safari in the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa. Highlights include private game drives and optional guided bush walks in Thornybush Private Nature Reserve.

Trip Style Thornybush Private Game Reserve Budget Safari Packages

4 Day Greater Kruger Budget Lodge Safari to Thornybush

Duration 04 Days, Travel Style Lodge Safaris
Priced from pps R18200 $1231 £964 €1088 A$1740 C$1620 NZ$1889 Full pricing info
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Lodge wildlife pool Experience exceptional private wildlife viewing on this 5 day budget lodge safari in the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa. Highlights include private game drives and optional guided bush walks in Thornybush Private Nature Reserve.

Trip Style Thornybush Private Game Reserve Budget Safari Packages

3 Day Greater Kruger Budget Lodge Safari to Thornybush

Duration 03 Days, Travel Style Lodge Safaris
Priced from pps R13700 $927 £725 €819 A$1310 C$1220 NZ$1422 Full pricing info
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Thornybush lodge wildlife Experience exceptional private wildlife viewing on this 5 day budget lodge safari in the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa. Highlights include private game drives and guided bush walks in Thornybush Private Nature Reserve.

Trip Style Thornybush Private Game Reserve Budget Safari Packages