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Family Safaris at Thornybush Game Lodge

Biscuit baking, bug walks and pool picnics on a safari in Africa?

Yes, when you take the kids to Thornybush Nature Reserve!

The 38,000-acre private game reserve in the northeastern Limpopo province of South Africa is one of the few in the country offering child-friendly lodges.

Family safaris at Thornybush Nature Reserve mean you don’t have to leave the kids behind when you go on safari.

Family safaris are offered at Thornybush Game Lodge
Kids enjoy a bush walk to track paw prints

Family safaris at Thornybush Game Lodge

The biggest player is the Thornybush Collection of four- and five-star game lodges.

It owns or operates several lodges in the Thornybush Reserve, as well as the lovely Simbambili Game Lodge (for adults) in neighboring Sabi Sands Game Reserve.

family safaris
View from the deck of Thornybush Game Lodge

Family safaris

Family safaris at Thornybush
Spotting giraffes on a family game drive from Thornybush

Children are actively welcomed at Thornybush Game Lodge.

Other lodges in the collection accept youngsters if the family books out the sole use of the camp.

family safaris
Cheetah sighting!

Children must be six and older to go out on game drives.

Your family is assigned a ranger-guide who enjoys interacting with young guests, and drives can be tailored to suit kids’ interests and attention spans.

Kids are unlikely to get bored on game drives – not when they see, almost within touching distance from their open Land Cruiser, a cheetah bloodily devouring an impala (gross!) or a hyena suckling her pups (cute!).

Family safaris at Thornybush
A hyena mother suckles her pup

The Thornybush experience

The welcoming reception area at Thornybush Game Lodge
The welcoming reception area at Thornybush Game Lodge

Accommodations are very comfy in the Thornybush Collection.

All lodges have electricity and air-conditioning.

A Thornybush Game Lodge suite
A Thornybush Game Lodge suite

Thornybush Game Lodge – the flagship camp in Thornybush Nature Reserve – has 20 suites, each with indoor and outdoor showers and giant sliding doors to private viewing decks.

Two suites can sleep families of five. With large living rooms and private plunge pools, they also double as honeymoon suites.

The lodge also has a main pool for the use of all guests.

There's a pool at Thornybush if you'd like to take a dip
There’s a pool at Thornybush if you’d like to take a dip

The dining area at Thornybush Game Lodge overlooks a waterhole, often visited by elephants and buffalo.

Lodge meals are buffet-style.

Table for two at Thornybush Game Lodge
Table for two at Thornybush Game Lodge

One evening, we ate in the lodge’s outdoor boma (African gathering place).

Seated at communal tables, we feasted by lantern light on barbecued impala and lamb – trying some fine South African Pinotage too.

A couple of wee ones were curled up on mattresses by the blazing fire pit.

South African hospitality at its best, we thought.

Thornybush Game Lodge: Check rates and availability

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more. We also have and recommend Medjet for global air medical transportation and travel security.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

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Photo credits: 6 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | Remaining images Thornybush Game Lodge (except lead image)

About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Marina T.

Monday 18th of July 2022

Thornybush looks like a wonderful safari place for staying with children because there are so many conveniences and it seems to me that you can feel at home at Thornybush Game Lodge, which is really important. It's so cool that you can look at a waterhole from the dining area!


Thursday 8th of August 2013

An African safari is at the top of our family's travel wish list. What a great place to enjoy the animals. Glad to know there are family-friendly safaris out there. My kids would love this. Thanks for this!