There are safari lodges and then there is Serondella. Setting the benchmark for the most luxurious stay imaginable, this newly built lodge is sure to make an indelible impact on the safari industry.
Situated in the North-eastern sector of the Thornybush Game Reserve in South Africa’s Limpopo province and tucked away in a serene corner, Serondella is home to the most magnificent safari accommodation. I am collected at Hoedspruit Airport by Operations Manager & Head Guide Togara, affectionately known as TJ for my transfer through the Thornybush Reserve.
En route to the lodge, we encounter an elephant shaking a marula tree in order to feed on the fruit that has fallen on the ground. He does it with such gusto that we stop to admire him gingerly picking each fruit up with his trunk. “Will the fruit have an effect on him?” I ask TJ. “Only the fermented ones might make him slightly tipsy,” TJ responds.
As we reach Serondella, General Manager Kevin extends a hand to assist me out of the vehicle, with butler Wilfred offering me a refresher towel. Lodge anchor Faith escorts me to my two-bedroom suite named Botsotso, where I will be staying for three glorious nights. An impressive dwelling, to say the least, the interleading bedrooms are similar in size but vary in color finishes, with a comfortable lounge and kitchenette separating them.
The suite where I’ll be sleeping is decorated in shades of whites, beiges, and light grey accents. My private heated plunge pool on my verandah serves as the perfect respite from the heat, and at the end of the wooden walkway is the most beautiful bath with a view of the bushveld.
Back at the main area, lunch is ready and chef Thomas has cooked up the most delicious fare – a mezze platter with avocado salad, hand-cut crisps, and tender chicken kebabs. The food at Serondella is out of this world, with different dining options at every sitting. Breakfast is served on the main deck, overlooking the watering hole that is frequented by elephants coming for a drink.
Lunch can be enjoyed next to the rim-flow pool, in your suite, or in the library. Choices, where to have dinner, are vast – in the lounge next to the fire, in the boma, or in the garden under a blanket of stars. The chef really goes out of his way to ensure that all my dietaries and food preferences are catered for, and I am not disappointed. Nothing is too much effort for guests at Serondella, which I discover at a gin stop. What an amazing surprise when I realize that they had gone to the trouble of especially purchasing my choice of sundowner drink!
The Thornybush Reserve is famous for its Big 5 sightings, and on our first game drive, TJ, with eagle-eyed Andries in the tracker seat, immediately catches sight of a leopard perched in a tree. Said big cat has been chased up the tree by a female, who is hiding in the tall grass. Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to wildlife sightings, and we find her again on my last morning hiding behind dense bushes along the dry riverbed. She has two young cubs!
Other spectacular sightings include the pride of fourteen lions, plenty of bird species, giraffes, elephants, impalas, buffalo, African wild dogs, hyenas, and the absolute highlight – the green-eyed beauty of Thornybush, Saseka the leopard.
Having visited Thornybush for more than two decades, the Cordia family are third generation custodians with a keen interest in preserving this prime piece of wilderness. With Serondella, they have created an anchor as well as a home on African soil, leaving a legacy for their children to maintain roots in the natural world.
The name Serondella was inspired by one of Eliane Cordia’s first encounters with the wild residents of Thornybush – there was a meeting that left a distinct impression on their hearts and set the tone for the journey ahead. “When I arrived, there was a great elephant standing at a waterhole. My presence did not deter him at all, and he looked at me as if to say, ‘what are you doing here?’ He just stood, completely at home in his surroundings, labeling me the visitor. In that moment, I realized that Serondella really was the Place of Elephants. This was indeed his home, and it was meant to be.”
It is time to head home after a hearty breakfast and as I wait for my direct Airlink flight from Hoedspruit to Cape Town, the familiar sound of the jet engines indicates the aircraft’s arrival. Coming into view is the gleaming Airlink Embraer E-Jet, and excited fellow passengers snap some photographs of the exquisite new livery, with the distinguishable sunbird and larger name branding set amongst the bluest of skies, framed by the backdrop of the bush. On board, friendly flight attendants serve a delicious snack and a choice of beverage enjoyed in the comfort of Airlink’s cabin with ample legroom and wider seats. Being the most on-time airline in South Africa, we land 15 minutes ahead of schedule at Cape Town International Airport, just another reason why I prefer to enjoy The Freedom of the African Skies with Airlink.
*** Views expressed are the author’s own
How To Get There | Direct scheduled flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Hoedspruit. https://www.flyairlink.com/destinations/flights-to-hoedspruit. Book direct on www.flyairlink.com, the FlyAirlink app, or your favorite travel agent.