On the banks of the seasonal Monwana river in the Thornybush Private Nature Reserve is a lodge so homey, guests return time and time again. Shumbalala Game Lodge is a family-owned and run establishment, where luxury and comfort meet. 

Forming part of the Safari Lodges and Classic Retreats portfolio, Shumbalala Game Lodge is a haven of sophisticated style and unexpected luxury in the midst of an area frequented by the Big 5. “This family-run lodge welcomes guests into a relaxed atmosphere, enriched by the professional service of dedicated hospitality staff and field guides,” André Celliers, founder of SLACRSA tells me. “It’s like an enveloping embrace of warmth and kindness.”

Shumbalala Lodge Experience
The entrance to Shumbalala is beautifully decorated with comfortable seating. Photograph courtesy of Shumbalala Game Lodge

Starting our journey from Cape Town International Airport to Hoedspruit on Airlink, we are flying in the impressive Embraer 190 E-Jet, which is configured in 6 business class 1 by 2 seats and 92 economy class 2 x 2 seats. Selecting our seats before departure and checking in online is straightforward on the Airlink App – no more printed boarding passes; you only have to scan the QR code on your smartphone. We opt to SkyCheck our luggage as we know our suitcases will be offloaded at our arrival airport and waiting for us on the tarmac.

Shumbalala Game Lodge
With only four superior suites, as well as a 2-bedroom Presidential suite, guests will enjoy exclusivity and privacy. Photograph by Tania Steyn

We are staying in a Superior Suite, and with just four of these room types, guests are ensured of exclusivity and privacy. Each suite includes a seating area, bedroom, en-suite bathroom with windows facing the wilderness, an outdoor shower, and a lounge leading through glass sliding doors to your own private game viewing deck with a private plunge pool. Relax on the pool loungers before cooling off in the crystal-clear plunge pool while keeping an eye out for any wildlife coming in for a drink. For guests requiring a bit more space, Shumbalala Game Lodge has a stunning two-bedroomed Presidential Suite, which can be divided into two more Superior Suites, making it the ideal choice for a family of four or a group of friends traveling together. The camp can accommodate a maximum of twelve guests.

Shumbalala Game Lodge
Guests can enjoy their meals next to the pool or in a few surprise locations. Photograph courtesy of Shumbalala Game Lodge

Meals are served on the deck overlooking the watering hole, or next to the main pool, where the delectable cuisine is expertly prepared by a team of chefs. Surprise dining locations offer a wonderful variation from having your meals in the same spot at every sitting. 

The magnificent Mapoza, King of Thornybush, Shumbalala Game Lodge - Image by Heléne Ramackers (2)
The magnificent Mapoza, King of Thornybush, Shumbalala Game Lodge. Image by Heléne Ramackers

Game drives come with great anticipation, especially for guests who have never been on safari. Starting the day at 5:30 (time of year dependent) to see what the nocturnal creatures have been up to and watching the sunrise definitely has its advantages. The wonderful fragrance of freshly brewed coffee and home-baked goodies even before you’ve left the lodge is offset by the intoxicating fragrance of the bush as your field guide and tracker set out to tick off your wildlife wish list. 

Gracious giraffe, Shumbalala Game Lodge - Image by Heléne Ramackers (3)
A giraffe tries to rid itself of an incessant red-billed oxpecker. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

Seeing the Big Five is always a privilege, although sometimes it’s the winged species taking off from the top of a tree and showcasing its impressive wingspan. Or an elephant having such a joyous swim, you can watch him until he’s had enough of immersing his massive body into the water. As we are sitting a safe distance away from a tower of giraffes (a stationery group of giraffes is called a tower, and a moving group is called a journey), field guide Bryce points to one of them that is trying to shake a red-billed oxpecker off her face. The bird returns, noisily in fact, this time trying to pick a tick off the giraffe’s eye. A symbiotic relationship is shared between birds and mammals, which some might call parasitism. From where I’m sitting, both are benefiting – the oxpecker is feeding and in turn, relieving the giraffe of disease-carrying ticks. Isn’t nature just incredible!


How To Get There
Airlink is a privately-owned, independent premier regional airline offering the widest route network and connectivity to more than 45 destinations in 13 countries in Southern Africa and St Helena Island. 

With more than 60 regional jetliners in the fleet, Airlink has been ranked as South Africa’s most punctual airline, based on its 97% average on-time performance year to date. This is a clear indication of their determination and commitment to remain synonymous with customer centricity, punctuality, service excellence, and reliability.

Travelers can also enjoy the benefit of their intra-continental style business class service on select routes operating our magnificent Embraer E-195 / E-190 / E-170 regional jets

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.