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South Africa Safari — Thornybush Game Reserve & Monwana Game Lodge

by Suzanne Fluhr on November 24, 2014 · 62 comments

Leopard in a tree in Thornybush Private Game Reserve

Malaria Prophylaxis--Doxycycline

Malaria Prophylaxis–Doxycycline

I’m pathetically really bad at swallowing pills, so I wasn’t happy to learn that I’d have to take 33 days of doxycycline as a malaria precaution for a three day visit to the Thornybush Game Reserve in northeastern South Africa. However, even if you share my pill phobia, swallowing monster capsules for a South African wildlife safari experience is definitely worth it.

Our late October visit was during the end of the dry season and we saw exactly one mosquito in our room (handily dispatched by my hero, Mr. Excitement), but the can of DEET bug spray we were given and the mosquito net draped over our bed every night convinced me it would be prudent to follow the advice of the travel doctor we consulted about malaria prophylaxis.

There are wild animal viewing options all over South Africa, including at game reserves within short distances of the major urban centers of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, but the wildlife safari gold standard for the Republic of South Africa is the massive Kruger National Park (7,523 square miles–roughly the size of New Jersey) and the surrounding private game reserves.

Thornybush Private Game Reserve

Thorny bush in Thornybush Private Game Reserve

Considering the ground cover, the Thornybush Game Reserve is aptly named. You definitely wouldn’t want to meet this bush in the dark. Photo Credit: Walter Colasante

Thornybush is an approximately 44 square mile private game reserve, adjacent to the west north-central part of Kruger National Park and the Timbavati Private Game Reserve. I chose a private game reserve for our 3 night safari experience over staying in Kruger National Park itself based on suggestions that we were more likely to be able to see animals at a close distance because in the private game reserves, the safari vehicles are allowed to leave the road, unlike in Kruger.

Monwana Game Lodge

Accomodations in Kruger and in the private game reserves are available at a wide range of price points and luxury. Based on stellar TripAdvisor reviews, we settled on the Monwana Game Lodge, a small, four star, privately owned lodge in the Thornybush Private Game Reserve. Monwana can only serve ten adult guests at a time in 5 en suite rooms located in small thatched roof buildings. (Two of the rooms can be made into a family suite). A central building houses a lounge and dining room. This building also has a large rear deck with a view of the usually dry Monwana River and a covered front porch. There is also a small swimming pool and a covered gazebo that has a view of a watering hole where animals come to drink.

Monwana Private Game Reserve Room

Our “home” at the Monwana Private Game Reserve

Monwana Game Lodge bed with mosquito netting

The mosquito netting was tied up during the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To get to the Monwana Game Lodge, we took a 45 minute flight from Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport to Hoedspruit’s East Gate Airport. Our travel agent arranged a private transfer for the 30 minute ride from the airport to the main Thornybush Lodge. A Monwana game tracker in an open air land rover retrieved us from there for the 15 minute drive over rough gravel roads to the Monwana Game Lodge. At Monwana’s entrance, we were welcomed by the manager, Emma, and several staff members.

Monwana Game Lodge land rover in Thornybush Game Reserve

Our open air land rover during an evening game drive refreshment break.

We arrived just before the daily 3:00 p.m. high tea, consisting of a hot dish, salad and desert. Thanks to the nice weather, we enjoyed all our meals outdoors. We found the food ample and tasty. Soft drinks and water are included. Alcohol is extra at reasonable prices. We enjoyed sharing the communal dining table with the other lodge guests, but if you are in the mood for a romantic dinner, that can be arranged. Our fellow guests were a personable lot: two women from the Netherlands (one of whom was making her 20-somethingth visit to Monwana), a couple from Chile who were happy to indulge me in Spanish practice, and an English family with two engaging teenage daughters. (I don’t usually use the words “teenage” and “engaging” in the same sentence, but these two were capable of conversing with adults without any public eye rolling and I don’t believe I heard one “like, you know” or “whatever”.)

At 4:30 p.m., it was time for our first game drive. All 10 of us climbed into the open, uncovered land rover which was driven by our ranger, Jacques (Emma’s husband). The land rover has 3 tiers of 3 person benches, each higher than the one in front, so no one has an obstructed view. Perched on a seat on the hood (bonnet) of the rover was our tracker, Morris.

Yawning lion Thornybush Private Game Reserve

This lion is actually yawning and soon started licking his paws like a grooming house cat, but “Yes, my my, what big teeth you have!” Photo: Walter Colasante

Very shortly after leaving Monwana, we started driving through the dry river bed of the Monwana River and almost immediately came upon a lion and lioness. The male’s stomach was noticeably distended from a recent meal. Not unlike many Americans after Thanksgiving dinner, these two were sleeping off their repast. I could read in the bubble over Mr. Excitement’s head that he was thinking that maybe being four feet from a lion (even a sleepy one) in an open air vehicle could prove to be too exciting. We both noticed that Jacques had a rifle along for the ride. However, Jacques assured us that as long as we didn’t stand up nor get out of the land rover, the lions did not view us as a threat, and more importantly, not as prey.

The group had seen lions the previous day and were hoping Morris and Jacques could dial up some rhinoceroses. They found some grazing white rhinos and later, much to Jacques’ surprise, some rare black rhinos. Like the lions, they were accustomed to humans in vehicles. They persisted in grazing as we watched them from a few feet away, close enough to hear their enthusiastic chomping. Unfortunately, rhinoceros horns bring a hefty price on the black market and everyone at the private game reserves and at Kruger National Park is intent on trying to foil poachers. Last year, Kruger National Park lost some 520 rhinos to poachers. (I am purposely not posting any photos of the rhinos we saw).

The roads in the Thornybush Game Reserve are unpaved and quite eroded in many places. After our first game drive, I decided I’d be happier in a middle seat since I sometimes felt we would tip over on the uneven surfaces and I was hanging on like a weenie for dear life. There are no doors, roof nor seat belts and the people sitting on either side of the vehicle were at risk for being strafed by branches, some of them with vicious thorns. “Hello — what part of Thornybush didn’t you understand?”

Sunset in the Thornybush Private game Reserve over the drakensberg mountains

A Thornybush Game Reserve sunset over the Drakensberg Mountains.

After about two hours of game searching, during which we also saw baboons, vervet monkeys, warthogs, Cape buffalo, wildebeests and and many elk type creatures such as impalas, nyalas and kudus, we stopped for refreshments in a clearing where we were treated to a “pinch me” caliber sunset over the distant Drakensberg Mountains. We returned to the lodge in the dark, coming across another sleepy lion and a cat like caracal—apparently a quite rare sighting.

Oxpecker birds hitching a ride on an African Cape Buffalo in Thornybush Game Reserve

Why walk/fly when you can ride? These ox pecker birds are hitching a ride on some African Cape Buffalo. Photo: Walter Colasante

We were greeted by Emma with some pre-dinner sherry and soon gathered around a fire on the back deck for a dinner of butternut squash and carrot soup and a braii (a South African style barbecue) of ostrich fillets and lamb kebabs.  Dessert was a South African pudding (malva) with creme Anglaise. Dinner each evening included an appetizer, a choice of two main courses served with side vegetables and an enticing dessert. Not being a fan of raw meat nor eating Bambi-like creatures, the only thing I skipped was the Springbok carpaccio.

Zebras in Thornybush Private Game Reserve

Zebras each have a distinct stripe pattern. Photo: Walter Colasante

Mr. and Mrs. Excitement were passed out by 10:00 p.m. (because we are THAT exciting), tucked in under our mosquito netting. Our natural disinclination for late night partying was advantageous because wake up for morning game drives at Monwana is at 5:00 a.m. A quick coffee or tea is available for those who are suicidal and/or homicidal before their first cup of the day and we were off by 5:30 a.m. While the afternoon sun required sunblock and it was warm enough for those inclined to go swimming, the early mornings were quite chilly. I was happy to have the blankets provided in the land rover.

Leopard in a tree in Thornybush Private Game Reserve

We wanted to see a leopard and apparently, this leopard wanted to see us before taking a nap in this tree.

The group was hoping to spot a leopard and Morris and Jacques were intent on finding one for us which called for them to do some tracking into the bush on foot. Jacques took along his rifle on those expeditions. We waited in the land rover, hoping it was true that the animals are not interested in well behaved tourists in land rovers and that the leopards would not find us while Jacques and Morris were gone looking for them.  At about 7:30 a.m., there was a stop for warm beverages and muffins. Apparently, the rifle is not for show as during this stop, Morris and Jacques were quite insistent that folks not wander even a short distance away since they knew a leopard was in the area. Thanks to Morris and Jacques’ tracking abilities, we soon had a glimpse of a leopard disappearing into the brush.

mpalas Thornybush Game Reserve

Apparently, boys will be boys — even impala boys.

At the Monwana Game Lodge, a hearty breakfast is served between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m., after the morning game drive. After breakfast, there is free time to enjoy the lodge and pool until the 3:00 p.m. high tea. Not unlike the sated lions, after our substantial breakfast, I’m afraid Mr. and Mrs. Excitement needed a nap.

African Elephant thornybush private  game reserve

Q: When does an elephant get out of the road? A: When he wants to.

During our 3 night Monwana stay, we went on 5 game drives and saw the “Big Five” (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceros and Cape buffalo). We also enjoyed encounters with a host of other wildlife, including a hippopotamus, giraffes, crocodiles, hyenas, interesting birds and a bonus juvenile African rock python. I would probably have needed CPR had we happened upon a full grown specimen of this constrictor as they are thick, average 16 feet (4.8 meters) in length and are capable of swallowing an impala. Even doing two game drives a day for six weeks at a stretch, Jacques’ genuine enthusiasm for the wildlife of the bushveld was infectious.

baby giraffe in Thornybush Private Game Reserve, South Africa

This baby giraffe (calf) was sticking close to mama.

We enjoyed the informal atmosphere at Monwana. Jacques had lunch and post game drive drinks with us and our fellow guests. He told us that his first language was Afrikaans although his English is excellent. (Emma is originally from Scotland). In addition to sharing his wealth of knowledge about the wildlife in Thornybush, he was also happy to answer our questions about South African history and politics, subjects by which we were fascinated in this young republic with a stormy past and uncertain future.

Juvenile Hyena Thornybush Private Game Reserve South Africa

We found this juvenile hyena on an evening game ride. Photo: Walter Colasante

As you might imagine, it was impossible not to want to take photos during our game drives. Indeed, there are safaris dedicated specifically to photography. With my Samsung S4 phone camera and our Canon point and shoot, we had camera envy of the photographic equipment sported by the other guests. Fortunately, they were happy to share their images.

Should you go on a game safari in South Africa?

Giraffe Thornybush Private game Reserve south africa

This guy was in no hurry.

As I believe you can tell, my answer is definitely “yes”, but there are some things you should consider:

  •  You must do research and/or work with a travel agent who is specifically knowledgeable about safari possibilities in the area you are wanting to visit. We actually worked with 3 travel agents in planning our South Africa trip.
  • Although our game drives did not require any sustained exertion on our part, you need to be able to hoist yourself into a  high vehicle without doors and be able to handle quite a bit of jostling over rough or non-existent roads. Keep in mind that during the 3 to 4 hour game drives, bathroom facilities are not available—one of those times when men have a leg up (as it were).
  • I would recommend doing your safari during the dry, South African winter season (May through September). I suspected, and Jacques confirmed, that driving in mud and over flooded terrain can be very difficult if not impossible, even in a four wheel drive land rover. If this is a trip of a lifetime to see African animals in the wild, it would be a shame to spend your time reading by the fire, even in a charming, comfortable lodge building. Although we enjoyed three sunny days in late October, Emma said there had already been some rainy days.
  • There is a nominal fee for wifi internet at Monwana, but we never found it comfortably usable. There was 3G data service. I purchased a South African SIM card for my phone and used that for checking email. If you’re a Baby Boomer, sit back and remember when you traveled all the time without internet service and the earth did not stop spinning on its axis.
  • In the Thornybush Game Reserve and others, you are likely to be able to find the animals you want to see, but there are ten other lodges in in the Reserve. Thus, you will occasionally see land rovers with groups from other properties. In fact, the rangers communicate by radio to alert each other to good “finds”. They also seem to coordinate taking turns, so as to limit the vehicles at one place at the same time. With 44 square miles to roam in the Thornybush reserve, we never felt crowded out and most of the time, we did not see other vehicles.
  • At Thornybush, there is some fencing although animals can also pass to and from the adjacent Timbavati Reserve. The animals are accustomed to the land rovers and some watering holes are kept full through the dry season. However, the animals are not fed or otherwise controlled. Thus, you might come upon predators killing their meal. Indeed, the Thornybush cheetahs were killed by the lions.

Have you ever been on a wildlife safari? If so, how was your experience compared to ours? If not, do you think you would like to go on a safari?

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{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru November 24, 2014 at 4:17 am

Wow, this is the experience of a lifetime! The lodge sounds wonderful and seeing every animal you wanted to see is the cherry on the sundae! Spectacular photos and how wonderful to be so close. Years ago, I saw a video where a cheetah decided to hop in the back seat of an open Rover and ride around just as comfortable and relaxed as anything. No one dared move (except the driver and videographer in the front seat, I guess). Loved the shot of the elephant!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm

I was a little concerned about that leopard deciding the land rover would be more comfortable than laying on a branch up in a tree.

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avatar Alyson November 24, 2014 at 4:46 am

Every day posts about Africa are jumping out at me! We have to go again. Yes, been to South Africa twice, but not “on safari”. What does that mean exactly? We stayed in a selection of game parks and drove ourselves around, loved it. The locals don’t take malaria tablets, so I probably wouldn’t either.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 24, 2014 at 1:40 pm

In the tourism “biz”, “on safari” means going on game drives with trained rangers and trackers. If I lived in South Africa, I’d probably be more interested in self-drive safaris, but we only had 3 days, so we wanted to increase our chances of seeing wildlife. We never would have gotten so close to the lions, leopards, rhinos, and elephants on our own.

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avatar Susan November 24, 2014 at 5:41 am

So great that you saw the big five, especially the leopard as they are a rare sight! glad you enjoyed the South African hospitality – one small correction – the south african word for a barbecue is spellled Braai 🙂 (not brei)

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 24, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Thanks for the correction, Susan. I’m not sure where I got that other spelling from.

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avatar Corinne November 24, 2014 at 6:15 am

Suzanne, I agree wholeheartedly about swallowing huge pills, but I also agree going on safari is totally worth it. I love all the photos of your animals looking at you! Wonderful.

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avatar Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) November 24, 2014 at 6:49 am

Suzanne, I have not been on Safari nor to South Africa, but despite the pills this post has me hankering to go there. The lodge looks amazing and maybe it would be the only way for me to disconnect! LOL Thanks for sharing this experience and those photos are so wonderful. I do love that these magnificent animals are thriving in their natural environment. Is it my imagination, or did they all look happy to see you?!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 24, 2014 at 1:49 pm

I’m not sure it they were actually happy to see us, but they certainly didn’t seem to mind. It was almost as if we were invisible. Actually, one day, there was a group of elephants that seemed somewhat annoyed, but not annoyed enough to charge.

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avatar Nancie November 24, 2014 at 7:00 am

What a fabulous experience, Suzanne. The lodge sound perfect, and how lucky to see the “Big 5”. I went into the jungle in Borneo a few years ago. Managed to an orangutan in the wild, loads of monkeys, and some beautiful birds. Would love to get to Africa.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 24, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Nancie- I’m glad we made it to Africa. South Africa is pretty far from just about everywhere, but it was even worth the 19 hours on one plane in an economy seat to get home.

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avatar Paula Kiger November 24, 2014 at 8:33 am

This sounds INCREDIBLE, Suzanne! I was fortunate to be able to do Malarone vs the Doxycycline when we went to Central America; I can see how 30+ days would present a challenge. But it looks well worth it!!!!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 24, 2014 at 1:51 pm

I’m not sure why, but our doc suggested doxyclycline instead of malarone. Silver lining—no acne. 😉

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avatar Carol Cassara November 24, 2014 at 8:40 am

It’s been on our list and these are some really good tips. Thanks!

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avatar Donna Janke November 24, 2014 at 10:26 am

Your safari sounds wonderful. Your pictures are fantastic. I’ve always thought it would be great to go on one. My husband was on an African safari before I knew him and he still claims it was one of the best experiences of his life (other than meeting me and having children of course). Mosquitos love me and I sometimes react badly to their bites. I have issues with monster pill capsules, but would willingly take them in preparation.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 24, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Actually, the doxycycline you start three days before possible exposure and then continue it for 30 days afterwards. Our trip to South Africa was definitely up near the top ranked of all the trips we’ve taken.

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avatar Karen Warren November 24, 2014 at 11:11 am

I’ve got a couple of days in a game park booked for January so it’s interesting to see what’s in store for me!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 24, 2014 at 11:15 am

I hope you don’t have too much rain at that time of year.

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avatar Gaelyn November 24, 2014 at 11:45 am

Sounds like a great safari. You’ve made me jealous as I’ve been to Kruger several times and miss the bush. I’ve never taken or needed malaria pills, thank goodness. And always self-drive and camp in the park. I hope you explored other areas as 3 days isn’t very long for such a long flight.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 24, 2014 at 1:55 pm

The trip to South Africa from the east coast of the US is definitely too long for 3 days—-especially in economy. We spent 3 weeks altogether there. Stay tuned for posts about our other experiences. We spent time in Cape Town, we toured the Garden Route along the southern coast and we visited Johannesburg, in addition to the safari.

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avatar Patti November 24, 2014 at 11:56 am

The thing I’ve always wondered about sleeping under netting? What happens when you have to get up in the middle of the night?! 😉

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 24, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Patti– It’s not that easy because there really shouldn’t be any gaps at all in the netting, so there is a lot of overlap. The other awkward thing was that the bedside table and lamp were outside the mosquito netting. But, where there’s a will (great need 😉 , there’s a way.

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avatar Cathy Chester November 24, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I would LOVE to go to South Africa, but in the meantime thanks for taking me along. Aside from the pills I enjoyed coming along with you.

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avatar The GypsyNesters November 24, 2014 at 3:36 pm

So jealous! We have got to find a way to get to Africa to see some of this.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 24, 2014 at 4:27 pm

I’m sure the GypsyNesters will find a way to get to South Africa. It’s definitely worth the long trip.

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avatar Juergen | dare2go November 24, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Sounds like all your preparation work paid out and you had a lovely trip with countless sightings of wildlife. Re. Malaria prophylaxis: My stomach is giving me trouble with some, others give me weird dreams – so I simply don’t take them anymore. Plus many local doctors complain that the effectiveness of Malaria medication is reduced if mosquitos constantly suck blood with anti-bodies in it – to the point that some stems become resilient to a particularly popular drug. Best to travel in the dry season when the risk is minimal! And take enough Malaria medication to fight an outbrake with a heavy dose. That’s what many specialists in tropical deceases seem to agree on, too.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 24, 2014 at 4:52 pm

I was kind of doubting the need for malaria prophylaxis until we found a rather large serious looking mosquito in our room in the malaria zone. Our travel doc has a lot of experience in Africa, so we decided that discretion was the better part of valor and we followed doctor’s orders on this one. I have a friend who came down with malaria in Africa. Not fun and now that we’re old……

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avatar Juergen | dare2go November 24, 2014 at 5:36 pm

We’re not *old* – just not that young anymore…
And one mozzie doesn’t necessarily give you Malaria. Yes, it is terrible to get, but so are other things. That’s the second risk I see, that people then relax too much and forget about other mosquito-transmitted diseases, like Dengue (no prophylaxis available – but not so prominent in Africa, more in SE Asia, and now South America and Australia) and Ross-River-Virus (no prophylaxis available, an Australian disease, also terrible, I had it some 15 years ago).

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 24, 2014 at 11:55 pm

We traveled in Southeast Asia earlier this year, so I was aware of dengue. I think they have that in the Caribbean now also. Of course, I realize that one mosquito does not a malaria infection make, but I admit it made us happy to have the mosquito netting. It was a very serious looking mosquito, IMHO. 😉

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avatar Suzanne Stavert November 24, 2014 at 6:04 pm

I have been waiting for this post! I am not disappointed, although I want more! You were able to see The Big Five! The bathroom thing in the wild is going to be a problem for me since I go all the time! I LOVE the elephant photo – he is magnificent. To be clear – what month is really the best to visit? Closer to May or closer to September? Which airlines did you fly? I apologize if I missed it!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 25, 2014 at 12:00 am

Based on a chart I saw, June and August are the driest months in the Kruger area, but the other months, May through September, are almost as dry. We flew on South African Airlines from JFK in New York and internally, to get to Hoedspruit, near the Thornybush Reserve and to fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town. I have no complaints about them. The leg room in economy was definitely more than we’re used to on domestic US flights. Also, considering the long distance, the price was reasonable. I hope to pick up the pace of my South Africa posts, so please stay tuned. I hope you get there. It was a very interesting (and beautiful) trip.

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avatar Leslie in Oregon November 24, 2014 at 6:28 pm

The Monwana Game Lodge sounds like my kind of place, and we’ll keep it in mind if we go to South Africa. In November of 1970, I spent three hot and dry weeks driving around Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania meeting people and encountering animals. My two ad hoc travel companions and I rented a car (a flimsy Simca) and planned our route ourselves (I say “route” because the roads were dirt and often we had to navigate by compass), with animals and the Maasai in mind. We washed off layers of dust each night in a tent camp or comfortable lodge, where we gleaned tips on finding animals from the staff. (Usually, we were the only non-European guests, as Americans tourists, except for the very rich, were then rare in the bush.) We had encounters (some up close, through the car windows) with every kind of animal you mentioned (cobra instead of python) and more (including herds of elephants). (It felt so fitting that it was the humans who were in the cage [our tiny car] and the animals who were free.) Although the big animals did not run away from us, they definitely were not accustomed to human beings like us, or our car. When a rhinoceros charged our car one day, it was nip and tuck as to whether the car could or would outrun him. (Fortunately, the rhino turned away at the last minute.) When several lions came up to our car (in which we had been sitting, quietly, for some time) and one literally put his nose on my window, I felt a very strong urge to roll down the window and touch him…he was so beautiful and in some hard-to-explain way, so redolent, up close, to (of?) my cat. We spent a wonderful afternoon and evening making music with Maasai, at their invitation. During my four weeks in East Africa, every African I met was kind, generous and welcoming to me. I was enthralled by it all, but as far as flora and fauna went, the Serenghetti Plains, the Ngorongoro Crater and, of course, Mt. Kilimanjaro were particularly magnificent. I never wanted to leave and for several years thereafter, read all the post-colonial African literature I could find. I remain in touch with several Africans I met on that trip, and since around 1990 they each have told me that the kind of trip I had in 1970 would not be possible today. Of course, that is what the Africans we met in Nairobi told me before we started our foray into the bush. Thank you so much for your post about your trip…I relished every word!! P.S. I did not take any anti-malaria medication, as my travel physician (who was based in East Africa) did not recommend it. I did, however, have typhoid and yellow fever vaccinations.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 25, 2014 at 12:04 am

Leslie, thank you so much for sharing your 1970 experience. Yes, I think Africa was quite a different place in 1970. We were warned about crime in South Africa, but managed to feel reasonably secure on our travels. Your “safari” experience sounds quite amazing. We still did not run into very many Americans (none actually, other than those at my husband’s conference in Cape Town).

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avatar Anita @ No Particular Place To Go November 24, 2014 at 8:18 pm

A safari is a huge “I want to do this someday” item on our bucket list and I loved your gorgeous photos and the story of your experience in Thornybush Game Reserve. As for the encounter with the yawning lion – I was thinking that I’d much rather meet a sleepy lion full from a recent meal than a hungry one!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 25, 2014 at 12:05 am

Anita—yes, I would say that hanging out around sated lions is the way to go! I hope you are able to visit Africa someday. South Africa was very interesting and beautiful.

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avatar Mike November 24, 2014 at 9:13 pm

I absolutely LOVED this post and have been looking forward to it. A safari adventure is a huge bucket list item for me. Lordy, I would have to write a novel back to comment on everything…which is basically every single sentence of this post. Funny, I’m not big fan of pill swallowing either…so I feel you there. Amazing that you had to take that for 33 days but I understand why. That is great that there was only 1 mosquito. I’m a lifelong lover of the big cats with my all time favorite being the cheetah. To think that wildlife can move easily and craftily in and around the thornybush is mind-boggling. Really good know on traveling there during the dry season. I’m also glad you mentioned the potty stuff – as I do tend to need to go frequently. Lordy, on Jacques and Morris going off with the rifles while your group was a free snack 🙂 You and Mr Colasante got some absolutely incredible photos, Suzanne! AWESOME post… 🙂

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 25, 2014 at 12:08 am

Mike, thanks for your enthusiastic comment (as always). Unfortunately, the Thornybush cheetahs were apparently eaten by the Thornybush lions, but we did see some cheetahs at a cheetah rescue program outside Cape Town. I’ll be writing about that in a future post.

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avatar Johanna November 24, 2014 at 11:23 pm

What a wonderful safari you had, and how lucky you were to see Leopard – and to get such a brilliant shot. I also love the photo of the Mum and baby giraffe. Safari’s are great fun aren’t they – but you have to be ‘game’ (no pun intended!) and as you say a bit agile, be brave, up for anything and retain a sense of humour if you don’t see the Big 5. Another game reserve we loved when we lived in SA was Madikwe in the north west province – you don’t need to take malaria pills for this reserve either 🙂

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 25, 2014 at 12:10 am

Johanna, I agree with everything you said about the proper mindset for a South Africa wildlife viewing safari and for travelers with less time, there are excellent game reserves within a few hours of Cape Town and Johannesburg.

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avatar Carole Terwilliger Meyers November 25, 2014 at 11:25 am

I so enjoyed going along with you to Thornybush Game Reserve. I loved your photos, especially the elephant. I’ve never been to Africa and it remains at the top of my bucket list, so I am collecting info and yours is very helpful. Two bits I didn’t like–the pills and the potties (or lack of).

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 25, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Carole, I hope you get to go. Our trip to South Africa now ranks among our best ever.

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avatar Maggibee November 25, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Hi Suzanne, couldn’t wait to read this and I wasn’t disappointed. sounds like a once in a lifetime experience. i don’t think the loved one and I will go, partly because he hates to travel long haul and partly because I had spinal surgery and, although it rarely restricts me, driving for hours over rough terrain is, as they say, contra indicated. So thank you for taking me with you, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Maggibee, I know you can’t do anything about the loved one not enjoying long haul flights. Maybe he could look at it from the point of view of an American and manage to see the flight from the UK as merely “medium” haul. If you’ve had spinal surgery, I definitely wouldn’t recommend a safari in one of the private game reserves where there driving is on unpaved roads and off road. However, in Kruger National Park, that is not the case, so maybe you could consider one there—-or, you can sit back and enjoy your safari vicariously. 🙂

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avatar santafetraveler November 25, 2014 at 11:51 pm

I’ve always wanted to do a safari- but I’d want to do a fairly luxe one- I like a comfortable bed and bathroom- if they exist. Not having one would probably be a deal breaker. My camping days are long over. I didn’t see an accommodation description outside the mosquito netting. Maybe I missed it. Glad you enjoyed it. Sound like you and Dr. Excitement did some adventurous eating.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 26, 2014 at 12:01 am

I mentioned that the rooms are en suite and that it’s a 4 star property. I probably should have described that there was a soaking tub and a walk in shower with plenty of hot water and good water pressure. I think you would find the Monwana accommodations to be sufficiently well appointed and comfortable.

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avatar A Cook Not Mad (Nat) November 26, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Great photos but 33 pills for a three day visit, I don’t know…

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 26, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Actually, there are places in South Africa where you can go on a wildlife viewing safari that are not in the malaria endemic area. For some reason, I wanted to go on one around Kruger National Park which is in the malaria area. If you go during the dry season, it might be reasonable to take your chances and skip the prophylaxis. (Caveat: That’s definitely not medical (or legal) advice!)

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avatar Irene S Levine November 26, 2014 at 2:45 pm

So glad that you had such a memorable trip! The photos are outstanding. Did you start seeing those zen-diggy patterns in all the zebras? 🙂 Best wishes to you and yours for the Thanksgiving holiday!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 26, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Irene, I see those “zen-ziggy” patterns everywhere 😉 I just signed up to take a course to be “Certified Zentangle Teacher” (CZT).

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avatar Michelle da Silva Richmond November 27, 2014 at 10:20 am

Great story and photos! I’ve always wanted to do this and hopefully, will some day….pills and all!

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avatar Jackie Humphries Smith November 27, 2014 at 11:02 am

This is one place we keep talking about and you’ve inched it higher up the bucket list – that’s for sure. I would be the one in the middle hanging on for dear life however and in my case would likely shut my eyes in fear of tipping and miss the purpose of the trip. Loved your mosquito tale – we’ve been debating shots for Yellow Fever on the Amazon cruise. . .and my order of bug spray just arrived from Amazon – the on-line Amazon that is.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 28, 2014 at 2:10 am

When I studied in Colombia and visited the Colombian Amazon (Leticia), I had to have a yellow fever vaccine and take chloroquine as malaria prophylaxis. I don’t even think they use that any more. When Mr. Excitement and I went to Peru for our honeymoon in 1982, we visited the Amazon. That trip is probably still at the top of our best trips list—maybe because it was our honeymoon. Our South African safari is now up there too.
http://www.boomeresque.com/our-peruvian-honeymoon-1982/
I look forward to reading about your Amazon cruise.

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avatar Roz Warren November 29, 2014 at 8:09 am

I will never go on a wildlife safari but I certainly enjoyed reading about yours. (And now I know what the “Big Five” are in case that ever comes up as a trivia question.)

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avatar Michelle November 29, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Oh my it looks like you had a trip of a lifetime! I can’t believe you got to see the rhinos. It’s good to know that there are still some around as I hear they are so rare. This really makes me want to go on another Safari because my last one was pretty rough! Your pictures are incredible!!! Thank you for sharing.

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avatar Maddy Resendes December 1, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Sounds like another amazing adventure under your belts! I think I need to work on my “bucket list” because pretty much getting over to Target to get a really good bucket to enhance my “homemaking” skills is pretty high on my bucket list!!! How pathetic is that?! In all honesty, accomplishing the mundane is oddly satisfying these days. I think I am working to develop skills that should have been securely in place by my late teens that never quite took! I am more willing to slow down, clean off and organize a shelf and am particularly committed to assisting my 16 daughter to do develop these life skills – so she might manage this area of her life better than I ever did! So I am on a “domestic safari” and if we every get the mayhem enough under control, we will get Emma a dog – not a lion – a dog.

We did visit Safari West here in CA on a Girl Scout outing a number of years ago and saw some very cool critters up close and personal from our jeep. Giraffes practically bent down and kissed us! So I can imagine how thrilling it must be to be in Africa with much less of a “civilization wall” separating you from all of those amazing animals you describe – not to mention the variety. Good on you and Steve for exploring our Earth and its many wonders!

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avatar Ryan Biddulph December 2, 2014 at 8:30 am

Wow Suzanne!

You saw quite a few beautiful animals on this trip!

When we do go, we know the internet bit probably ain’t happening. No worries. The way I see it, a bit o’ time off of work serves both of us well. As long as we’re not doing the long term bit we’re more than happy to enjoy the Safari, and yes, the days pre-internet.

5 years ago I knew how to check my email, and espn.com. I lived then, and I’d live now….and wow am I excited to do our safari, when we decide to do it 😉

Thanks Suzanne for the inspired post and pictures!

Ryan

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avatar Ron Stoloff December 26, 2014 at 12:33 pm

S,

Our experience at Thornybush was pretty much similar to yours though we went in January – &, yes, there was rain on a few occasions.

Interesting, in our tour, we used only Toyotas & when I asked why we didn’t have the ‘classic’ LR’s, I was told that not only were the Toyotas cheaper but more reliable.

I must say, it was a ball.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr December 27, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Ron. Yes, I know. There were many, “Toto, we’re definitely not in Philadelphia any more,” moments.

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