The winning couple of SA Weddings 2020 Bride of the Year Competition walked away with well-deserved prizes worth over R120 000, which included not one but TWO African safari honeymoon experiences. The coveted winners, Lindie & Smanga, embarked on a luxurious second African honeymoon to Thornybush Game Reserve, located in the illustrious Kruger National Park. Not only is Thornybush Game Reserve home to diverse wildlife in their natural habitat but also guarantees its visitors a home in the African Wilderness thanks to their intuitive guides and close-knit teams on site that will instantly make you feel at home the minute you arrive. Thornybush gifted our winning couple a taste of the ‘Thornybush Feeling’ with a honeymoon experience of a lifetime and we got the low-down of their unforgettable stay:
At first we were in disbelief when our names were announced. Then those tears came rushing, purely out of excitement and joy. We honestly felt so special, honoured and blessed; to think that we were the winning couple in the whole of South Africa was so surreal. My hubby and I like going on holiday to game reserves but at the time of the competition, we were yet to experience a private game resort. This was something we’ve been longing to experience but due to the current rates at private game resorts, we decided that when we retire, we will tick this off our bucket list. Little did we know that by entering SA Weddings Bride of the Year, we were bringing our retirement closer by winning this experience of a lifetime. The only thing we could say was that God can answer prayers - our life-long dream finally became a reality!
Jubilant; Phenomenal; Blessed
On our first morning, we received a wakeup call at 05h00 to prepare for our sunrise game drive. The early wakeup was not too bad as we could start the morning with a delightful breakfast in bed. We reported to reception where a variety of breakfast snacks awaited us before we set off to meet with our guides at the game drive pickup point. We were joined by another family from the United States who we mingled with before our guide arrived and gave us a warm welcome and explained the game drive rules as well as what we could expect on this excursion.
We both hoped to spot a lion and a leopard on this game drive. We never imagined that we would be treated to a range of wildlife. During our sunrise drive, we saw some buffalos and giraffes. We then had a short break for tea and snacks in the middle of the bush which, was such a surreal experience. After tea we continued with our game drive where we saw a herd of elephants. At 8h30 we went for our main breakfast at the Saseka Tented Camp Restaurant where our table was set so beautifully and the team was ready to serve us. What an epic experience just relaxing and having a buffet breakfast in a very peaceful bush environment where you could delight in the sounds of wildlife in the distance. It was like they were singing just for us!
After breakfast, we returned to our tent where we relaxed outside by our private pool. We also had a selection of drinks waiting for us, which we slowly sipped on throughout the morning whilst taking in the paradise we were in. As the weather started heating up, my hubby and I decided to cool down in the swimming pool. That was actually the first time I had ever been in a swimming pool as I am not comfortable in cold bodies of water. My goodness, am I glad I took the plunge because we had such a wonderful bonding experience in the pool.
At 13h30 we went down for our lunch. Whilst eating, we saw impala, kudu and many more animals. After lunch we took pictures by the restaurant and at our room as well as outside our tented camp to capture this experience of a lifetime forever. We were supposed to have tea and snacks at 3h30pm before our afternoon game drive but we politely requested that the staff do not prepare for us as we were so full from lunch. They definitely make sure you are well-fed and that all your needs are catered to.
We went for an afternoon game drive, which we thoroughly enjoyed because of how knowledgeable the guides were. We gained so much insight into life in the bush. Unfortunately it was raining badly prior to our stay so we couldn’t enjoy the full safari experience. However, we still managed to see elephants, giraffes, impalas, hyenas, lions, a lioness and her cubs and many more. We experienced a range of emotions on our game drive - it truly was such a surreal experience: we spotted a female kudu ready to give birth and the guides actually stopped so that we could observe the entire process. The kudu was lying down pushing the baby and still stood up every few minutes to check whether her surroundings were still safe to continue pushing. Our guide told us that we might even see a leopard come to feast on the young kudu that was just born. A few minutes later we saw a leopard climbing the tree next to the kudu. Then the kudu made some sound whilst running around the tree where it gave birth to its young. Sadly, she proceeded to run away, leaving her young behind. I actually started crying when I saw the leopard coming down the tree to eat the newborn kudu.
It is difficult to select one part because everything that we experienced at Thornybush was just out of this word but here are my top picks:
1. Not having to lift a finger: when we arrived we had welcome drinks waiting for us, our lunch table was already prepped and set and let’s not forget the diverse offerings at our lunch table and all so tasty too!
2. Our tented camp that included a private pool, a glass door with incredible views of the game park, and the comfiest couches to relax on outside our tent.
3. Spotting a leopard and swimming in a swimming pool for the first time. for the first time.
Definitely the game drives, experiencing romantic time spent together in the pool, all the food on offer and spotting a leopard for the first time.
The food was appetising, delicious, mouth-watering, flavoursome and just so satisfying yet so healthy. Everything was cooked to perfection and bursting with flavour - definitely a top highlight of this trip for my hubby and I.
We went on morning and afternoon game drives, swam in our private pool, and enjoyed breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner on the daily. It was fun to look forward to where and how we would be having our meals. I particularly enjoyed the time the staff braaied for us at supper time. We enjoyed our supper under the night sky with lights surrounding us, the fire going and our table in the middle of the bushveld with the river not too far off, flowing in the distance.
Lionesses , lion cubs, elephants, giraffes, springbok, nyala, greater kudu, Burchell's zebra, African wild cat, African buffalo, African wild dog, spotted hyena, white rhinoceros, blue wildebeest, side-striped jackal, African fish. lions, leopards and many birds but we can’t recall all their names.
The staff were so loving, caring, considerate, friendly, welcoming, easy to get along with
When leaving the staff will accompany us to the pickup point for our game drive, same with our drop up moment they will be there to welcome us back. The guides were so knowledgeable about the animals and good animal trackers. We definitely felt the warmth of the Thornybush staff.
I would highly recommend Thornybush. Nevermind a honeymoon, I would recommend it as an annual holiday! As for number of nights, I would suggest 5 to 7 nights, at least for my hubby and I. We are even considering Thornybush as an anniversary destination in the future!
Our favourite was definitely sunset: hearing all the sounds of the bush, marvelling at the crystal-clear night sky and the guides telling us the names of all the stars (a truly wonderful learning experience!). It was also so epic hearing the lions roar at night to protect their territory.
It sure sounds like Lindie and Smanga were treated to an experience of a lifetime at Thornybush Game Reserve. From world-class dining experiences in the bushveld and under the stars, peaceful moments in tented luxury, to immersive game drive excursions and tracking of various wildlife, Thornybush guarantees you a home in the African Wilderness thanks to their special touch! Thank you Thornybush and your incredible staff and facilities for gifting this phenomenal stay to our coveted 2020 Bride of the Year winners!
"Thank you again to SA Weddings and Thornybush for such an incredible experience. We really are a couple that enjoy life to the fullest. We will definitely be returning to Thornybush and extending our stay." - Lindie & Smanga, SA Weddings 2020 Bride of the Year Competition Winners