Ending a long journey on a high note is an ideal plan that came to fruition for the #Gr8SA team from South African Airways Vacations. The last stop on our trip to South Africa included two nights at the Thornybush Game Lodge in the Thornybush Nature Reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park. After a warm welcome by the staff, we did a quick tour of the lodge before jumping into the open-air vehicles for the evening safari game drive as well as a visit to some of the other lodges within the Thornybush collection. It was fantastic to see the various accommodations available, as well as witness the wildlife, flora and fauna. South Africa is truly a magnificent country full of incredible vistas and wonder.
The next day we enjoyed a morning safari game drive and a bush walk. It was thrilling to be on foot in the wild, but with the peace of mind that we were completely safe in the company of our guide. We got to see much more detail about the vegetation and the creatures that inhabit it. Plus, we came across the remains of a giraffe. Did you know that a giraffe’s hide is thicker than an elephant’s? It’s pretty incredible!
Our afternoon was leisurely spent lunching and lounging by the gorgeous swimming pool, which felt amazing – it was the perfect temperature on a very warm day. We went for our evening safari game drive and stopped for a sundowner along the dry riverbed, which typically only runs a few times a year after heavy rain. It was a great way to end our day, and the nice cold drinks were incredibly refreshing.
Back at the lodge, we had a beautiful boma dinner before rainstorms rolled in overnight. The next morning, our last day in South Africa, was a wet, cool one. Even more amazing than the sudden change in weather was the water we found in the riverbed while on our morning safari game drive. We were informed it’s quite rare to see water running and were excited to witness it. It was also very interesting to see the bush in a different light – literally.
After breakfast, we finished packing our bags and cleaned ourselves up in preparation for our long journey home. It was just a quick 30-minute or so transfer from the lodge to Hoedspruit airport, where we had a one-hour flight to Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport. We had time there to have a quick bite and do some final souvenir shopping before boarding our flight back to the U.S. around 7 p.m. (We love the Out of Africa store, as well as Indaba.) We learned it’s a good idea to get to the gate in plenty of time, as there is extra security to go through on flights going to the U.S. Plus, you can’t bring any liquids on board – we were so glad we didn’t stop for that last coffee that we would have had to discard.
Our South African Airways flight was destined for Washington, D.C., Dulles International Airport with a stop in Accra, Ghana (we didn’t disembark). We were about an hour late leaving South Africa, but arrived early the next morning in the U.S. After clearing customs and immigration, we checked back in for our domestic flights home. From the time we left Thornybush Game Lodge to the time we walked in our front doors back in Tucson, Arizona, was about 44 hours. It sounds worse than it actually was, especially with the great memories of all the wonderful experiences we’d had over the past two weeks to think about.
Back home again, we can all agree that the journey was incredible and one we will not soon forget.