Royal Malewane | Thornybush Private Game Reserve

Personal Impression

This is a little slice of heaven in the African bush. A very personal experience where a person feels more like a part of a family than a guest. Luxurious surroundings, incredible rooms and expansive decks. The service is friendly, warm and you feel at home immediately. Royal Malewane has a lot of repeat guests, one couple had been there 10 times. They had been all over South Africa, Botswana and Kenya and this lodge is where they always return. There is a special ambiance here that is hard to put into words. I can highly recommend Royal Malewane.


Truly incredible standard rooms. Oriental rugs adorn the floor throughout the suite. Very large bedroom with king size bed with Ralph Lauren linens, couch and sitting area at the huge windows that look out onto the bush. On entering our room, there was a giraffe standing right in front of our deck; not more than 3 feet away. A nice desk, fireplace and elegant dark wood decor give a person a feeling of "no expense" spared to make these rooms an oasis in the bush.

The bathroom is also large with two sinks, bathtub (with a view) and two large showers, one indoors and one outdoors. Outside is a large deck with a private plunge pool and recliners to lay, relax and look out at the bush and watch the monkeys at play. The rooms are connected by elevated wood walkways. These walkways I find much more appealing in Africa. No worry about looking at the ground and where you step. No room is too far as the lodge is located in the middle of the complex. Two big suites, the Malewane and the Royal suite have two bedrooms and a huge living area, dining room and full kitchen with all appliances. These are like a lodge within a lodge. These are 220sqm and larger than many peoples homes. Both are decorated differently and both are really beautiful, you will not want to leave.

These suites come with a private butler, private chef, private game driver vehicle with a private ranger and tracker. Dinner can be served in your suite with the finest china and silver.

the bathroom in a standard suite the bedroom in a standard suite


The spa is a short walk from the main lodge. There is a workout room a variety of treatments are offered. There is an indoor and outdoor treatment facility.

Internet Access

There is one computer available for guests use free of charge. This is located in the spa facility.

Game Drives

The area around Royal Malewane is dense and full of thorn bushes. It is not as diverse or as attractive as the Sabi Sands private reserve. It is also not open to a large park like Kruger but a private fenced reserve. However, that being said we got the most incredible up close and personal experiences during our game drives at Royal Malewane. I think the quality of the rangers here and their knowledge of the terrain offer an opportunity for rare insights into animal behavior.

Our ranger and tracker really "tracked" a group of lions. Following tracks that lead off into the bush they jumped out of the vehicle and tracked the lions. At first, I have to admit I thought it was all show. Then they came and said we found them! We headed through the thick bush and the tension was mounting. We came SO close to these lions you could have reached out and touched them. Large males with females. Our shots of these lions are truly breathtaking. They lions moved off and we followed them in our vehicle as they headed for the water hole. Then the next day, we witnessed a remarkable event with the elephants. They were climbing on and destroying a huge termite mound. Those large animals kneeling as they literally crawled to the top. Then they started to move off the mound and down the road. One big bull elephant was "checking out" all the female elephants as they passed. Even the tiniest female was backing into the male to be "checked". Later on, another male turned up and we had the classic standoff by the two bulls. I felt like I had experienced something truly special and will never forget this herd going through their normal social behaviors.

(Pictures below - a little hard to see but the big bull in the front of the picture has his trunk straight up in the air.) Both experiences felt like they were off a TV wildlife show. We also saw all other types of animals, of course, there were giraffe, cape buffalo, zebra, antelope of may types. Monkeys are all over Royal Malewane and play on the decks of the lodge and in the trees. Another interesting sight was two male lions right on the airstrip at Royal Malewane. A welcoming committee for incoming guests and a "royal" send-off for outgoing guests.

Below are our personal pictures all taken at Royal Malewane.

The Guides

The guides at Royal Malewane have been there since the lodge opened. There seems to be a real family like atmosphere here. On our game drives, they seemed to be very aware of the animals, the behaviors and how to give each guest the best possible experience.

Dining and Wines

Dinner is served on the large decks at the lodge. It is open air. On our night, the food was incredible. It was a set menu with no choices. We had about five courses with the main course being rack of lamb, which was truly outstanding. However, you can order pretty much what ever you want that morning and have it served to you that night. So the entire dinner experience is very personal. Very good South African wines accompanied dinner. Lunch on arrival was also quite an experience. The smoked salmon salad was followed by the most delicious chicken dish and fresh berries with raspberry sauce for desert. As you eat lunch, you sit on yet another deck and watch the waterhole as animals come and go. Yes this is a mesmerizing site and you can sit there for hours.

Our actual bush breakfast at Royal Malewane; The liquor cabinet in the suite - all included
bush breakfast liquor cabinet

Getting to Royal Malewane

Direct flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town daily to Hoedspruit airport. Royal Malewane also has a smaller airstrip for charter flights directly into Thornybush Game Reserve. Road transfers are of course available if you do not wish to fly.

Local Village Tour

You can visit Nyani Tribal village. This is an authentic Shangaan village that is reliving the tribal life of 50 years ago. The village serves to both preserve the culture of the Shangaans of the area as well as to educate visitors with the traditions and customs of the community. All the vistors are guided by Axon who is from the lineage of Chief Kapama. The cost is 460 Rand about $75.00.

Other Tours

There are many other tours available.

Bombyx Silk Factory — Discover Bombyx Mori silk on this visit to one of only two producers of this silk in the country. 520 Rand.

Hoedspruit Research and Breeding Center — A two-hour tour that begins with a video presentation and then you see cheetah, African wild dogs, and many other rare animals in their natural habitat. The project also focuses on rehabilitation camps for both the Barbary Lion and the Rhino. Cost 520 rand.

Moholoholo Wildlife and Rehabilitation Center — Brian Jones and his team nurture the injured, poisoned, orphaned animals for release back into the wild. The center contributes to the conservation of endangered species and facilitates a number of successful breeding programs. Cost 520 Rand.

Helicopter Flights - Mpumalanga Helicopter Safaris — Private flights over the area with incredible views of the bush, waterfalls, and a 1000 meter deep canyon. Cost 8700 rand for two people and 650 rand for a third and fourth passenger. Topped off with a picnic lunch with a spectacular view.

Hot Air Balloon Flights — The flight will be one hour over the bush. If weather conditions do not allow the flight there are full refunds. Cost 2600 Rand.

Golf- Hans Merensky Golf Estate — A challenging 18 hole, par 72 Championship Golf Course where the animals add a little spice to the hazards of a good round of golf. Cost road transfer 1170 rand Air Transfer 2750 Rand. Inclusive of green fees and light refreshments.

Horseback Riding — Morning and afternoon rides for 2 hours for 650 rand.

Website: Royal Malewane