Thabamati's "secret Big 5" safari checklist

Nevermind lions and leopards and rhinos (but they’ve got those too), Thabamati Luxury Tented Camp checks all the boxes for safari’s other Big Five. These are elements of a safari that exponentially elevate your experience and linger in your memory long after you’ve left the bush. In between game drives, you’re likely to be eating, relaxing by the pool, or sleeping, so these five qualities are important, and Thabamati has them down to a tee.  

Number 1: FOOD

The food was so good that you over-ate consistently. It’s not that portion sizes were too big, it’s that the breakfast spread was too good to resist, and even though you only took one of everything, there was nothing you wanted to pass on! Individual berry smoothies, miniature pastries speckled with seeds, fresh fruit, a cheese board with preserves and smoky, cured prosciutto, warm cinnamon-sugar pancake pockets, bowls of crunchy granola, and then – of course – the eggs and bacon to order.

Food is such an important part of an experience and when it’s done right, it leaves a lasting impression, it adds to your memory of a special place or a good time. Food makes people happy, it’s something to look forward to, and especially after an exhilarating game drive, possibly an afternoon nap and some rejuvenating time under the sun, being able to tuck into something excellently prepared, full of flavour, and served in style is a joy!

Number 2: COMFORT

This is almost as important as food, and in fact, they are interchangeable for the number one spot. It wasn’t just about the beds being a cut above the rest, it was that even the bar stools were comfortable, the sun loungers were amazing, the sofas in the living space were cosy, the deck chairs at the pool and the ones on your own private viewing deck were really comfy.

The wing-backed armchairs in your tent really are ideal for a bit of afternoon reading while keeping an eye on the waterhole – and the cushioned Director’s chairs around the fire at night will be the only things keeping you from going to bed after your night cap! We’re almost willing to bet you’d rush through your three course meal just to hit the hay, because when 5am comes and you’re woken up for game drive, you’ll wish you had more time on those pillows.

Number 3: QUALITY

Everyone likes crisp, white sheets and you can bet that’s exactly what you’re getting at Thabamati. It’s the kind of bed linen that you want to shave your legs for (that is a real thing.) Top quality cotton, smooth to the touch, warm in winter, cool in summer. It makes all the difference to your sleep and when you’re melting into your mattress at the end of each day, the feeling of exceptional sheets is the only send-off you need.

The towels are no different, naturally. Neither are the fabrics used on the pool loungers and deck chairs. I can only assume the wonderful timber deck chairs with cushions covered in soft, quality fabric are not as easy to maintain as canvas, but it makes all the difference to a guest’s experience.

The crockery, cutlery and glassware does not go unnoticed either. I’m no expert, but I do know that wine tastes better out of good quality glass, and I can appreciate an excellent steak knife when slicing into a perfect medium-rare ostrich fillet. And when the pepper grinder has so clearly been chosen for its superior grinding quality, it just tastes better.


So, while all the big things get your attention at Thabamati, it’s the attention they’ve given to the details that really makes the difference. Little elements that may or may not be noticed by guests, but that make your stay that much more memorable. These are some of the smallest things that made the biggest difference:

  • Using glass for our sunset drinks on game drive, rather than stainless steel cups even though they are much better suited for this picnic-style setup. Not a biggie, but wine lovers appreciate it!
  • Changing our dining table at each meal time so that we ate dinner on the deck once and in the boma next to the fire once. Breakfasts and lunches also got a little change-up too, which just felt extra special.
  • Homemade lemonade and homemade biscuits and muffins – homemaking when it could have been store-bought made all the difference.
  • Craven the bartender remembering just how you like your cocktails and what wine you like at dinner time. At just the right time every afternoon, I got my gin-and-tonic, poolside, with my personalised selection of botanicals.
  • One of my favourite little details was the complimentary treat that was placed in our room every day – a little note and a jar of something sweet, like date and coconut balls, or nougat.

All these things and more took Thabamati to the next level, and left you feeling so content and well looked after.


This is an important one, and one that leaves the longest lasting impression. Given all the luxurious touches and supreme comfort of the experience, it was fantastic to learn that Thabamati is also completely solar powered and take eco-friendly practices seriously.

It’s such an important part of travel in sensitive natural areas, so when Charel explained the intricate water treatment system that is in place for managing biological waste, it was enormously satisfying. It isn’t the cheapest or easiest way to manage plumbing in the middle of the bush, but it’s something Thabamati has taken seriously because it is better for the environment. There are also no plastic bottles – rather filtered water and reusable glass bottles that are chilled and at your disposal everywhere, and they avoid single-use plastic across the board too.

The whole experience, from how we approached wildlife and sat watching them in their space felt respectful and thoughtful. You’ll be telling your friends and family about this place not only because you watched 14 lions including six cubs trot right passed you on game drive (which you did), or because elephants swam and splashed at the waterhole right in front of camp while you were being served cocktails on your pool lounger (which they did). You’ll be raving about Thabamati because this secret Big Five checklist took the experience from a 10 to a 12 out of 10.