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“Just Book it!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Chapungu Luxury Tented Camp

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Chapungu Luxury Tented Camp
4.0 of 5 Cabin/Campground   |   Thornybush Private Nature Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa   |  
Hotel amenities
Certificate of Excellence 2014
Ontario, Canada
12 reviews 12 reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
17 helpful votes 17 helpful votes
“Just Book it!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 20, 2009

We did a safari at christmas/new years starting at Elephant Plains and then going to Chapungu. When we were booking the trip there were few reviews about Chapungu so I was a little worried that the safari would not as good as Elephant Plains. On the contrary Chapungu turned out to be amazing! The rooms are wonderful, the food was delicious and best of all the game drives were out of this world. Our ranger went above and beyond to find us animals we had yet to see at Elephant plains. The rangers are fun, enthusiastic, knowleable, accomodating and most importantly you can tell that they love being part of the safari experience. If you are considering Thornybush vs Sabi Sands don't worry you will not be disappointed with Thornybush.

  • Stayed January 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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115 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
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English first
Washington DC
Senior Contributor
25 reviews 25 reviews
21 hotel reviews
Reviews in 20 cities Reviews in 20 cities
26 helpful votes 26 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 22, 2009

Chapungu was just great. Game drives - you will see everything and more. The food is great. The staff is great. The tents (rooms) are great. Now we were there when the outside temp was 105 F so the rooms were hot during the day - fortunately the pool is wonderful. What was most enjoyable was the communal setting (and I normally can't stand that process). People from throughout the world bond and just relax. This is a place you will like yet 3 days should be enough as the 5 AM wake up for the morning drives do push it (especially if you don't go to bed until 3). If you like Spa treatments, sign up - great.

  • Liked — the atmosphere of friendliness
  • Disliked — it was hot - that said, it is a jungle:)
  • Stayed January 2009, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
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5 reviews 5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 18, 2008

When you book a lodge like this in a private game reserve you are bound to go there with high expectations ... to make it short: Chapungu and the Thornybush Reserve did not disappoint us at all. From the first moment on we were made feel at home, from our welcome to our farewell, also including the game drives the friendlyness of all staff, rangers, trackers was amazing. Also accomodation is perfect - the tents are spacious, quite luxurious and give you the real feeling of being in the bush (including an AC!, a beautiful veranda and an outdoor bath tub!) - i would never trade a luxury tent like this for a "normal" room when on safari if i had the choice. Food: perfect! not one single issue you could complain about, most of the was not only good but up to gourmet standards (but after all you don't go there for the food :-).

Most important thing: the game drives: first of all we wanna point out Jancu, our ranger - we have been on Safari before (Kenya, Botswana, SA before) and we have had very good guides and rangers - but never someone who is equally knowledgeable about animals, plants, tracks, the whole area and at the same time as funny and entertaining and also "at home" in the reserve as Jancu. Safari is not only about seeing wildlife but also about learning new things about what you see and he combined this in a perfect way and mixed it with a lot of stories from his experience. To make it short: we saw Lion multiple times, also Leopard and all the other big 5 in our 2 days there and had not one game drive without one or multiple highlights, also a Cheetah with cubs and another Cheetah. The quality of the sightings is very high since the rangers spare no effort to follow and track also offroad. One thing that you should be aware of: Chapungu does not have a waterhole (at/near camp) and has also has a fence around the camp, the tents are build along a small river bed but it is dry for most of the year - so game viewing from the lodge while you relax in between drives is quite limited (to warthogs or bush buck .... :-). Plus: though Thornybush is a big reserve to cover it is not VERY big, so if you do some drives there you will probably reach the fence or drive along it once in a while (which spoils the bush ambience a little bit). But as I said, all in all: highly recommended!

  • Liked — Amazing game viewing, the tents, the outdoor bath tub, the fabulous food.
  • Disliked — -
  • Stayed October 2008, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
17 reviews 17 reviews
16 hotel reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 8, 2008

Chapungu was the first safari camp we have ever been to and we were not disappointed. We visited Chapungu for three nights on our honeymoon (Sept 08), before going on to a lodge in the Sabi Sands reserve. We were pleased we did the trips this way round, as the second lodge was superior to the tented camp at Chapungu - but that said, you certainly get what you pay for at both. To expect 5* treatment and facilities at Chapungu would be mis-placed, but we had the most wonderful time and were glad to have spent a portion of the trip in the tented camp.

The reserve itself (Thornybush) is great. We saw all of the Big 5 at least three times over in the space of three days and sightings were very good ones. The guide (Eugene) was knowledgeable and friendly and we were impressed with the set-up generally. We didn't have any more than 6 people in our vehicle at any one time - which meant we always got great, uninterrupted, views and the reserve operates a "no more than 2 cars at any one sighting" policy, meaning your photos aren't spoiled by other vehicles in the background. Game drives started at 5am and 3.45pm and typically lasted around 4 - 4 1/2 hours.

Food was good. Dinners were particularly good (always three courses), taking place in different parts of the camp each night. Yes, you have to pay for drinks but they are not pricey.

Accomodation is nice, though the a/c isn't the most effective! The outdoor baths are really great and we were made more than comfortable during our stay.

Would highly recommend as a middle-of-the-price-range option, though if you're hoping for 5* luxury, this probably isn't the place for you.

  • Liked — The food was fantastic, as were the game drives
  • Disliked — not very good a/c in tents
  • Stayed September 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Diego
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 9, 2008

We loved Chapungu! The staff is friendly and available but not hovering. The luxury tents are a nice combination canvas walls but with high thread count sheets and a deep soft mattress and air conditioning. Ours had an outdoor tub on the deck but no outdoor shower. The game drives were amazing. We saw loads of animals and the rangers and trackers were knowledgable and informative. The range rovers have great suspension and they were very comfortable (much more so than the jeeps at "another" lodge we stayed at!). The optional afternoon game "walks" let you walk in the bush with an armed ranger (just in case) and see things up close like dung beetles and huge termite mounds that whiz by you when you're after "big game". The afternoon game drives feature cocktails at sundown in the bush, then keep you out after dark to see the animals at night . (Take a jacket). We had amazing waterhole viewing of an enormous herd of cape buffalo at sunset, saw the hippos out of the water in the cool of the evening, (a rare treat!) and the lions coming to drink! The food at camp was delicious (though the "midmorning and sunset snacks" during the game drives were unimaginative) With only something like 8 tents, its an intimate size lodging and dining is around a large communal table. If you enjoy sharing travel tales you'll like the intimate size of the group. There are no "private tables for two". Dinner by torchlight in the boma was exotic, romantic and delightful, but then all of the dinners were delightful. We'd definately recommend Chapungu. We give Thornybush and Chapungu a 4.5.

  • Liked — Size. With only about 16 guests at a time, this is NOT a mega hotel experience!
  • Disliked — I wish the tent was a bit more luxurious, and that the view from our tent was better.
  • Stayed March 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
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Warks, UK
Top Contributor
54 reviews 54 reviews
38 hotel reviews
Reviews in 43 cities Reviews in 43 cities
89 helpful votes 89 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 2, 2008

Stayed for two nights in Feb 2008, flying in from the UK and then straight on to Hoedspruit (wonderful little airport with the most amazing lounges!!). 30 minute drive over tarmac and gravel roads to the lodge - last bit quite bumpy. Long day but made most welcome and then out on a game drive - mch smoother then the drive in and saw rhino, elephant, giraffe etc

Lovely G&T at sundown, food excellent (BBQ in the boma) and a few drinks after and sleep. A/C was a struggle to cope, no need for mossie nets as room sealed as far as we could tell, but the fan worked well and we would probably have slept on a washing line!! 5am wake up, rest of Big 5 before breakfast.......

Food again good, wallow in (cool) pool, watch local animals wander through, game walk after lunch, more drives, great sunset etc etc.

Discover at end that Richard our guide was 20 and the stick he carried had been blessed by local shamen (or similar) and so we were quite safe..... His feeling for the bush and animals as well as his knowledge was great - wish I had been so clear on what i wanted to do at that age.

Overall lovely - first safari - no need to pay for more luxury, just enjoy the reason you really went there in the first place.

  • Liked — Small roups and very friendly
  • Disliked — Slightly weak A/C (but it was tented!!)
  • Stayed February 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Senior Contributor
42 reviews 42 reviews
17 hotel reviews
Reviews in 24 cities Reviews in 24 cities
26 helpful votes 26 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed December 2, 2007

When one visits the Kruger National Park, the primary purpose is to see the wildlife found in the park. Chapungu and the Thornybush Game Reserve provided that experience at a level we did never expected. The guides and trackers know the park very well and were practically able to provide animal encounters “on demand.” We found the “Big 5” in just two game drives, repeating (and even improving) sightings on successive visits. Five out of our six game drives provided extraordinary game experiences. There were never more than 12 guests onsite at any one time which gave us the opportunity to meet all of them. That was a terrific experience.

Physically, the camp itself is fairly represented in the photos on the camp’s website. But the worn appearance of the camp shows the moment you walk in the door. The camp’s name may be “luxury tent camp” but the emphasis belongs on tent, not on luxury. Our “tent” (No. 7) was rustically appointed, with comfortable bedding, but the small problems added up. There was a fist-size hole in the tent next to the roof beam in the bathroom, the shower door did not fit, which led to water stains in the plywood floor and an overall “dirty” look to the shower. The mosquito netting over the bed had huge holes that were being covered by bath cloths that had been draped over them. The tent contained one small air conditioner that could not keep up with the heat and humidity we encountered the first day there. Fortunately, the weather cooled that evening due to a storm front and the amount of air conditioning needed was minimal. I hesitate to think of the discomfort of these tents in mid-summer.

The food at Chapungu was a serious disappointment. Breakfasts were generally good. Lunches were heavy on starches. Two of our three dinners were close to inedible. The first night, dinner consisted of overcooked, breaded and fried, Canadian cuts of salmon that had apparently been delivered frozen, not fresh. Dessert was a terrific chocolate ganache concoction served in a soufflé cup. It was terrific, but it was also the basis for dessert at lunch the next day and at dinner the next night – same chocolate served as the base in a pie at lunch and in truffle sized balls at dinner the second night.

On the second night, our starter was a salmon mousse on cold pancakes surrounded by salad greens. It was tasty, but the presentation was sloppy. Further, with all the guests having the bad salmon experience the night before, we were all a little tentative about another encounter with salmon.

The main course was a lamb shank – a dish we were told was the camp’s specialty. It was deliciously sauced, but the lamb had definitely not cooked long enough. Our experience with lamb shanks is that a knife should only be needed to coax the meat off the bone. This lamb shank was so tough you could not cut the meat off the bone with a chain saw. As noted above, this was followed by a dense, heavy chocolate dessert that tasted the same as the night before.

Our final night meal was delicious – chicken wrapped in banana leaves served with a peanut sauce (I requested and got a different sauce as I am allergic to peanuts). The evidence that this was a good meal was easy to see. On the previous nights, not a single guest finished their meals. On our final night, the kitchen staff was greeted by clean plates from the guests. Dessert that evening was a light and delicious meringue with fresh berries.

Guests who had been at the camp for a couple of days prior to our arrival noted that the food had been terrific on the first two nights. They too were surprised at how bad the food was on their final two nights.

Service was the most lacking inside the camp. Granted, any request that was made was handled quickly, but guests were expected to make requests. Very few of the guests’ needs were anticipated.

Service at the evening meal was similar. We felt rushed through dinner as though staff could not wait to go home. Further evidence was seen after dinner on the second night when several of us chose to stay out talking. The waiters for the evening came down to the bar, showed us how to operate the light switch, and left. Our particular group was quite self-sufficient, so this wasn’t a big deal, but we were all startled enough by it to discuss our surprise. Evidence of the need for staff to stick around came the final night when a honey badger was present in the camp. Had that animal appeared while only the guests were around, I’m not sure we’d have known how to handle him.

The bar at Chapungu is an honor bar – something that can work well with self-sufficient guests. But the perception of most of the guests on property was that this was not done as a convenience to guests but rather as a labor-saving device for the camp. There was no price list for beverages available at the bar, so none of us knew if our shot of vodka or Coke Light was costing us R7 or R70. Had we known, I have no doubt that sales would have been higher. The wine list was present, but there was no way to access wine when staff wasn't around.

The final night, we came down for drinks prior to dinner to find there was no ice at the bar. We had to go ask for it at the kitchen. Just a small detail, but indicative of the level of service.

On our final day at camp, I asked to see the operations manager (Ilze) to discuss our disappointments. To her credit, she said that our complaints did alarm her. As she said, if we had not had good game drives and had further experienced the bad food and service, our stay would have been quite miserable. She did apologize and sent a bottle of wine to our room along with a hand written note of apology.

Granted, this is the first safari camp I've ever visited, so it is difficult for me to rate the camp in comparison to others. However, other guests who had been to other camps stated that they had found far better accomodations, food and service at the other camps for a much lower price.

Because of the terrific game viewing, I would continue to recommend the Thornybush properties to anyone who asks. Chapungu has all the elements needed to be an amazing holiday experience, but they need to pay a lot more attention to the details.

  • Liked — The Game Drives
  • Disliked — The food and service
  • Stayed November 2007, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 1 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Chapungu Luxury Tented Camp

Address: Thornybush Private Nature Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Location: South Africa > Kruger National Park > Thornybush Private Game Reserve
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #10 of 11 Specialty Lodging in Thornybush Private Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:4 star — Chapungu Luxury Tented Camp 4*
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
In the heart of the Thornybush Nature Reserve the nostalgic guest will find Chapungu Tented Bush Camp. Tastefully furnished in old world colonial splendour, in a style and class of a bygone era. Eight comfortable air-conditioned en-suite tents offer private and exclusive accommodation.Boma dinners are an occasion and an opportunity to select a bottle from the stock of fine wines and to savour the finest fare. Settle around a log fire to recount the days’ game experiences before retiring to the lounge for a night-cap, or the comfort of your tent.Our passion for hospitality and the excitement of dawn and dusk safaris in an open safari vehicle, ensuring close and unrestricted encounters with the wild. The more adventurous are encouraged to join an experienced game ranger on a walk as he interprets and discusses Africa's footprint. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Chapungu Camp Hotel Thornybush Private Game Reserve
Chapungu Luxury Tented Camp South Africa/Thornybush Private Game Reserve

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