I love going on safari. It’s the wild animals, the bush smells and sounds and the complete ‘wildness’ of it all. Until my trip to Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, I had never been on a safari in the Western Cape. I had no idea what to expect. I couldn’t quite imagine the terrain, or how the elephants and rhino would look set against the backdrop of the semi-arid Karoo landscape, but there’s something about Sanbona that you just fall in love with.
The reserve is tucked away at the foot of the Warmberg in the Western Cape’s Little Karoo. The area was originally farmland but has been rehabilitated and it now teems with game such as elephant, kudu, eland, buffalo, giraffe and zebra. It is also home to the rare riverine rabbit and the rock art is from the /Xam, a clan of San Bushman who inhabited the area 3 500 years ago. Sanbona offers the epitome of a wildlife safari but the history and the geology of the area make it an all-round wilderness experience.
After a relatively short three-and-a-half hour drive from Cape Town, I arrived at the welcoming lounge in the south of the reserve. An air-conditioned vehicle was waiting there to transfer myself and a few other guests to Dwyka Tented Camp. The hour’s drive took us into the north of the 54 000 hectare reserve and across the spectacular renosterveld, one of the most threatened habitats in the Cape floristic region.
My room was a fairytale white tent (which you’d hardly call a tent, it was more like a canvas boudoir), set out along a horshoe bend of a dry Karoo ravine. The thorn trees were dotted along the ravine in front of my room – a stark contrast of fine luxury and harsh Karoo landscape. The tent had been decorated with chic interiors – modern yet rustic. Each tent has its own private deck, plunge pool and outdoor shower. The private plunge pool offered a brief relief from the afternoon heat before I set off to the main lodge to enjoy a scrumptious Caesar salad. The chefs at Sanbona certainly know how to cook up a storm and at every meal I was treated to a gourmet feast along with a fantastic selection of local wines.
Over the course of my two-night stay, I went on six game drives. We saw a huge herd of eland kicking up a cloud of dust as they ran awau, a crash of white rhino and a busy little family of elephants munching their way through a thicket. On my first morning, one of the guests spotted the white lions in a ravine. Our ranger walked the group up to the bank for a closer look, all in single file and in absolute silence. There was something incredibly thrilling about being on foot so close to the king of the jungle. My special sighting was seeing two hippos waddle out the water during the day (an unusual sighting) and walk to the enormous Bellair Dam.
As soon as I had become accustomed to the luxury, the safari lifestyle, the early mornings and yummy food, it came to an end too quickly. The staff were so friendly and hospitable throughout the duration of my stay that I was genuinely sad to say goodbye to them. I left Sanbona with a happy heart and a yearning to go back.
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
Why I’d recommend it:
The knowledgeable guides at Sanbona can take you on an informative game drive or nature walk explaining the fascinating rock art, rock formations and unique geology of the area. I’d highly recommend a star gazing experience – with the absence of artificial light, the stars are at their absolute best.
It’s the best wildlife safari in the Western Cape by far. They’ve got the Big Five and it’s in a natural setting with quarts fields and continental collisions, features of the Cape Fold Mountain range.
My best bits:
It’s hard to single out one or two of my favourite things about Sanbona. My trip was truly a top-class safari experience. The things that made it extra special was the attention to detail. Every night I had a piece of delicious nougat placed on my pillow along with an African story such as ‘The legendary trickster hare’ and ‘The Kudu – the grey ghost of Africa’.
Once you’ve stepped off the game drive vehicle you are greeted by a friendly host who hands you a cold towel after the morning game drive and a warm towel after the slightly chillier evening game drive.
Activities and facilities:
Game drives, bird watching, relaxation retreat, nature walks, photography, stargazing and rock art. They have knowledgeable rangers who can inform you about the interesting rock formations and features found on the property.
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve consists of three individual lodges. Dwyka Tented Camp has nine luxury tents. Gondwana Lodge has 12 rooms and is ideal for families. Some rooms are interleading for families and they also have a unique ‘kids on safari’ programme. Tilney Manor is an elegant manor house and has six luxury Cape Georgian suites. This is the lodge you’ll want to go to for privacy and tranquility.
How to get there:
From Cape Town
An easy 31/2hour drive, approximately 270 kilometers from Cape Town. On commencement of the journey, travel on the N1 from Cape Town in the direction of Paarl; continuing on the N1 travel through the Huguenot Tunnel. A tollgate controls this tunnel and a tollgate fee is payable at the tunnel. The first town is Worcester set in the Breede River Valley. Taking the second turnoff to the right into Worcester, you leave the N1 and the Route 60 (R60) is taken. Follow the signs to the town of Robertson. Once through Robertson, the next town is Ashton. The R60 becomes the R62 in Ashton. Travel on through Krogmanskloof and Montagu. Continue for approximately 43 kilometers and turn left at ‘Die Vlakte’ and Sanbona Wildlife Reserve sign. Please be advised that the road changes from tar to gravel and the recommended speed limit from there on is 60 kilometers per hour. The main entrance to Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is seven kilometers.
From the main gate, it is a further 15 kilometers to the welcoming lounge where guests will be welcomed. From the welcoming lounge, it is 45 minutes to Tilney Manor, 65 minutes to Dwyka Tented Lodge and 55 minutes to Gondwana Lodge. Please follow the relevant signs in the reserve. The recommended speed limit is 40 kilometers per hour. Do not exit your vehicle. Predators roam free. The main gate closes at 18h00, should your arrival time be later, please advise prior to arrival in order to make arrangements. A daily transfer from the main gate to your lodge is available on request, and must be booked at least 72 hours in advance.
Rates: R4 750 a person sharing for a luxury tent at Dwyka Tented Camp. Gondwana Lodge and Tilney Manor is R4 235 a person sharing in the low season and R4 500 a person sharing in the high season. Rates include all meals, two games drives, selected beverages, return transfers between welcoming lounge and lodge, tourism levy and 14% Vat.