Wildlife wonderland

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A wildlife getaway in Africa is at the top of many a bucket list, but so many venues over-promise and under-deliver that it can be hard to know which ones to choose. There’s a world of difference between driving around a track at a touristy lodge which does have the Big 5, yes – precisely one specimen of each, at the same place every time – and being immersed in a genuine wilderness where the game roam freely in their natural habitat.

Then there’s Sanbona Wildlife Reserve – light-years away from anything else you might have experienced.

Once you pass the entrance gates to Sanbona, you don’t see another fence. The Little Karoo landscape stretches as far as the eye can see beneath big blue skies you could drown in. The sense of isolation amidst nature is palpable and immediate.  The crisp scents of foliage drift through air that is cleaner than any air you’ve breathed before. This is where the heart of the country beats.

Unlike some game lodges, Sanbona is not teeming with herds of animals. There’s a good reason for this: the reserve only accommodates as many animals as can be naturally supported by the habitat. This guarantees an authentic wildlife experience – what you see is what really should exist in nature. It is not curated in any way. When you encounter animals at Sanbona, you are encountering the wild soul of Africa in the raw.

To ensure you do encounter animals, Sanbona’s rangers are ready and willing to assist. Their expertise is formidable: they can track the animals on foot if necessary. Scraped bark on a tree or a pile of droppings is enough for them to weave together a spellbinding tale of the animals and their ways. They know the beasts intimately and treat them with the utmost respect – so that you, too, can appreciate the privilege of coming into the presence of a cheetah lying in the shade, viewing elephants browsing on tree-tops, or observing lions at rest or on the hunt. You feel as though you are in safe hands at all times.

 Best condition

To ensure that the animals are in the best possible condition, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve has a cutting-edge breeding and relocation programme in partnership with other institutions. The southern part of the reserve is off limits to tourists to provide space for herds to rest and recuperate when needed. For instance, drought conditions weakened the buffalo herd so much that the lions were picking them off too easily, so they had to be moved temporarily.

 While Sanbona’s animals have to live off the land, guests can look forward to fine dining prepared in-house under the experienced eye of a master chef. All preferences are catered for, while the wine list will satisfy the most demanding palate. As for the accommodation, it ranges from extremely comfortable to luxurious, depending on which particular lodge or camp you choose. Even the tents of the Explorer Camp (the most adventurous option) are guaranteed to provide a restful night under the endless Karoo stars. 

 Family fantasy 

Now children can get in on the action too. Sanbona Wildlife Reserve has introduced a Family Getaway Experience at Gondwana Family Lodge which is available throughout the rest of the year (valid until 20 December 2019). Sanbona is situated close to Montagu in the heart of the Little Karoo, a three-hour scenic drive from Cape Town along Route 62 and offers an authentic safari experience for the whole family in a malaria-free area.  

 The Family Getaway Experience provides the perfect opportunity to disconnect from a busy city lifestyle and enjoy quality time together. It is open to families with children of all ages and includes the Sanbona Kids on Safari programme, with exciting activities such as an evening scorpion hunt and storytelling inspired by African folk tales around the fire with a marshmallow braai. A family picnic is included in addition to twice daily game drives, and for children under four years who may not be accommodated on the game drives, complimentary child minding is offered in the kiddies play area during game drive hours, allowing parents with young children some quality time together. Guided wilderness walks are also on offer for adults and children older than 16 years to explore some of the vast reserve, which is home to the Big 5.

Gondwana Family Lodge recently had a total face lift to the 12 suites, as well as the main lodge dining and lounge areas. Offering a family-safari in style, each suite comes with a comfortable sleeper couch to accommodate one child, whilst inter-leading rooms are available for larger families. There is a kids’ TV lounge, as well as safe indoor and outdoor play areas with a child-friendly swimming pool.  Delicious, wholesome farm-style cuisine is offered, including child-friendly options.

 The Sanbona Kids on Safari programme has been designed to stimulate and inspire the eco warriors of the future. Families are invited to enjoy the wonder that nature has to offer with exciting educational and recreational wildlife experiences to guarantee an unforgettable safari experience, even for the little ones. Welcome Packs include the Sanbona Activity Book filled with interactive activities to teach children in a fun way about the wildlife at Sanbona.  The skull garden and interpretive trail take children of all ages through the gardens to learn about important plants and animals on the reserve. Other activities include arts and crafts, puzzles, board games, educational children’s books, documentary DVD’s on various conservation topics and animals, as well as entertaining animation movies.

 Greg Penfold



Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

Under the stewardship of non-profit conservation organisation the Caleo Foundation, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in the Little Karoo and sister property Jock Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park have been pioneers of conservation, reserve development and eco-tourism. Sustainability and responsible utilisation are the cornerstones of all lodge operations.

Recognised as one of South Africa’s largest privately-owned reserves, Sanbona stretches across 58 000 hectares of the wide open plains of the Klein Karoo, and is known as the Western-Cape’s premier wildlife destination. It is situated close to Montagu, a three-hour scenic drive from Cape Town along Route 62, and offers an authentic safari experience in a malaria-free area.  

Sanbona is a sanctuary for indigenous flora and fauna, including the Big 5, but it is the vastness of the landscape and the alluring isolation amid the raw beauty and boundless plains which sets it apart.

Sanbona offers guests a choice of four different lodges and camps. Dwyka Tented Lodge accommodates 18 guests in nine luxury tents with private Jacuzzis to offer a unique wilderness experience for couples; while Tilney Manor is a refuge of peace and tranquillity, catering for only 12 guests in six spacious open-plan suites leading on to private verandas. With 12 suites Gondwana Family Lodge offer the Kids on Safari programme and caters for families with children of all ages and small groups travelling together; while the Explorer Camp operates seasonally during the summer months to offer an authentic walking experience for up to six guests (16-years and older), exploring the Karoo while sleeping in luxury tents and enjoying evenings around a campfire.

Book now and get 15% off all direct bookings: or +27 (0) 21 010 0028.





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Issue 64


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