Explore a Big 5 wilderness sanctuary in the Western Cape while staying at your choice of three luxurious lodges.
During our stay in Cape Town at an Airbnb, we had a friend from Canada drop in and join us. She had never been on safari so we hunted around and found Sanbona Wildlife Reserve.
Sanbona is only three hours from Cape Town and yet it feels like light-years from urban life. There are no flights, no transfers, just a very scenic drive alongside some of the Cape‘s most humbling scenery.
We drove in a normal rented car however a word of warning—the road between the gate and the lodges is brutally punishing. Sanbona offers transfers from the gate to the lodge twice a day with the first being at approximately 12:30 PM. I strongly urge and recommend if you’re visiting this beautiful wildlife reserve that you make use of this transfer.
Sanbona has three lodges, the largest of which is Tilney Manor, an immaculately restored original farmhouse dating back to 1898, which is nearest to the entrance. Set in a horseshoe bend of a dry Karoo ravine, the eco-friendly Dwyka Tented Lodge is concealed by rock formations, offering seclusion and privacy. Gondwana Family Lodge is a thatched Karoo homestead that overlooks the Bellair Dam and is geared toward families with children and features large suites.
The surrounding landscape speaks for itself; it’s a long distant view with a 360° take on a landscape that really does feel unfettered by mankind. The surrounding wildlife reserve is home to the big five, including a gloriously healthy pride of white lions, but you never feel threatened on your drives and it is therefore an excellent introduction for the bush first timer or for families with young children.
We arrived to a very warm welcome courtesy of the lodge’s general manager, who became an instant friend and source of insider information.
Our two suites were next-door to each other adjoining on the ground floor. The bedroom was immaculately decorated with contemporary furnishings.
The bathroom was huge and you could’ve held a party in the enormous shower! The room was cleaned daily while we were out on game drives and we would return to spotless floors and a level of cleanliness that is difficult to maintain in the middle of the African bush. To top it all off, there’s no malaria here so no medication is required and although mosquito spray is provided none of us suffered a single bite.
The reserve’s rangers are extremely aware of both human and animal activity and as a result the game drive vehicles do not invade the space of the animals. Visitors observe their activities from a healthy distance and no serious off-roading takes place that could damage the fynbos vegetation.
We enjoyed drinks and biltong while we watched the sun drop behind the outline of the distant mountain range, leaving the sky flashed with exquisite shades of an African sunset at night. On the morning drives we would stop in a safe place and enjoy coffee and snacks during the break.
As for meals we ate hearty, healthy food on both the terrace which looks across to the long, slick swimming pool with the glistening diamond mountains in the distance and at night in the dining room with huge portions and African inspired elegant interiors.
The staff were flawless and we enjoyed warm, friendly, hospitable and kind service throughout our stay. I really do recommend a few days here especially as a first introduction to wildlife viewing and the African bush.