Western Cape / Wildlife Encounters

Sublime Sanbona

Updated Sunday, 30 December 2018

As any born-and-bred Capetonian will tell you, one of the few things we envy of the city slickers in Joburg, is their ability to hop into a car and head off to the Kruger Park (at a moment’s notice) for a quick respite from the daily grind of city living.

It’s taken me 32 years to find the Cape Town equivalent … enter Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, a true Big 5 game experience, just 3 and a half hours drive from Cape Town (on the very scenic Route 62) – a perfect weekend getaway for wildlife enthusiasts.

We arrived at the main gate on Friday afternoon after an easy drive – we left Cape Town early, avoiding any weekend traffic – and what a difference it makes not having to fly, no stress or long waits at the airport. Just 5 minutes after signing in, we were en-route to the lodge and I was rewarded with my first ever Black-Backed Jackal sighting. Off to a good start!

And it only got better…

Cheetah at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

5 Star Luxury

Dwyka Tented Lodge, our home for the next few days, exceeded every expectation. The service is unrivalled – you are treated simultaneously like royalty and a member of their family – the lodge is at-one-with-nature, cradled by rugged rock formations, and luxurious to a fault, the tented chalets are private and secluded – with no cell phone reception and no television, and a private plunge pool and bathtub big enough for two, a more restful and romantic setting cannot be imagined.

We were treated to a tour of the other lodges and there really is something for everyone at Sanbona. Godwana Lodge is perfect for families, with a “Kids on Safari” program and a magical playroom to keep the children entertained. Tilney Manor is the original farmhouse which has been lovingly restored and is the epitomy of Colonial charm and luxury. Whichever lodge you choose, the attention to detail and the luxuries which abound, make for an unforgettable stay.

A Tip: Each lodge has its own Relaxation Retreat and there can be no more decadent way to fill the hours between game drives than with twin treatments at the spa. I can thoroughly recommend the Karoo Delight (a one hour massage)!

Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

A Wild Vision

The name Sanbona is apt – ‘San’ for the San people that lived in the Klein Karoo hundreds of years ago and ‘bona’ which means vision in their language. What better word to encompass the goals and wonder that is Sanbona Wildlife Reserve – a magnificent sight and a magnificent plan. Sanbona is an inspiration – a conservation success story and a dream realised. Driving through the reserve it is not immediately apparent that the 54000 hectares comprises reclaimed farmland, instead fynbos, thicket and Karoo succulents abound, a diverse habitat supporting indigenous wildlife, which have been carefully reintroduced to the area.

Indigenous is the key here, Giraffe were introduced only after San rock art depicting these animals was found. You won’t find Impala or Warthog, but you may be lucky enough to see Gemsbok (a desert-dwelling Antelope, that you won’t find in Kruger) or the critically endangered Riverine Rabbit (on a night drive if you’re lucky, they’re nocturnal) and the Big 5 – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, buffalo – have all been reintroduced successfully.


On our first game drive, we spotted a White Lioness and her two cubs, lazing near the carcass they’d been feasting on since the previous Sunday. Sanbona is unique – it is the only reserve in the world in which White Lion roam free and are self-sustaining. No mean feat when you stick out like a sore thumb (their tawny counterparts have a much easier time hunting, as they are better camouflaged), but that made it much easier for us to find them. Our game ranger explained that White Lion are not a different species, their colour is a recessive gene.

The highlight of our second game drive was undoubtedly the elephant herd we came across, after spotting what we thought were two lone juvenile bulls. Before we knew it another bull emerged and a few minutes later, as if from out of nowhere, 6 more Elephant appeared from behind a thicket of trees – the matriarch and her calf (too cute), another cow and 3 youngsters. But it was the bull that had our full attention, as he came right up to our game vehicle. This big boy is only 2 years old and already towered over the landrover. See more at: Photo Post – Elephant Herd (coming soon)

Our third game drive is one that I will never forget. We had an up-close-and-personal encounter with Cheetahs, thanks to our wonderful game ranger Rudi. Find out more about this once in a lifetime experience at: Really Close – A Cheetah Approach

Sanbona is a haven I will return to time and time again, to recharge and feel at one with nature, to put life back into perspective and to marvel at the magnificence of our untamed wildlife heritage.
So if, like me, you’ve been coveting the wild weekends that seem so easy for “Vaalies” – hop into your car and rediscover nature at Sublime Sanbona – you can contact Reservations on 041 407-1000 or visit Sanbona Wildife Reserve for more details.

Sanbona Info