At 58 000 hectares, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in the Western Cape is the same size as Singapore – but that’s where the similarities start and finish. This rugged and peaceful wildlife reserve on the southern tip of Africa could not be further removed – geographically and materially – from its fast-paced, glossy, slick-city counterpart in the Far East if the lives of its pride of lions depended on it.
Situated in the Little Karoo, along Route 62, between Montagu and Barrydale, it’s hard to believe Sanbona is just a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Cape Town. Nestled in the majestic Warmwaterberg Mountains, surrounded by ancient rock formations that were once home to the Khoisan people and their rock paintings, its off-the-radar setting and seemingly endless landscape offers the type of immersive seclusion that is hard to come by. From the minute you drive through the main gates, you feel as though you are a million miles from civilisation – and any vestiges of stress soon start to melt away.
Once inside the malaria-free reserve, plush accommodation awaits at one of three sites: Dwyka Tented Lodge (for a special-occasion or romantic getaway), Tilney Manor (for guests seeking an intimate and childless experience) and Gondwana Family Lodge (for a stylish family getaway that’ll satisfy kids and grown-ups alike).
With our four-year-old son in tow, we couldn’t have been happier to be welcomed at Gondwana!
The lodge’s 12 rooms were recently given a bold (not garish) update, in keeping with the African-safari aesthetic. In addition to a spacious en-suite bathroom, each has its own private balcony boasting unhindered views of the endless plains. There are no room keys (though you can latch your door when you’re inside), which speaks to the remoteness of the setting.
- private deck boasting views of the Anysberg Mountains and Bellair Dam
- en-suite bathroom with a shower, free-standing bath, and twin basins
- fully-stocked mini bar
- tea- and coffee-making facilities
- electronic safe
- complimentary wifi
- international dial telephone
The main building houses a stylish lounge and formal dining area that opens onto a reserve-facing pool terrace where breakfast and lunches are taken. There’s also a boma for braai evenings under the stars – a highlight of which was roasting marshmallows around a central fire.
The two daily game drives are the main event – and, naturally, what most visitors are here for. Our guide Thomas was a font of information (did you know that buffalos are the priciest beasts; one recently fetched R163 million!) and had a knack for finding exactly what our son wanted to view: lion, elephant, rhino, giraffe, hippo, kudu, eland, springbok and even ducks!
The hands-on, educational Kids on Safari programme is a wonderfully immersive and holistic way of teaching children about the wild – collecting dung with Thomas and Kiddies’ Programme coordinator Leandré was a highlight, and one he won’t soon forget. The playroom is stocked with toys and books – and is conveniently close to the spa – so grown-ups can languish while kiddies play.
With its sacred setting, wonderful facilities and proximity to Cape Town (you don’t have to hop on a plane for a luxe Kruger-style safari experience), it’s no wonder Sanbona is considered the Cape’s premier wildlife destination. And, of course, the dazzling array of wildlife, featuring the legendary Big Five makes a stay here an unforgettable experience.
Distance from Cape Town 3.5 hours
Child friendly? Yes
Pet friendly? No
Where to find it Route 62, between Montagu and Barrydale