Written by Joseph Cameron
When Sanbona Wildlife Reserve invited us to spend a night at their prestigious Gondwana Lodge, we were more than thrilled at the opportunity to experience an African Safari only three hours from the Mother City. With GoPro’s, cameras and enough safari outfits for a small army, we set off towards the Little Karoo along one of the world’s longest wine routes, Route 62.
After a beautifully scenic drive through the Western Cape, we arrived at the 54,000 hectares of Sanbona Wildlife Reserve which the famous Big 5 calls home. Upon our arrival, the gatekeeper gifted us with an extremely warm and friendly welcome, directions to our lodge and refreshments for the short but bumpy road ahead. Our 30 minute journey meandering through the reserve to the lodge proved to be our first African safari experience at Sanbona – we spotted zebras, kudu and oryxes only a few feet away from our vehicle; whilst we dodged fresh elephant dung and broken branches which gave us a clear indication that elephants roamed the pathways not long before we arrived.
Our excitement started building up as the Gondwana Lodge began revealing itself to us in the distance – a beautiful thatched Karoo homestead surrounded by nothing but endless Karoo plains, mountains and open spaces. Our hostess, Marthsu, and her friendly staff awaited our arrival and immediately arranged our short check-in process and the allocation of our luggage to the rooms. We were then shown around the lodge and taken to the open-air restaurant overlooking the swimming pool and the boundless plains leading up to the Bellair Dam.
To our surprise, the restaurant served dishes that gave Cape Town’s fine-dining scene a run for their money. From wild mushroom risottos to seared salmon fillets, each dish was beautifully curated and of the highest standard. After we were treated to coffees and desserts, we were ready to spend some time at our own leisurely pace before heading out for our afternoon game drive.
We made our way to our rooms, finding all our luggage already in place, and marveled at the spacious room which would be ours for the next day. Our suite opened up onto a balcony which had 180 degree views of the Karoo plains stretching as far as the eye can see. Indeed, you could spend a full day sitting in comfort and gazing out to the horizon attempting to answer all of life’s unanswerable questions. On our bedside table, we found personalized handwritten notes welcoming us to Sanbona which made every one of us feel all the more special.
At 3:30pm we met our game rangers, Marco and Anthea, who would make our African Safari experience come to life. We set off in our open Land Cruisers for our 3 hour interactive game drive with blankets and, ever so important, hot-water bottles on hand. As we drove through 3 different biomes on the reserve, a unique experience in itself, Marco and Anthea educated us on not only the wildlife, and boundless birds, but also the indigenous flora as well as rare San rock art dating back more than 3,500 years. Marco’s and Anthea’s extensive knowledge of the reserve reflected their pure passion for what they do.
No questions were left unanswered and they truly exceeded our expectations by delivering the best possible game viewing opportunities. While we were all in awe of the abundant zebra, oryx, kudu and other antelope on the reserve, it was not until we spotted our first towering giraffes that we all held our breaths in disbelief at one of the unbelievable sights we had come to witness. We watched as three adult giraffes continued to graze off of the tree tops and, mindless of us, went about their own business as we marvelled at their gracefulness.
The excitement in Marco’s game vehicle escalated when we heard reports of white lion sightings on the radio system of the game rangers. Marco immediately kicked into action, Anthea not far behind, hoping to give us a sight which not many people have had the privilege of seeing. A brisk drive was undertaken when our ranger switched off the engines and we effortlessly glided forwards which indicated that his trained eye had seen something which was not yet in our eyesight. When we all focused our eyes towards Marco’s gaze we could see not one, but two, white lions roaming the Karoo plains a mere 10 metres from our vehicle.
We could not have wished for a better sighting on our first game drive at Sanbona Game Reserve. We watched as the two lions confidently made their way towards our vehicle, glancing over at us once or twice, while we attempted to capture the moment with as many clicks of the camera as possible. After this pinnacle moment on the safari, we were most content and ready to head back to the lodge.
As the sun sank below the Karoo’s horizon, the cold began to close in on us and we were happy to arrive back at our homely lodge to refreshments, warm face-towels and hot chocolate with a dash of Amarula to warm us up. Delicious. We soon forgot all about the cold as we warmed up next to the blazing fireplace, reliving the excitement of our game drive and sharing moments of our trip which will never be forgotten.
6am: Wake-up call from your game ranger
6:15am: Coffee and rusks with your game ranger
6:30am: Depart on 3 hour game drive with hot-water bottles & blankets
9:30am: Return to lodge, welcomed with refreshment towels & hot chocolate. Continental & hot breakfast is served
11:00am – 13:00pm: Time at leisure – Enjoy the spa treatments, lounge at the pool
13:00pm – 14:00pm: Lunch is served
15:00pm: High-tea is served
15:30pm: Depart on afternoon game drive
18:30pm: Return from game drive, refreshment towels, hot-chocolate & Amarula
19:00pm: Dinner is served
If you are planning a trip to Cape Town but still want to experience a unique African Safari not far from the city, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is the perfect safari destination for you. Contact our African Travel Experts to find out more about how you can experience the complete city and safari experience click the chat button in the bottom right corner of your screen.