Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, Western Cape
Did you know?
Sanbona is just three hours by road from Cape Town in the heart of the Little Karoo on Route 62 − the world's longest wine route.
If you think of deserts, the vast sandscapes of the Sahara or the Namib, the world’s oldest desert, might well come to mind. But did you know that South Africa is home to several deserts, including the legendary Kalahari?
There’s another lesser-known desert, called the Karoo, and in the heart of the so-called Little Karoo (a semi-arid region inland from the Cape coast) you can discover a wonderland of awesome and breathtaking beauty – where towering mountains, layers and layers of golden sandstone, rocky ridges and jutting cliffs stand sentinel over stony plains, scrub, stunted trees and windblown bushes, and where, every spring, blankets of dazzlingly coloured wildflowers burst into life and stretch to distant horizons.
Go into the heart of the Little Karoo, which lies about three hours from Cape Town, and discover the conservation-conscious Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, one of South Africa’s largest privately owned wildlife reserves, at the foot of the soaring Warmwaterberg mountains.
The distances seem immense – the reserve comprises 54 000ha of wilderness – and as far as the eye can see, there are jagged mountains, fantastical rock formations, plains large and small that are home to indigenous flora and fauna, as well as some rare San rock art dating back 3 500 years.
Yes, this is a game reserve, and yes, it does have the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo), but come here not just for the game and over 650 species of plants and 200 bird species, but also for the unique beauty of an awesome landscape.
The vastness of the reserve almost defies imagination, and yet amid this immensity you can find lions hunting (including fabled white lions), rhinos dozing in the sun, hippos cavorting in the massive natural dam, and plains game – zebra, giraffe, eland, kudu, gemsbok (oryx), springbok and wildebeest – and the rare and highly endangered riverine rabbit dotted about the reserve.
There really is no other place quite like Sanbona.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)41 509 3000
How to get here
Sanbona is an easy three hours’ drive from Cape Town. The lodge will supply detailed directions, and you can leave your car at Sanbona’s Welcome Lounge.
Best time to visit
Any time of year is good, but summers (November to February) can get blisteringly hot.
By open game vehicle or on foot.
What will it cost
Rates vary, so consult the website, but always look out for special offers, particularly in winter.
Length of stay
At least two nights, three if possible.
What to pack
Camera, binoculars, hat, sunscreen, warm jacket, hat for early morning game drives (even in summer) ... and a sense of wonder.
Where to stay
Choose between: Tilney Manor, a restored historic farmhouse; the luxurious Dwyka Tented Lodge, tucked under a towering cliff; the family-friendly Gondwana Lodge; or the tented Explorer Camp, a base for walking safaris.
What to eat
Superb, home-cooked food
Game drives, bush walks, stargazing and spa treatments.