For me nothing beats bouncing along in the back of an open 4×4 safari vehicle bundled up in blankets while the sun rises, the birds greet the morning and frost burns off the ground. Yes, it’s far earlier than I would choose to wake up and it’s almost always freezing cold, but there’s something magical about this time of the morning and heading out into the wide open spaces of the Karoo full of anticipation for what the bush will reveal is always exciting… We were fortunate to have this very experience recently and the great news is that it wasn’t up in the Kruger, but actually only 3 hours from Cape Town. Sanbona Wildlife Reserve near Montagu is where you can experience a 5 star safari in the Western Cape (a malaria free area)
Big 5 Safari in the Western Cape
Heading up the scenic R62 via Worcester, Robertson and Montagu, we arrived at the gates of Sanbona a bit later than we would have liked and were sad to have missed the early shuttle… but the good news was that we had arrived (and this despite the fact that our petrol tank was almost on empty due to some seriously bad planning on our part!)
Located in the heart of the Little Karoo at the foot of the Warmwaterberg Mountains, Sanbona is a 58 000 hectare reserve where the incredible panoramic plains of the Karoo stretch out in every direction.
As a family of safari lovers we are always up for a safari holiday and the thrill of the “chase” never gets old… We want to see as many animals as we can, and fortunately, as a Big 5 reserve, you can expect to see many at Sanbona, however this is more than a wildlife reserve. This is a wilderness reserve.
This is a landscape that has a raw beauty which is unmatched. There are sculpted Cape Fold Mountains, vast horizons, indigenous flora and rare examples of San rock art, some dating back more than 3, 500 years.
The skies are endless, the sunsets epic and the stillness resounding…
At Sanbona you leave your vehicle (and your troubles) at the Visitor’s Lounge and catch a shuttle to your lodge… where you slip into another world.
The trip to Gondwana Family Lodge is about 30 mins – just enough time to switch off your cell phone and ease into your holiday!
Sanbona’s Gondwana Lodge – a Review
Gondwana Lodge is the family-friendly accommodation option on Sanbona and it’s made up of spacious family suites, comfortable lounges and relaxation areas, a gorgeous sparkling pool and a restaurant serving up wholesome farm-style favourites. There’s also an amazing kids club area and a spa!
On arrival we were greeted by the friendliest staff, a refreshing towel and a welcoming warm drink (with a splash of something especially South African for the adults!)
Our bags were whisked away while we meandered through the gardens and up to our suite.
The 12 suites at the thatched Gondwana Family Lodge have all recently had a total face lift and our two inter-leading rooms were spacious and luxurious, with king-sized beds, a writing desk, a comfortable sitting area and a balcony that overlooked a small watering hole.
The rooms at Sanbona have recently been redecorated and the decor is stylish and contemporary with a hint of Africa… you don’t need too much, the real African is right outside your window!
A gorgeous bathroom is always high on my agenda when it comes to hotel stays and I wasn’t disappointed. The bathrooms at Sanbona are beautifully decorated with walk in showers, Victorian baths and double basins that all offer views.
The kids suite right next door was equally comfortable and spacious and it was really lovely having so much space and privacy. A real retreat to return to after a long game drive or late night around in the boma! I even managed an afternoon nap on one day which is a treat indeed!
Family Friendly Safari at Sanbona
Offering a family-safari in style, Gondwana Lodge welcomes children of all ages and is equipped with a kids’ TV lounge and outdoor play areas with a child-friendly swimming pool.
Activities on offer for kids include arts and crafts, puzzles, board games, entertaining and educational children’s books, and documentary DVD’s on various conservation topics and animals, as well as entertaining animated movies. Our kids visited the kids room a few times but found it a bit young for them… and lonely. It’s always more fun when there are few more kids around!! That being said they did enjoy the TV!
One of the highlights for them however was the Kids on Safari welcome pack they were kitted out with on arrival – a backpack, peak cap, crayons and activity booklet that become a much prized possession after all the hard work that they put into it (even making it to school for “show and tell”on our return!)
The Sanbona Kids on Safari programme offers kids an amazing opportunity to really tap into the educational and recreational wildlife experiences they are witness to. Filled with interactive activities that teach kids about the wildlife at Sanbona these booklets really make the game drives we took come alive for the kids – who knew there was so much excitement about “poo”…
Another fab addition to the family-friendly experiences at Gondwana Lodge is the Interpretive trail that takes children of all ages through the gardens to learn about important plants and animals on the reserve… including a skull graveyard!
At Sanbona children aged four years and older are welcome on game drives with their parents, while child-minders are available to care for younger kids and babies while parents enjoy a peaceful game drive! It’s worth noting that this service is offered at an additional cost and should be arranged with reservation prior to arrival.
Breakfast in the Bush
Game Drives at Sanbona
A true highlight of a visit to Sanbona is the authentic safari game drives that take place on the back of a 4×4 safari vehicle every evening and morning (complete with hot water bottles and blankets on chilly mornings!)
These 3 hour game drives allow you plenty of time to soak in the spectacular surroundings (and sunrises and sunsets!) while searching the landscape for unique animal sightings.
During our visit we enjoyed time with some amazing animals including giraffe, gemsbok, springbok, kudu, eland and a sneaky jackal.
We spent a while watching the cavortings of a troop of baboons…
One morning we found ourselves tracking a cheetah for about an hour… at first struggling to pick up the signal, then getting warmer, and finally finding a head peeking out from the bushes… fortunately she was soon on the move and we were able to follow her from a distance for some time, watching her morning movements with interest, especially her scent marking her territory!
Another morning we hunted high and low for a pair of lion to no avail, but we were fortunate to come across another epic animal… but you’ll have to visit Sanbona for yourself to find out what!!!
Our last morning was most certainly my highlight… heading back to our lodge we finally came across Sanbona’s herd of elephant who had just finished their morning drink (evident by their wet trunk tips!)
These majestic animals allowed us to join them for a morning stroll as they weaved their way down the road behind our vehicle, slowly and steadily, going about their business with an authority you dare not question!
Such magnificence is hard to beat so we were fortunate to end our last game drive at Sanbona on a big note!
Our weekend at Sanbona was far too short… but in a funny way it felt like time stood still during our visit. When you start to allow your body to sync with the rhythms of nature you find that time does slow down and you begin to breathe deeper and sleep better.
Time in nature is surely the best medicine for our stressed out souls… and time with family is healing in many other ways. I can’t recommend both enough.
Keen to see more of Sanbona? Watch this video of our special time in this magical place…
Tel: +27 (0) 21 010 0028
Sanbona is an ongoing conservation project that aims to restore the ecological balance in a landscape formed during cataclysmic times 350 million years ago. Under the stewardship of non-profit conservation organisation the Caleo Foundation, Sanbona is a pioneer of conservation, reserve development and eco-tourism. Sustainability and responsible utilisation are the cornerstones of all lodge operations.