One of the most common questions I receive from people planning a visit to Cape Town is “can you do a safari near Cape Town or do we need to go to the Kruger?” and until now I haven’t really had a good answer. There are some amazing lodges on the Garden Route and further up north in the Kruger National Park, but sometimes there just isn’t enough time to fly or even drive too far during your holiday. Until recently I didn’t have first-hand experience with any of the lodges within a couple of hours drive of Cape Town to give an informed opinion, so I absolutely loved finally having the opportunity to visit Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, a Big 5 Reserve just 3 hours from Cape Town, with my family.
Set on 58 000 hectares of Little Karoo reserve between Barrydale and Mantgu, Sanbona is technically close enough for a one night stay, but you’ll definitely want to stay longer. The drive out is truly exceptionally beautiful, winding along Route 62, the world’s longest wine route. There are four lodges on the property; Tilney Manor, a private space which offers 6 rooms and a pool, Dwyka Tented Lodge, which offers 9 luxurious glamping tents each with their own private heated pool, Sanbona Explorer Camp, a summer tented camp which specialises in walking safaris and Gondwana Family Lodge, a modern thatched lodge which specialises in child-friendly accommodation.
We stayed in the newly-refurbished Gondwana Family Lodge and I loved the fact that we had inter-leading rooms. There’s loads of space for families travelling together, with big couches that can be converted into extra beds for kids or teenagers. There’s a big pool and a lawn for kids to play on, and even a kids club where they can hang out while their parents have dinner.
I know I always say this, but there’s really something special about the Karoo. The sky is so particularly blue and the arid desert is so vast. It’s a very special part of the world. Conservation is at the heart of everything Sanbona does, which is the most important thing to take into consideration when visiting a wildlife reserve or any kind of safari lodge. Going on safari should involve nothing more than looking at the animals, from the safety of a safari vehicle or a safe distance on foot, with a qualified guide. You should never have access to touching the animals, or viewing them in small enclosures or pens, or feeding them. A safari should be an opportunity to view wild animals in their natural environment, doing what they naturally do. That’s definitely my experience of Sanbona, and I loved our guide Chélee’s passion for sharing her knowledge and love for animals with us.
The food and wine list at Sanbona are definitely on my list of highlights. Think multiple courses, huge breakfast spreads and gourmet bbqs under the stars. We never went hungry, and if ever there was a moment where we even started thinking about food, there was something delicious to tuck into. Another safari highlight is always the South African “sundowners” while on the evening drive; a couple of drinks and a selection of snacks out in the middle of the reserve, watching the sun go down.
I am so happy that I finally have an amazing lodge to recommend to travellers who are looking for an authentic safari experience close enough to Cape Town to visit for a couple of days. You can find out more about the lodge, availability and rates at www.sanbona.com.
*Our stay at Sanbona was hosted in part. As always, my opinions remain my own.