A Guide to Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
There aren’t many occasions where you are actually excited for an early start in the morning. As a man who values his sleep, I would usually judge anyone that remotely suggests a 5am start. However, this time I made an exception, as at Sanbona, I was genuinely that excited for the morning that I set my alarm for 4am...
The previous day had been a long day of driving. We’d had a leisurely breakfast in Franschhoek before setting off on our way to Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. As we didn't need to arrive til 1, and the Sat nav had told us it would take two hours, we were in no mad rush to set off...this was a mistake.
When you put Sanbona into the Sat nav it leads you to the main gate, which is of course two hours away. However, what we didn't realise, was that Sanbona National Park is actually the size of Singapore, and that all roads inside of the National Park are dirt roads made for Jeep Safari vehicles...
Giraffe at Sanbona - Image: Richard Jones
Giraffe at SanbonaImage: Richard Jones
Arriving on the Game Reserve
The man on the main gate was the most smiley man I've ever seen, either that or he was highly amused by us arriving singing 'Just can't wait to be king' at the tops of our voices. Maybe our Hyundai minivan wasn't as soundproofed as we thought.
The man gave us vague directions on how to get to our lodge, "in 15km turn right, in 30km go straight on". As we got back into the car, we all hoped that someone else had understood his instructions. "Was it 13 or 30 kilometres?" someone asked. Luckily for us, Sanbona is well signposted once you are inside the park. And so, after over an hour of dirt roads, potholes and a worrying rattle that the car was making, we finally arrived in Gondwana Lodge.
Sanbona Game Reserve Camp - Image: Richard Jones
Sanbona Game Reserve CampImage: Richard Jones
Safari Lodge Goals
We were welcomed with hot towels and a gin and tonic, which was much appreciated, and then introduced to our guide. Gondwana lodge is the perfect lodge for families; its facilities are modern, luxurious and well maintained but it still has that 'safari' feel to it. You’ll find it also has a kids club and a swimming pool and all of it boasts incredible views over the national park.
We soon got taken to the rooms and our jaws dropped! So much space! The huge doors onto the balcony opened the whole way, turning the whole place into an open-air room. The balcony was the entire length of the bedroom, living room and bathroom combined. And the best feature of all was the shower with a view over the watering hole, where there were already a huge family of baboons drinking only 40 meters way from us.
Rich and colleagues at Sanbona Game Reserve - Image: Richard Jones
Rich and colleagues at Sanbona Game ReserveImage: Richard Jones
For every night you stay in Gondwana lodge you get two game drives, a sunset game drive and a morning game drive. So at around 5pm we set off on our first Safari. When you get told that the national park is the size of Singapore, and that they are currently in a four-year drought, you kind of lower your expectations for how many animals you are going to see. But we were not disappointed - within the first half an hour we had seen Hippos, Antelope, Zebra, Rhino, Giraffe, and the same family of Baboons that we had seen outside our rooms earlier.
Lionness at Sanbona Game Reserve - Image: Richard Jones
Lionness at Sanbona Game ReserveImage: Richard Jones
The highlight of the day was parking up on a hill, getting out of the Jeep, having a few drinks, and watching a herd of around 20 elephants plodding along whilst the sun set. We ended the evening sat in the Jeep right in the middle of the herd as they all walked around us. We arrived back in the hotel whilst it was dark, welcomed back to the reserve with a barbecue around the campfire. They do this every evening at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve and the guides sit with you for a meal. We used this opportunity to fire lots of random wildlife questions at her.
After a day on safari, we were all excited for it to be the next morning already; we were addicted to Safaris by that point.
White Rhino at Sanbona Game Reserve - Image: Richard Jones
White Rhino at Sanbona Game ReserveImage: Richard Jones
The whole thing was incredible, but the shower with a view is the reason I ended up setting my alarm for 4am. Nothing will beat that feeling, waking up whilst it was still dark, heading into the bathroom, opening up the sliding window doors onto the balcony, cranking up the volume on my phone to play 'Circle of Life', and then having a shower whilst watching the sun slowly light up the entire National Park. No doubt the best morning routine ever.
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