Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

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Two tears raced each other down opposite ends of my face; and were soon followed by several others hot on their heels. I’m the first to admit that I wear my heart on my sleeve – and sometimes my face happily leaks as a result. This experience, however, simply overwhelmed me.

I’d spent the morning following a pride of lions – one of only two prides in Southern Africa. Returning to the lodge, a massage had completely removed any remaining tension in my body, and at the center of the mouth-watering three course meal that followed was a scrumptious venison burger. Taking a sip of my Chenin Blanc I spotted a giraffe foraging in the distance, while a troop of more than 80 baboons slowly passed by. The totality of the experience was so completely overwhelming, I couldn’t but respond with tears.

Welcome to life at Sanbona!

A scenic two-hour drive from Cape Town leads you to the gates of Sanbona, where guests are collected and driven the remaining 30 – 45 minutes to the various lodges. With an impressive ±55000 hectare property, nothing is a ‘quick drive’ but rather a languid journey allowing visitors to leisurely take in their new and vast surroundings. Four distinctive accommodation options are offered at the reserve: a friend and I were hosted at the Gondwana Family Lodge. Aesthetically the lodge is an exquisite blend of old-school thatched lodging with modern clean-cut lines, and of course all the five star touches and finishes.

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Visitors to Sanbona are introduced to the reserve’s rhythm of life: mornings begin with an early wakeup call from the staff, followed by coffee and breakfast whilst the sun begins to rise over the distant mountains. Thereafter you leave for your morning safari – a three-hour (roughly) experience of exploring the reserve’s vast territory. You’re given a short break before lunch, and another after lunch, before departing for the afternoon safari – another three hour drive that ends at a scenic sunset stop with drinks and snacks. After freshening up, a five course dinner is served up courtesy of chef Timothy. Whilst his plated creations left us drooling, his speciality is pastries. His terrific truffles and tarts welcome you back to your room every night as part of the turndown service.

The beauty of Sanbona’s bespoke offering means you get to craft your programme, and what you would like to see on the reserve. The expert input of your guide helps to then turn it into reality. Senior guide Owen was our ranger for the stay: his knowledge and passion for his vocation made us feel not only that we were in his classroom, but also his happy space. From a walking safari tracking a herd of elephants, to getting up-close with a cheetah kill, every minute was an experience to be savoured.

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A visit to Sanbona is a once in a lifetime experience – in fact I’m hoping to make it an annual experience, visiting a different lodge each time. Make sure you stay for a minimum of two nights…even that will feel too short, as you start to fall in love with the Sanbona way of life. Thank you to the staff for their exceptional effort and service, ensuring that we felt right at home from the minute we arrived.

Visit the reserve online at www.sanbona.com or on Instagram.

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