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Planning your first Safari? Read this

Sanbona Wildlife

A safari is an excellent way to reset the mind, bond withwildlife, and immerse yourself in a beautiful landscape that goes on beyond what the eye can see.

Preparing for our first safari trip is exciting and nerve wracking.

Once we’d packed our comfortable shoes, warm jackets and hats, we began worrying about the wild animals that may roam our campsite at night.

Three hours’ drive from Cape Town, Sanbona covers 58 000ha in the Klein Karoo between the small, historic towns of Montagu and Barrydale. The name ‘Sanbona’ recognises the original San hunter-gatherers who inhabited the landscape for thousands of years, while ‘bona’ means ‘to see’ in several Nguni languages.

Sanbona’s vision is to return the land under its care to its most natural state. The wildlife reserve straddles the fynbos biome and the succulent Karoo biome.

Dwyka Tented Lodge, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

These are both globally recognised biodiversity hotspots, so conserving them is crucial. It’s a 13km drive through this diverse landscape from the main gate to the guest lounge. From here, if your car can handle rough terrain, you have the option to drive yourself to your accommodation. Or, like us, you can park and hop on a shuttle to your destination.

In the company of our experienced guide, Brenda, we set off at sunset for our first game drive. The trip in the open Land Cruiser was bumpy but comfortable. The air can get chilly in the wilderness, so a warm jacket is a must.

The sight of the sun on the mountain tops was beautiful and provided a warm glow. While waiting to spot a range of animals, Brenda provided a crash course on the landscape, plants, birds and more. Spread across the reserve are four accommodation options tailored to different needs and budgets. We stayed at Dwyka Tented Lodge, which sits on a bend of the dried-up Bobbejaanskrans River and is the epitome of luxury. Beautifully decorated in natural tones and textures of leather, timber and terrazzo paired with graphic fabrics, it’s cosy and private.

Each suite has a wooden deck overlooking the riverbed, with a Jacuzzi and an open-air shower. We spent one of the afternoons enjoying a glass of wine here and savouring the silence.

There was no cellphone reception or WiFi except at the restaurant, which allowed us to unwind off the grid. I wish we had more time to spend lazing in our suite, but with two three-hourplus game drives daily and meals in between, our schedule was busy.

During the game drive, we saw a herd of Cape mountain zebras. Compared to the plains zebra, this zebra is smaller, has no shadow stripes, and has a shorter mane and hooves. Up close, they’re like a walking black and white painting. We also saw a large herd of majestic elephants making their way to the drinking hole. Unspoken mutual respect exists between Sanbona game drivers and the elephants, evident as the herd passed our vehicle without them or us feeling threatened in any way.

Nothing compares to being this close to them. The herd is the first free-roaming group to be brought back into the Klein Karoo since their disappearance in the 1800s, and they’re now the largest population in the Western Cape.

Another highlight of the game drive was spending time observing a sleek and lean cheetah. We also spotted kudu, gemsbok, steenbok and giraffes.

Sanbona Wildlife

The game drives allow you to see, hear and smell wildlife while taking in the vast landscape and geological formations.

The second night was a special occasion: the ‘Boma Dinner’ experience, a meal under the stars, beside the crackle of a campfire. The la carte menu features potjie stews, grilled seafood, veggies and more, and there is live entertainment.

All meals were included in our booking fee, while alcoholic beverages were billed separately. Complimentary snacks and drinks were offered during a short stop on our sunset and sunrise game drives.

Overall, it was a beautiful experience during which I felt like I was very far from civilization – a welcome feeling.

A safari is an excellent way to reset the mind, bond with wildlife, and immerse yourself in a beautiful landscape that goes on beyond what the eye can see.

*Low season rates for SA Residents for more information,

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