December 13th, 2018 ♥♥♥
Our second stop on my birthday road trip was a one night safari at Sanbona Private Game Reserve. Sanbona is located 3.5 hours away from Cape Town. It’s the closest luxury safari destination for those who don’t want the expense and hassle to fly to South Africa’s main safari destination, Kruger National Park (2 hour flight).
This year, my husband Dave and I have been incredibly fortunate to safari in Botswana’s Chobe River and Okavango Delta, as well as Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and the famous Serengeti. Yet, we were curious what a “South African Safari” would be like, plus one so close to home in Cape Town.
After arriving at the gate (see first pic), if you have a 4 x4 (we own a Jeep), you are allowed to continue driving the 1 hour bumpy terrain leading into Dwyka Tented Lodge, which is where we were staying (if you don’t, they offer you a ride but only twice a day so you’ll have to plan accordingly).
On our drive in, which is considered a “game drive” we were warned to NOT get out of the car ever. We saw why quite quickly. Barely entering the reserve we almost immediately ran into a herd of elephants as well as a few giraffes. It was so incredible to view wildlife from our own car as opposed to a safari vehicle with a guide. That difference made it feel so adventurous and freeing! Here we are alone driving to our lodge and just causally run into elephants…what is cooler than that??
The Sanbona crew gave us a warm welcome (literally) with hot towels and cozy winter drinks as we arrived at Sanbona Dwka Tented Lodge. We stepped into the tented lobby and in were in complete awe as we observed the decor of the main lounge.
A contemporary fireplace was placed in a stone filled wall. Linen sofas were filled with tribal pillows. Jute rugs, cow hides and leather chairs were sprinkled in with African maps and historical books everywhere. It was beautiful. To be honest, the pictures don’t do it much justice. It’s one of the best designed lounge accommodations we’ve ever stayed in.
VIDEO: Tour of our room
Our first sighting on our game drive at Sanbona was the same herd of elephants we saw driving in. I was so happy to see them again! Then confusion set in. How is it possible to see the same herd twice so quickly? This led us to ask questions like how many elephants do you have? Lions? Rhino? How big is this reserve? Etc Etc.
To keep this blog short, I will tell you this: Sanbona in comparison to all of our other safari’s has very few animals.
Basically, 2 herds of elephants, 4 lions and a couple other stats I can’t recall.
As we asked more questions, we learned that Sanbona specializes in conservation. While they are a safari, and you absolutely go to see the animals, they take their responsibility to maintain the 58,000 hectares and ecosystem there as their main priority.
Thus, the game drives are more like nature education lessons. Each time you see an animal, our guide would wonderfully teach us in great detail on their characteristics. This was a very different experience from our previous safaris.
From our safari travel experiences, we’ve learned that each game drive is different and you can’t expect to see wildlife each and every time. That’s nature and that’s what makes it so exciting!
Each game drive is completely different than the one before. I LOVE that.
It’s such a thrill to go out because you genuinely don’t know what you’re going to see next. At Sanbona, it felt a bit less natural.
Due to the limited amount of animals, it’s a bit easier for the guides to track where they are and then show them to us. Of course they need to track them to help keep them alive so that’s just how it works there. It felt a bit lacking on spontaneity and an authentic “natural” vibe but still very, very beautiful.
Again, it was a very educational game drive (I felt a bit like I was in science class in school all over again) and as usual, it’s so fun to meet new people. The other guests riding with us turned out to be Swiss expats who also live in Greenpoint, our town in Cape Town! Isn’t that amazing? Love connections in life like that.
After our game drive, we were so happy to be back to warmth, a fireplace and an incredible dinner. The food and service at Sanbona was 5 star, without a doubt.
The next morning we were asked if we wanted to do another game drive and we kindly passed. We had a 4 hour drive ahead of us to get to our last stop of our road trip and quite honestly, between the freezing cold weather and the sparse sighting of animals, we were content with our decision.
Overall, I’d say we had a wonderful time experiencing a private game reserve in South Africa. However, if I want to go on a safari mainly to see lots of wildlife, I would stick to the main national parks of South Africa or other countries in Africa.
Thank you as always for reading!