Outside Montagu along Route 62, just a 2.5 hour drive from Cape Town, is the spectacular Big 5 Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. Africa’s most magnificent animals roam free in this 58 000 hectare reserve renowned for its vast landscapes in the heart of the Karoo.
Our invitation to visit came at just the right time, we were desperately needing a weekend away and some time and space away from the busyness of everyday life, but at the same time not wanting to be away from the boys for a whole weekend.
Accommodation At Sanbona
There are four lodges at Sanbona – Dwyka Tented Camp, Gondwana Family Lodge, Tilney Manor and the Explorer Camp.
The Explorer Camp operates seasonally, and is open in summer from October to April. It offers an authentic safari experience; with a two day guided wilderness hike and luxury tented accommodation.
Tilney Manor has six spacious open-plan suites leading on to private verandas, a beautiful rim flow pool and spa facilities.
Dwyka Tented Lodge is nestled into a striking rock facade, and offers nine luxury tents with private decks and a heated jacuzzi. Dinner is served under the stars or in the communal lounge and the Relaxation Retreat offers a luxury spa experience.
Gondwana Family Lodge
We were invited to experience Gondwana Family Lodge that has just reopened after a beautiful refurbishment. The lodge offers an amazing kids play area, a luxurious spa, a stunning pool that was unfortunately a little cold being the middle of winter, and, luckily, wifi throughout because there is no phone signal.
I loved that the days had a bit of structure – breakfast, followed by a game drive, then some time for relaxing. After that it’s lunch time and possibly a sneaky afternoon nap, then an afternoon game drive and dinner. Everything is optional – we skipped a couple of the game drives to spend time with our boys, but it’s great to have all the thinking and planning done for you!
Gondwana Family Lodge is the perfect solution if you want to spend some quality time with your family, with the option of a couple of hours (or more) for you and your partner to catch up. Our boys are young, and not ideal company for game drives. So the boys stay with the most lovely lady at the lodge (our eldest usually won’t go with anyone, but he loved his time with her), and we had 3 hours to ourselves on a game drive complete with sundowner drinks!
The spacious thatched lodge offers a number of different rooms that are set up to cater for families. There are six rooms on the ground floor that can be set up as King or Twin-bedded luxury suites some with interleading doors, and 6 rooms upstairs that sleep a maximum of 2 adults and 1 child on a sleeper couch. Because the options are flexible the management team try their best to make a plan. For us, we had an upstairs room with a sleeper couch for our three year old, and a camp cot for our eighteen month old. The rooms are huge so there was plenty of space for all of us.
Our favourite times were in the evenings before dinner, running a very shallow bath for the boys (the area is in a severe drought), while we sat on the balcony a metre away enjoying a glass of wine and watching the sunset.
Meals are served on the terrace if the weather is good, or inside the lovely restaurant area. There is also an open boma that is used in the summer months where food is prepared on open fires underneath the stars.
The game drives were another highlight – we had an excellent ranger who was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the area. And we had some amazing sightings. As people who love the bush (and have spent months travelling around Africa visiting the best of them), it was a really special time for us to get back to nature.
Everyone made us feel incredibly welcome, the staff were professional, knowledgeable and friendly. They were kind to our boys, happy to fit in with us where possible, and were able to anticipate what we would need before we did.
Thank you Sanbona for a memorable stay, I’ve wanted to visit for years and feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity.
** I was invited as a guest, along with my family, to experience Gondwana Family Lodge.