Sanbona Reserve, South Africa

The Sanbona Wildlife Reserve covers 54,000 hectares of diverse landscape in a part of South Africa called the Little Karroo. This desert-like wilderness is accessed from South Africa’s capital city of Cape Town. The main objective of the reserve is conservation and restoration of this fantastic area complete with the animals and plants that once roamed this region.

To experience the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, there are some excellent Sanbona accommodation options, which we will mention further down. From these lodges, you will head out into the reserve on spectacular game drives, birding tours, water cruises, and walking tours to find the lions, leopards, elephants, rhino, and many other animals that inhabit the Sanbona Reserve. In addition to seeing the large mammals, spot many different birds, interesting plants, beautiful scenery, and an impressive nightly display of the constellations.

Cheetah - Sanbona Reserve

An Introduction to South Africa

South Africa in general is the most popular African country for a safari. Many people visit to have some of the best chances in Africa of spotting lions, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, zebra, and Cape buffalo. There are some great protected areas you can visit, such as the famous Kruger National Park from the Jock Safari Lodge, or the private reserves where conservationists and tourism professionals have restored and protected now wildlife-rich areas.

These reserves, such as the Shamwari Reserve on the eastern Cape and the Sanbona Reserve on the western Cape contain some of the highest concentrations of big mammals and accommodate guests in luxury lodges and explorer camps. Led by experienced rangers and wildlife experts, navigate the reserves on walking safaris, game drives, and birding tours to see impressive wildlife and beautiful scenery. After your tours, enjoy relaxing in very comfortable reserve lodges preparing for your next adventure.

Tortoise - Sanbona Reserve

An Introduction to Cape Town

The Sanbona Reserve is one of the best wildlife areas to visit from Cape Town. Cape Town is one of South Africa’s capital cities and is home to some fantastic and iconic features. One of these is the famous Table Mountain with its iconic shape, walking trails, and abundant wildlife. You can enjoy many different activities in Cape Town itself, such as visiting botanical gardens, parks, wineries, and head out on cruises to spot whales and the intimidating great white sharks. There are also some world-class restaurants, bars, and art galleries. One of the best things to do from Cape Town, however, is to head out on safari. The recommended option is to visit the wildlife-rich Sanbona Reserve, which is located about 3 hours from the city itself.

The Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

A now wildlife-rich protected area, the 54,000 hectares of Sanbona Reserve is home to Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Thicket habitats. Each of these habitats is home to its own community of fascinating animals and plants. A fantastic place for a wildlife safari, the ancestral mammals have been re-introduced that were displaced when Europeans colonised the area.

Tortoise - Sanbona Reserve

There are many different species in the reserve of Conservation Concern and the Sanbona includes all members of the Big 5 and other iconic African animals. From the different Sanbona Reserve Lodges, you can enjoy some fantastic game drives in the reserve to observe the wildlife. Traverse the terrain in comfortable land-cruisers led by highly trained and knowledgeable guides. If flowering plants are your main interest, you may like to visit the reserve between August and September when the most plants are in bloom.

Lion - Sanbona Reserve

On the game drives at sunset and sunrise, see many different plants, iconic mammals, and a diversity of birds. The are over 200 different bird species found within the reserve with 40 species seem from one spot. This makes the reserve a great place to visit for bird lovers as well as visitors looking to see the Big 5 and the other mammals.

There are many ways to explore the Sanbona Reserve from the different Sanbona lodges. The most popular are the game drives where you have more chances to see the iconic animals. But you can also explore the reserve on walking trails to be more immersed in the environment, choose specific birding tours to focus on the fantastic birding opportunities, or even cruise the waterways to see some large mammals, including getting closer to the magnificent hippos and other river animals.

Within the reserve, you can now find all members of the Big 5, but also zebra, hartebeest, giraffe, gemsbok, springbok, hyena, eland, aardvarks, kudu and more.

Ancient Rock Art

One of the unique features of the reserve are the rock art sites dating from over 3,500 years from the San and the Khoi-Khoi people. The painting on the rock show different aspects of their lives, including spiritual beliefs and the surrounding animals. It’s thought that the rock art is what the shamans of each group saw during their visions. The San of the region led a more hunter gatherer lifestyle whereas the Khoi–Khoi were pastoral herders of cattle and sheep.

Rock Art - Sanbona Reserve

Explore the Waterways

The Sanbona Reserve contains a body of water called the Bellair Dam where you can enjoy water tours. Explore the water about the reserve’s comfortable vessel called the Peregrine. The boat accommodates 12 guests on either a sunrise or sunset cruise. From the vessel, enjoy spotting the Big 5, many different birds, and the famous hippos.

The Night Sky

In addition to the incredible terrestrial attractions of the Sanbona Reserve, this is also a fantastic location to observe the night sky. As the area is free of air and light pollution, you can see the Milky Way in stunning detail. All of the lodges in the Sanbona Reserve provide a high quality telescope so you can stargaze and make the most of one of the best stargazing areas in South Africa.

Sanbona Walking Tours

The Sanbona Reserve contains many different nature walks and hiking opportunities to have a more connected experience with this incredible environment. The walks pass different points of interest and take you through some excellent areas to observe the reserve’s wildlife. Led by your experience ranger, enjoy the thrill of exploring the African bush on foot as you’re taught a little about the region. If you mention your interests and the difficulty level of walks you’re interested in, the tours can be adapted to your requirements. Walking safaris are suitable for any fitness level.

Tortoise - Sanbona Reserve

Sanbona Accommodation

There are a variety of accommodation options to experience the Sanbona Reserve and we will mention a few features experiences below. To see a more thorough summary, you can see the article on Sanbona Reserve accommodation. Sanbona accommodation options include a family lodge, luxury tented camp, manor, and an explorer camp. This offers a camping experience within the Sabona Reserve in a style similar to the first African explorers.

The different lodges provide their own relaxation retreat where you can enjoy massages and a range of treatments to relax after your safari in the Little Karoo region. Enjoy luxury accommodation, delicious cuisine, relaxing massages and treatments options then head out with experienced rangers on game drives, walking tours, and boat cruises to see iconic African animals.

  1. The Dwyka Tented Lodge

    The Dwyka Tented Lodge is styled with influences from traditional Khoisan hunter-gatherer design and includes nine luxury tents. The tents are placed as a horseshoe hidden by rock formations in the dry Karoo ravine. Enjoy your own private luxury tent-styled cabin with spa baths, luxurious king beds and en-suite bathrooms.

    In addition to excellent accommodation, at Dwyka Tented Lodge enjoy game drives in Sanbona Reserve, a relaxation retreat, and delicious cuisine.

    The Dwyka Tented Lodge

    The Dwyka Tented Lodge

    Cape Town, South Africa, Africa
    Price per person from $
    The Dwyka Tented Lodge is hidden by attractive rock formations on South Africa’s western Cape in the More info
  2. The Gondwana Family Lodge

    The Gondwana Family Lodge is an excellent choice for families with children. The lodge has different child-friendly facilities, including outdoor and indoor play areas, a child-friendly swimming pool, large lawn area, and a ‘kids on safari’ program. In addition, you can enjoy a relaxation retreat and luxury class spacious suites.

    The reserve is a favorite area with photographers as not only can you spot lions, elephants, rhino, Cape buffalo, and other magnificent African animals, but there is also some beautiful landscape, birds, and rock formations to photograph.

    The Gondwana Lodge

    The Gondwana Lodge

    Cape Town, South Africa, Africa
    Price per person from $
    The Gondwana Lodge is a fantastic place for a family safari to see Africa’s Big 5 while enjoying lux More info
  3. The Tilney Manor

    Tilney Manor provides some beautiful views of the Sanbona Reserve and offers another luxury accommodation for the reserve. See the mountains and the plains of the Little Karroo from your beautiful accommodation. The manor contains six large open-plan suites with a private veranda. From the lodge, enjoy some fantastic game drives and tours of the Sanbona Reserve.

    The Tilney Manor

    The Tilney Manor

    Cape Town, South Africa, Africa
    Price per person from $
    The Tilney Manor in the Sanbona Reserve is a luxury lodge for fantastic safaris to see iconic Africa More info
  4. The Sanbona Explorer Camp

    For a more connected experience to the environment, you can choose the Sanbona Explorer Camp. This is an experience designed around a 2-day walking safari through the Sanbona Reserve. You can also extend the experience by an extra day if you would like more time. Explore the Sanbona Karoo of a day and then enjoy the campfire and delicious food of an evening. Your guide will show you the animals, birding opportunities, cultural history and natural history of the area.

    Sanbona Explorer Camp

    Sanbona Explorer Camp

    Cape Town, South Africa, Africa
    Price per person from $
    Sanbona Explorer Camp provides an immersive and unfenced experience of the San environment from Sabo More info
Ash - Author & Travel AdvisorAbout the Author: Ash Card is a frequent visitor to the Tropics and has a passion for helping visitors get the best experiences from tropical locations. Ash is a contributor to both TourTheTropics.com and ThinkJungle.com writing about tropical destinations, rainforests and wildlife. Feel free to contact Ash for tour help in the tropics. When not helping tourists with tours and info, Ash can be found salsa-ing the night away or posing near waterfalls.
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