Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is a malaria-free, big five private game reserve located three hours’ drive from Cape Town in the Little Karoo. Believed to have originated from the Khoikhoi word for “desert”, the Karoo is a semi-desert region of unique and desolate beauty, marked by tough, low-lying shrubs, hellishly thorned acacia trees, otherworldly succulent plants, rocky koppies, and russet soils.
Nestled into the shelter of a natural rock amphitheatre within this spectacularly beautiful landscape is a collection of luxury safari tents and a boma, restaurant, bar, lounge, and gift shop that services visiting guests. This is the Dwyka Tented Lodge, and it was here that we rested and rejuvenated our weary bodies after each day’s fruitful adventures in the bush.
The revamped Dwyka Tented Lodge
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve has endeavoured to restore the once prolific wildlife to this 58,000-hectare sweep of land, while simultaneously carving out a safe, luxurious sanctuary for its visitors. The secluded Dwyka Tented Lodge, which consists of nine safari-style tents, has recently been revamped and offers guests a true and romantic African safari experience with all the modern conveniences and comforts of luxury accommodation.
Each unit is beautifully furnished and comes with a king-sized bed, mini-bar, coffee-making facilities, twin vanities, free-standing bath, private deck, and a secluded spa bath, where you can melt away the day’s accumulated dust and knotted muscles under a canopy of stars and with the night sounds of the African bush as your relaxing soundtrack. When you aren’t flouncing about your safari tent marvelling at how wonderful it all is, you can relax into the lounge’s couches in front of the fire, enjoy a glass of wine at the bar, sink into a three-course meal at the restaurant, or hoover your way through an eat-as-much-as-you-want dinner buffet in the communal open-air boma.
Whatever you want, the Dwyka Lodge’s extraordinarily friendly, efficient, and lovable staff is ready and willing to deliver.
Life within Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
At first glance, you’d wonder how any creature could make a living in the desolation of the Little Karoo. Yet, throughout the course of a three-day stay at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, we discovered an astonishing diversity of birds, wildlife, and plants that have made this drought-stricken landscape their kingdom, from the cliff-nesting Verreaux’s eagle that woke us with her shrill cries each morning to the multifarious Karoo succulents that thrive in the quartz littered soils of the plains.
We saw enormous giraffes, graceful kudus, stocky elands, and lithe klipspringers standing sentry at the crest of the cliffs overlooking our camp; we saw baboons, black-backed jackal, Cape buffalo, a family of hippos, and two gorgeous male lions; and we saw iridescent green malachite sunbirds, pale chanting goshawks, greater flamingos in the dam, and a strikingly beautiful Cape eagle owl tucked away into a thicket of acacia thorns.
When there wasn’t any feathered, furred, or fuzzy life to been seen, our intrepid rangers, Marco Fitchet and Casper Bester, would stop to show us the fascinating spectrum of plants that have mastered this tough environment and explain how they were used by the Khoikhoi and the San people, whether it was for food, seasoning, deodorant, intoxicating effects, or poison. There was always something riveting to see.
I do have to say, though, that king amongst everything we saw and experienced during our stay was my first ever cheetah sighting.
Eyes opened, heart filled
For three glorious days, we toured Sanbona Nature Reserve, a pristine and desolately beautiful wilderness area in the Little Karoo. As dry as this semi-arid region is (made worse by the persistent drought), the reserve is home to a staggering diversity of animal and birdlife and the photos we took are proof of the truly unforgettable experience we had. The rangers were veritable walking tomes of knowledge on everything from the medicinal applications of tiny Karoo succulents to the size of the neck vertebrae of giraffe. My eyes were opened, my love tank filled, and my heart broken when I left.
The newly revamped Dwyka lodge is a true oasis within a semi-desert and with all of this luxury and rich wildlife a short three-hours drive away, who needs to fly north to go on safari?
To experience Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in the Little Karoo, contact the reserve at +27 (0) 21 010 0028 or +27 (0) 21 010 0458 (after hours). Sanbona does not offer day trips or self-drive game drives through the reserve. Booking in advance to your stay is essential.