The star of the Little Karoo, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is set amongst the most majestic Warmwaterberg mountain range, where nature and nurture meet to provide visitors with the Cape’s premier wildlife destination.
An icy chill grips the late afternoon air as we depart on our first game drive. In the distance, a large herd of elephants is making its way across the plains and they veer off into a different direction from where we are driving. Our guide, Andrea Bothma explains to us that going off-road would compromise the ecology and conservation efforts at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, so we patiently wait by the roadside for them to find their way to us.
In the midst of one of the most severe droughts the region has experienced during the last two years, the vegetation is the livelihood of the herbivores, so with enough food available, driving over terrain that serves as their feeding ground will surely deplete the numbers of plant-eating animals.
We are elated when the elephants eventually sashay over to the area where their feed is supplemented as a shortage of food for these gentle giants is not an option. A young calf is standing underneath its mother’s mouth, affectionately rubbing its head against mom’s trunk. After a languid feed, the herd walks off into the mountainous terrain.
Stormy clouds and moody weather sets in and as we stop for sundowners, the promise of rain makes us all look up at the heavens, hoping for some respite for the plants and the animals. On our way back to Gondwana Family Lodge, a lone male giraffe is standing perfectly still, answering the call of nature.
A warm drink and inviting fire in the dining room is enough to stave off the cold. Waiter Lungisa is at hand to serve us and tonight, we dine on a canape of cucumber, salmon & cream cheese, followed by a starter of carrot & orange soup, spiced with turmeric, ginger & spring onion. Lungisa brings us the most soothing mixed berry palate cleanser and for the main course, my husband and I order the deliciously marinated kudu wrapped in bacon with roast butternut puree, pickled fig & a red wine jus while our daughter orders her all-time-favorite go-to-food, yes, pizza!
After a complete room refurbishment, Gondwana Family Lodge rooms display space and colors that blend in with the surroundings. We are staying in one of the ground floor’s interleading family suites and our daughter is ecstatic to have her own room and en-suite bathroom. Her room choice has accents of green while ours has smidgens of orange. It is time for bed and after a shower with the Healing Earth products, we retire for bed.
Our wake-up call at 05:00 has us scurrying for the phone. Dressed and ready to go, we meet in the dining area for a warm beverage and some biscuits before setting off on our early morning game drive. It should be illegal to be up this early, but just as that thought crosses my mind, he comes into view – a majestic tawny lion. Seeing two sub-adult male lions striding towards us makes the pre-dawn rise worthwhile. We follow them through the dry riverbed when eventually they saunter off for a siesta, only to reappear in the late afternoon.
Back at the lodge, breakfast is served next to the crystal-clear pool and we spend the rest of the day at leisure immersed in our magnificent surroundings. Our daughter loves the skull garden and for children staying at Gondwana Family Lodge, the Kid on Safari program is a big drawcard. On arrival, they get issued with a backpack in their color of choice, a peak cap and a Sanbona activity book, which is a fun way of collecting dung and plant species and is great to use as show-and-tell at school.
Our afternoon game drive yields some exciting sightings – a grumpy buffalo staring at us through the branches of a tree and the same lion brothers in pursuit of their next meal. We are supposed to have a boma dinner tonight, but the weather doesn’t play along, so we dine fireside again, feasting on a scrumptious array of barbequed meats and side dishes. Dessert is the ever-popular South African favorite peppermint crisp tart.
It is our last morning and Andrea heads in a northerly direction. We spot the cutest baby bat-eared fox sunning itself in the early morning warmth. We lose sight of it and eventually it pops up from the shrubbery, only to display a huge pair of ears. Further afield, a tall male giraffe is feeding on the most succulent yellow flowers of an acacia tree, looking over at us, probably also hoping that soon, the escarpment will be blessed with the wondrous life-giving rains it so richly deserves.
| Photographs courtesy of Sanbona and by Heléne Ramackers
*** Views expressed are the author’s own.
*** Thank you to Janie van der Spuy from Fivestar PR for arranging our stay and to Sanbona for hosting us.