Luxurious lodges and family-friendly safaris in the Little Karoo between Cape Town and the Garden Route - a wildlife reserve with some surprising discoveries”
It certainly worked its magic on the South African entrepreneur who built Sanbona in 2001. Now owned by the Caleo Foundation, a not for profit conservation organisation, this 5-star lodge sits in 58,000 hectares of wildlife reserve. The area of undulating mountains and plains is surprisingly rich in flora and fauna: no fewer than 6,500 species of plant and 160 species of birds, live alongside the many wild animals such as native springboks, zebra and hyena, and the reintroduced 'big 5' (elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion, cheetah). But it is not only about game here. Rangers also show you bizarre rock formations, intricate fossils and 3,500-year-old rock art left by the San people, who lived in these hills until 100 years ago. And the sunsets are stupendous.
- Arguably the best safari destination in the Western Cape: only a 3-hour drive from Cape Town along the scenic Route 62
- Unusually large conservation area for this region, giving a sense of wilderness with rich animal, bird and plant life and expert rangers to bring it alive for you
- Huge plush suites and those in the Dwyka Tented Lodge have private decks with hot tubs
- Lots to do besides game watching: massage and spa treatments, ancient rock art, guided nature hikes and stargazing
- A dedicated family lodge and kids programme with no risk of malaria make it an ideal choice for those travelling with children.
- A huge reserve with few big mammals - don’t expect herds or frequent sightings. The Big Five are all present but not as concentrated as some other reserves, like the Kruger.
- The dry and open scenery can be hot in summer (but there's air-conditioning and a pool at the lodge), and cold in winter
- It's not cheap, but all meals and safari drives are included
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Safari Lodges
- 27 rooms
- All meals included
- All ages welcome - Gondwana Lodge only
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
Sanbona offers 3 luxurious lodges: Tilney Manor, the original homestead; Dwyka Tented Lodge, our favourite option for couples; and Gondwana Lodge which has been created especially for families. Each lodge has its own unique ambience but all have large comfortable suites.
Tilney Manor is a restored 1898 Cape Georgian homestead with 6 suites, a communal lounge and a dining room. Surrounded by gardens, there’s also a lovely porch with views over the Karoo, a shady inner courtyard with a bar, a relaxation retreat with 2 therapy rooms, steam room and sauna, plus deck with rim-flow pool and great views. All suites face out to the Karoo wilderness. There’s air-conditioning for summer and a gas fire for winter. They are spacious and warmly decorated in creams, beiges and yellows. In addition to the opulent bedroom, there's an open-plan bathroom with a freestanding bathtub (and sliding doors for privacy), and a private veranda with deck chairs. A shower room and a loo are hidden behind closed doors, while sliding glass doors lead out to a private garden with a double slate shower.
Dwyka Tented Lodge is dramatically situated at the foot of a sheer cliff face and sheltered from the wind. With private decks and individual hot tubs, these 9 spacious tents are the bees’ knees. You get both indoor and outdoor showers, shared facilities include a game lodge with dining area and bar/lounge (cosy with fires), a spa lodge, a wine cellar and an open-air boma.
Gondwana Lodge has been designed with families in mind and offers ‘Kids on Safari’ programme. Views from the lodge sweep over the plains of Bellair Dam to the Anysberg Mountains. The 12 rooms have indoor showers, private balconies/patios, underfloor heating and all mod cons; family rooms interconnect. There's also a bar/lounge and a dining area with wood fires, a small relaxation retreat, a swimming pool with a shallow area for kids, steam room and sauna, a children’s playroom, and an open-air boma. The entire area is protected by a perimeter electric fence.
- Air conditioning
- Central heating
- Coffee / tea making
- DVD player
- Extra beds
- Internet access
- Safe box
Tea or coffee is served in the lounge first thing to help you wake up for your early morning game drive. A full breakfast follows, including fresh fruits, cereals, and eggs and bacon cooked to order. Lunch is a leisurely buffet of cooked and cold meats, salads, cheeses and, for dessert; cakes, tarts or fruit. Dinner at each lodge is a mouthwatering preparation of local produce - "traditional Karoo with a wild twist" to quote a guest. Menus include the famous Karoo lamb and a chance to try various game meats. If staying for more than 1 night, one dinner will always be an outdoor braai (BBQ) - weather dependent of course!
In Tilney Manor breakfast is usually served on the porch, sitting in the shade of an old blue-gum tree overlooking the Karoo and watching the landscape swim into colourful relief. At lunchtime you adjourn to the shady inner courtyard, which also has a full bar. At dinner, the best option is to have your meal brought to your veranda; or there is a cosy dining room seating up to 12.
- All meals included
- Coffee / tea making
- Room service
- The morning game drive lasts about 3 hours, with covered jeeps and friendly, fabulously well-trained rangers to make it as rewarding as possible. It is not just about large mammals, though you are sure to spot a few zebra and antelopes or bucks of some sort. But the real beauty of this place is in the rocks, the fossils and the incredible concentration of birds and plants, all expertly picked out and explained by the rangers. Seeing the landscape and wildlife unfold as the sun rises is a great way to start the day - though you are allowed to go after breakfast if you prefer!
- Another game drive follows in the early evening - this time you may see raptors coasting the thermals and blood-red sunsets covering the entire sky
- In the middle of the day, you can lounge by the pool, read on your veranda, or indulge in an exotic beauty treatment or massage, stopping for a leisurely buffet lunch and perhaps a short snooze
- Before you go to bed, take a look at the night sky - it's astonishing! Among the milky spread you can make out the Southern Cross, Orion's Belt and various planets, plus lots more through binoculars
- Instead of, or as well as, a game drive you can take a guided walk to some of the 50+ cave paintings hidden in the rocky hills
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Plantlife / flora
- Private guided tours
- Well being
Children of all ages are welcome at Gondwana Lodge; interconnecting rooms, cots and sleeper couches are available (max. 1 child and 1 baby in the parents' room), and there's a special safari programme for kids. Children over the age of 12 are permitted at Tilney Lodge and Dwyka Tented Camp.
Children 4 and over may join the game drives, we suggest these may not be suitable for younger ones less interested in wildlife. Under 16s are not permitted to join the walking safaris.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
Gondwana Lodge has family rooms (with a single sofabed) and interconnecting rooms for families of 4 or more.
Babysitting is available by arrangement
Kids Activities on site:
- Kids on Safari programme - which includes an interpretive trail through the garden to learn about animal tracks & important plants among other things, a skull garden, an activity book which involves children collecting various items (with the assistance from the ranger) from the reserve, thus teaching about the environment
- Gondwana's swimming pool has a shallow area for kids
- Playroom and outdoor play area in Gondwana
- Game drives for those 4 and over
- Puzzles, board games
- Children's DVDs
Families Should Know:
Gondwana Lodge is protected by a perimeter electric fence. Children (and parents!) will need good and constant sun protection, though thankfully malaria is not present here
- Airport: 3 hours (Cape Town)
- Hospital: 30 minutes (Montagu)
- Shops: 30 minutes (Montagu)
Sanbona is situated at the foot of the towering Warmwaterberg Mountains in the heart of the Klein Karoo, half way between Cape Town and George.
Cape Town International (350km) is the nearest international airport. There is also an airport at George but it operates internal flights only.
From the Airport
Transport can be arranged for you by the lodge. Sanbona is 25km off the main road; if driving yourself, you would be met at the main road and escorted in. There is also a private landing strip for light charter planes (this can be arranged).
Sanbona is just off the R62 - the beautiful and underrated Karoo route linking Oudtshorn to Robertson - about halfway between Montagu and Barrydale (approx. 3 hours’ drive east of Cape Town, and 3 hours’ drive west of George). For car hire see our car rental recommendations.
Detailed directions to find the lodge will be provided when your booking is confirmed.
More on getting to South Africa and getting around.
- Cape Town International 350.0 km CPT
- Beach 100.0 km
- Shops 70.0 km
- Restaurant 70.0 km