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“Due to lack of privacy in room, accommodation is suitable for couples only” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Sanbona Wildlife Reserve - Tilney Manor, Dwyka Tented Lodge, Gondwana Lodge

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Sanbona Wildlife Reserve - Tilney Manor, Dwyka Tented Lodge, Gondwana Lodge
5.0 of 5 Lodge   |   R62 between Montagu & Barrydale | Die Vlakte, Montagu 6720, South Africa   |  
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Certificate of Excellence 2014
Baden
Contributor
20 reviews 20 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 16 cities Reviews in 16 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
“Due to lack of privacy in room, accommodation is suitable for couples only”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed September 20, 2012

Accommodation
I was travelling with my elderly father and we stayed in Tilney Manor (although this problem applies to Dwyker as well). Our room was very large and luxurious, with comfortable beds and sofa, beautiful furnishings, a large balcony and an outside shower (too cold to use). However, the bathroom area adjoins the bedroom and is completely open with the bath having pride of place right in the middle. There is no place to get undressed/dressed/drying for showering either. I asked the guy who welcomed us (presumably the team manager) if they had a mobile screen of some sort (paravent) so that we could have some privacy. They didn't have one, which I found very strange as this is an easy solution to a problem "that has come up before" (team leader). My father and I had to wait until coming back from the game drive to take turns to use the room if we didn't want to avoid having breakfast at different times (not enough time for that either). We both felt very uncomfortable with the situation and it greatly detracted from our enjoyment of our visit. Surely the management could procure one or two paravents for such visitors. They can be folded up when not in use, and on wheels for easy positioning.
Other than that, the service and facilities were excellent, and the food was well above average most of the time (please put something juicy in the club sandwiches, they were just 3 pieces of toast with bacon and a solidly fried egg between them and were very dry, maybe a little tomato).
The WiFi was very weak and only available in the Manor House itself, in fact at the top of some stairs leading to a separate building of the rear terrace.

Game drives
Sanbona's greatest advantage is being so close to Cape Town, only a comfortable 3-hour drive away. It game park is enormous, but with very little game. This means long drives with far fewer sightings than in Kruger or Shamwari (owned by the same group). The landscape is beautiful, so there is plenty to see between animal sightings. Even with their radio collars, the cheetahs and lions were not always easy to find. Nevertheless, during our 2 days/4 game drives we had 2 wonderful sightings of cheetah, as well as buffalo (with new-born calf), bat-eared foxes, elephants, giraffe (from 200 m!), baboons sunning themselves, zebra, kudu, plenty of birds, and lions. Because game sightings are rarer, they are more intense. After driving for so long to see something, we really looked. Our game ranger Jannie was extremely knowledgeable and sharp-eyed, spotting all sorts of creatures great and small whilst driving along. He was forever cheerful and helpful, answering our questions with interesting details. We had several walks to see lion and white rhinos at closer quarters. Being face to face with 2 white rhinos at ground level about 50 m away was exhilarating, something I will never forget.

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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385 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (105)
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English first
Brussels, Belgium
Senior Contributor
34 reviews 34 reviews
34 hotel reviews
Reviews in 26 cities Reviews in 26 cities
46 helpful votes 46 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 18, 2012

We spent two nights at the Dwyka Lodge and loved it. It was our first trip to South Africa and we were looking for the safari experience without having to take the time and incur the costs to fly to Kruger for several days. The fact that it is malaria-free was a bonus. After a good amount of research we decided on Sanbona, and were so happy with our decision! The team at Dwyka took excellent care of us from the moment we arrived until the moment we left. The Dwyka “tents” were rustic but luxurious. The meals were plentiful and delicious. The wine, champagne, and whatever else you wanted to drink flowed freely. You truly felt as though you were a million miles from civilization but with all of the luxurious comforts you could ask for. At night the star-filled sky twinkled like diamonds, and our ranger Chris generously took the time at the end of a long day to get out his telescope and show us the different star configurations.

We saw elephants, lions, giraffes, rhinos, zebras, buffalo, and kudu roaming free throughout the reserve. The game drives were great fun, and even when we weren’t spotting any animals the scenery alone was simply stunning. I’ll never forget the end of our first game drive, watching the most unbelievable sunset over the vast expanse of sky, with a group of giraffes trekking off into the distance. I could not have dreamed a more perfect picture to carry with me for the rest of my life…or at least until my next visit to Africa!

Tip: don’t forget to bring a warm coat if you go in the winter, because the drives can get very chilly.

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cape Town Central, South Africa
Senior Contributor
37 reviews 37 reviews
29 hotel reviews
Reviews in 31 cities Reviews in 31 cities
45 helpful votes 45 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 17, 2012

My wife and I stayed at Sanbona's Gondwana Lodge during a mountain bike and trail running weekend to raise funds for rhino anti-poaching work. This reserve has the only truly free-ranging big 5 so close to Cape Town. Its also a great example of land that was previously farmed now being put back to wild ways. Gondwana is the family lodge option - quiet a few kids were there during my stay. I have also stayed at Dwyka Lodge during a previous visit 3 years ago - very upmarket and exclusive lodge in a stunning setting. If you're looking for pure luxury that's the one for you. Most of my weekend this time was spent on a bike or recovering from the mountain bike marathon but I did manage to squeeze in a game drive on the morning of our departure. Our guide was really good and we had a very close encounter with elephants and rhino as well as seeing plenty of other wildlife. We also spent time looking at tiny exquisite succulents hidden amongst the pebbles - fascinating. It was spring time so that spring flowers were fantastic - splashes of color! I recommend Sanbona very highly.

Room Tip: Families should go to Gondwana Lodge and couples to Dwyka Lodge
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  • Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cape Town Central, South Africa
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed August 28, 2012

Well designed, luxurious accommodation, stunning location and friendly staff, but a five star establishment charging high rates should at least meet expectations, preferably surpass them. As such Sanbona fails the test: The food was mediocre at best and not of the quality one should expect from an up-market resort. The service alternated from very good to very bad, and is certainly not on a five star level.

We stayed at Gondwana Lodge with our two young children. Other than an activity pack handed to the kids, nothing else was undertaken to accommodate or entertain them. There was nothing to do for them in the children activity room.

The game drives were at times interesting but most of the time a tedious chase to find collared animals. Although the ranger demonstrated a good knowledge and insight of the local ecosystem the focus remained on animals which do not even belong in the Karoo landscape.

All in all a very forgettable experience.

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kaysa, Manager at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve - Tilney Manor, Dwyka Tented Lodge, Gondwana Lodge, responded to this review, September 18, 2012
Thank you for your frank feedback. As a management team, we take criticism seriously and strive to improve our operations continuously. Unfortunately we recently underwent staff changes on several levels and the sudden influx of new and slightly inexperienced service and kitchen staff members did result in the occasional glitch. They have been subject to intense training and guidance by the management team over the last few weeks, and things are fast improving.
Menus and cooking techniques have been improved, particularly children’s menus and, while child minding can be arranged by prior arrangement, the children have a variety of toys, wildlife DVD’s, outdoor jungle gym and nature garden at guests disposal.
The reserve is 54,000 hectares in size and as a result our rangers have to work as a tightly knit team to locate good sightings. Their knowledge of the Karoo is exceptional and their bush-craft under the guidance of experienced and highly qualified ranger and tracker, Danie Lourens, quite exceptional. The stony terrain and vast distances makes physical tracking difficult. Some of the key species are fitted with radio telemetry, primarily at the insistence of the provincial conservation authorities, as they pose a potential risk to humans, livestock and crops, in the unlikely event of a breakout ever occurring – so that they may be found and located back to the reserve in the shortest time. Our key species are thus monitored daily, by a dedicated wildlife and ranger team, and their movements plotted as part of a broader ecological management process. The use of radio telemetry also allows the rangers to expedite the location process when out on drive, so as to be able to maximize actual viewing and allow more time to share some of the Karoo’s lesser known natural treasures.
Fred Stow
General Manager
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Phoenix, Arizona
Senior Contributor
28 reviews 28 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 16 cities Reviews in 16 cities
90 helpful votes 90 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 11, 2012

My stay at the Dwyka Tented Lodge on the Sanbona Reserve outside of Cape Town was way too short! I received a warm welcome from the Lodge manager JB and his team. I loved the fact that the lodge,while elegant (5 star rating), is unpretentious and allows the visitor to experience being in Sanbona. Even thogh the bed was wonderfully comfortable, I did awake to the sound of the wind rattling the tent roof and the chatter of arguing baboons. All part of the experience. I will never forget having breakfast and looking up at the ridge to see several kudu outlined against the sky. The rangers, especially Jannie, was very knowlegable and patient. His love of the animals and their habitat was obvious. He was kind enough to show us the prehistoric rock paintings per special request. Sanbona is a beautiful reserve. My initial inclination was not to talk because human voice seemed trivial and uncessary when surrounded by such beauty. It felt magical--keenly aware of wisdom beyond your own. Even if you do not see lions and cheetahs, it is worth going to Sanbona just to experience the land. You will see animals, however. Inthe coupleof days I was at Dwyka, I was trated to four game drives--and fortunate enough to see both the white lions, as well as rhinos, elephants, giraffes, oryx, kudu, and zebra.
The flight to South Africa from Arizona is not fun-but I'd do it again in heart beat to visit Sanbona and spend another night at Dwyka.

Room Tip: I don't think you can have a bad lodge at Dwyka
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  • Stayed July 2012, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
West Sussex
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
39 helpful votes 39 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 9, 2012

I am so glad we did not listen to the advice from the travel agents who wanted us to fly up to  Kruger or drive to Port Elizabeth for the reserves there.


Had we of known the  pleasant scenic two and a half hour drive through the mountains and wine regions could have been been booked as a transfer from Cape Town to Sanbona we would have chosen this option. However on our tour operators advice we  hired a car just to drive us to and from the reserve.
(Booking Tip: If you are using a hire car to get you to the reserve a 4 x 4 is a must especially in the winter months)

From the moment we arrived at the main gate right up until we left four days later everyone of the Sanbona staff made us feel very special to share with them the magic that lies within the reserve.

We opted to stay at Tilney Manor as we felt our 12 and 20 year old children were too grown up for the child focused Gondwana Lodge.  On arrival we were greeted with a warm personal welcome by Jeanne and the staff who quickly made us feel part of the Tilney family.  After a welcome drink and an intrduction to our ranger Marco we were showed to our sumptuous  rooms with the promise of an afternoon game drive.

Our first afternoon drive completely blew us all away and if we had to go home then, we would have been more than happy. Marco made us feel very special and his enthusiastic willingness to share his knowledge and understanding of the Klein Karoo and it's inhabitants made us all realise we were fortunate to experience something very special especially when we were treated to the white lion cubs hunting without their mother.

All the subsequent morning and evening drives exceeded the one before and we were blessed time and time again to see animals and view the most breathtaking scenery.  We saw everything we came to see apart from the leopards and we all came back with memories that I know will last a life time. Marco made our daughters dreams come true. The pyjama donkeys and the cheater brothers will be fondly remembered along with our adopted friend the hungry hippo!!!

If you are visiting Cape Town and would like experience the big five in an ethical conservational environment and you appreciate a genuinely warm welcome, excellent service, sumptuous  food, fine wines with knowledgeable game drivers who genuinely care about the areas indigenous environment... Then Sanbona is definitely for you.

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Top Contributor
263 reviews 263 reviews
37 hotel reviews
Reviews in 68 cities Reviews in 68 cities
178 helpful votes 178 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 6, 2012

Though I had been warned by the other reviews not to expect much from the food, I was still quite taken aback by it.
My main issue is that when staying in the Tinley Manor it is at least one hours drive morning and night before you have any chance of any game viewing. The reserve is vast, but because it has so very little vegetation, the game is also very sparse.
My ranger was not knowledgeable at all and plain annoying. The big cats are radio collared here and that is the only reason how we manage to see some. It just felt wrong that a whole team of rangers cannot track and has to rely on technology to find any animals.
The breakfast room was overrun with ants which sadly nobody wanted to remove and the outside area of my room was littered with cigarette buts. Overprized and overrated ?? I won't be back.

  • Stayed February 2012, traveled solo
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Sanbona Wildlife Reserve - Tilney Manor, Dwyka Tented Lodge, Gondwana Lodge

Address: R62 between Montagu & Barrydale | Die Vlakte, Montagu 6720, South Africa
Phone Number:
Location: South Africa > Western Cape > Montagu
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beverage Selection Business Center with Internet Access Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 26 Specialty Lodging in Montagu
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:5 star — Sanbona Wildlife Reserve - Tilney Manor, Dwyka Tented Lodge, Gondwana Lodge 5*
Number of rooms: 27
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Sanbona Wildlife Reserve - Tilney Manor, Dwyka Tented Lodge, Gondwana Hotel

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