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“Fabulous place to view African game”

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Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed December 4, 2010

An amazing place. We stayed at the Gondwana Lodge and although it can look basic, it is in fact excellent. The rooms are very spacious with a large bathroom. Our room looked out onto the lagoon. Even from there we saw african wildlife. The lodge is well run and the food is excellent given the remoteness of the place. (It is 31 km (20 miles)) from the gatehouse on dirt roads. Even the drive in is an experience. We had booked in for 2 game drives but in fact, we had 3 as the ranger just told us to come along on the day we checked out. The drives start at dawn and last about 3 hours and again at sunset. Trevor, our warden, was brilliant. He made the drives a lot of fun as well as informative. The last drive was just my wife and I and he made it very special for us. At one point, we were having a cup of coffee surrounded by 11 curious giraffes, 7 relaxing rhinos (including a calf) and several Eland. During the stay we saw lions, hippo, elephants, hyena, cheetahs as well. Ostriches and tortoises are also around. We even stalked the cheetahs out of the landrover.
Overall a great romantic and lovely place

  • Stayed: November 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank Food_For_Grownups
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed December 3, 2010

Just returned from a 2 week holiday in South Africa to celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary. Stayed 2 nights at Sanbona Game Reserve in Dwyka Tented Lodge. The overall experience was simply wonderful. We received a bottle of champagne as a celebratory gift and on the second night we returned from our game drive to find a table set up for dinner in our tent - with yet another bottle!
Our ranger Mark was really knowledgeable and friendly and took us for 2 walks through the bush. The experience when a herd of elephants walked right past us is something that we will never forget. Later that morning we saw the herd yet again and they approached us as we sat in the jeep - coming so close that we could have touched them. The adrenalin rush was unbelievable!
The reserve is really enormous but we saw the beautiful white lions, cheetah, giraffe, rhino - everything we could have hoped for.
Just a wonderful experience. Would we go back ? You bet !!!

  • Stayed: November 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank philby101
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 5, 2010

Sanbona is the place to go if you don't want to travel far from Cape Town and still experience a game reserve.
This place is literally in the middle of nowhere! It is so peaceful and unspoilt.

We stayed in the luxury tented village. Just an incredible experience in every way.
Rooms/tents were top quality and complimented by sun deck and plunge pool.

Service at the lodge was first class and so friendly. Ricardo in particular was very helpful.
Ignore the reports of poor food...the food was excellent.

Game drives are at sunrise and sunset. Christopher was our ranger and he really wanted us to see the full range and went to extraordinary lengths to show us as much as possible. Sanbona is a wild life reserve and not a game park/reserve; as such do not expect to see animals at each corner...Sanbona is almost twice the size of the Isle of Wight so there is plenty of space for the elephants, lion and giraffe to roam and they were very good at hiding!

I would strongly recommend a stay at Sanbona. If your budget allows, stay for 2 nights and take it all in. Enjoy!

  • Stayed: October 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank Shapcabs
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 1, 2010

Two things to consider here. Is it a great hotel and is it a worthwhile destination?

As a hotel it is certainly good - but nothing special. I think where people have scored it very low in other reviews it is because their expectations were too high given the price. However a) the price isn't that high as it includes food, drink and game drives; and b) you are paying for the creation and maintenance of the game reserve not just the accommodation in isolation.

We stayed at Dwyka. Nicely conceived with 'tents' (buildings with canvas roofs) well spread in a circle surrounding the central dining/reception building. Rooms are large and stylish - missing a few touches and a tiny bit less than spotless (but only a tiny bit - not enough to put you off and understandable given the environment). The central area was a little anaemic- but functional. Food was average as others have said - go to Franshoek if you want great food I am not sure that's why you go to Sanbona.

As a destination Sanbona disappointed just a little - but we may have been unlucky. It is a very large area of pretty spectacular mountainous terrain. The key point is that this is a fairly barren/arrid/rocky even harsh region. Thus it is in no way comparable to say Kruger. It is different terrain that is only capably of supporting a much lower animal density. Thus while (over 2 drives) we did see elephant, giraffe, lion, kudu, hippo, rhino, eland, zebra, springbok - we didn't see vast numbers. That said others we have met did see larger numbers (and saw cheetah) - but again nothing on Kruger's scale.

Others have said it felt a little artificial - don't agree at all. i think it is a very natural place - and the animals (while imported) were in a natural environment for them.

Overall I am glad we went and I enjoyed it. It is not a 5 star resort - but it is solidly 4 star. It is not an amazing wildlife experience but my strong sense it is the best you'll find in the Western Cape. The scenery is harsh - but for my personal taste it was stunning. If you want a genuine wildlife experience in Western Cape it is a very strong option - if you want the best wildlife in South Africa you need to go a lot further north or east.

  • Stayed: October 2010, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank JimmyDub
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 7, 2010

Arrived in this 5 star establishment after a 3 hour drive from cape town, really looking forward to this place considering the amount of money we paid per night however we where left with a pretty miserable experience.

1. Whole place just feels neglected, the love has been lost and there is no internal controls.

2. Food is very basic 1 star a cross between prison food ( or what i imagine prison food to be like) and school food. 3 courses with 2 choices including chicken and chips, spinach ravioli which turned out to be buttenut ravioli, beurre blanc spelt ber blanc etc etc etc. 2 other couples where at the place when we arrived and both told us not to expect much from the food as it is "shocking"

3. First night when we arrived in the restaurant we had to go into the kitchen to tell the waiting staff that we where here for dinner, the next morning we arrived for breakfast at 8.30 am and there was no breakfast, the staff told me that they thought we where out at a game drive and they didnt expect us till 9am, we then had to wait (with a 4 year old) for an hour for breakfast

4. I used to work in the food industry and its pretty obvious that this chef is either incompetent or has a very tight food budget, the general consensus from all the guests where the same.

5. The inclusive wine list had a selection of the cheapest wine you can buy, La Motte 44 rand a bottle, diermesdal 50 rand a bottle etc etc

6. The room while very comfortable was tatty, balcony has bird crap all over it, on the outdoor furniture crap everywhere, a birds nest was actually on the doorway and the birds where crapping everywhere. Window ledges had dead flies and insects all over it etc etc.

7.Kids club wasnt looked after, paints not replenished, games not fixed, no game walks, or nature walks with the kids, no instructions for the tv etc

so overall very dissapointed i complained to the assistant manager and simply no recognition of the issues, very sad and would def not recommend to anyone else.

consider that the full price for this place is 7,000 rand per night per couple

  • Stayed: October 2010, traveled with family
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4  Thank FifiCapeTown
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 22, 2010

My wife and I stayed at Tilney Manor for two nights and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We had stayed at sister game reserve, Shamwari, three years ago where we were enthralled by the wildlife. Sanbona has less animals due to the semi-arid nature of the countryside but instead of quantity we had quality. Antelopes of various kinds, elephant, rhinos, hippos, zebras, giraffes, cheetahs and most importantly, the magnificent white lions. Tilney is also intimate, with great accommodation. Brenda proved to be a very knowledgable ranger and even she was surprised when we were surrounded by two male white lions on one side of the vehicle and three cheetahs on the other. It's the unpredictability which makes it exciting. My favourite reserve? Sanbona by a big cat's whisker!

  • Stayed: September 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank Lordofthemiles
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
simonber123, Manager at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, responded to this reviewResponded October 11, 2010

Dear Lordofthemiles

thank you for taking the time to review Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. I happy to read that you enjoyed your time with us. You are correct Sanbona is a very special place and the passion of my team is what truly makes this a magical reserve
I look forward to welcoming you and your wife back one day

Regards
Simon

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 3, 2010

Found Sanbona here on tripadvisor and gave a shot for our last 2 days in South Africa. The place is a 3 hour (easy) drive from Cape Town in the little Karoo. We discarded other, closer alternatives because they sounded too much like a zoo.

The reserve is huge to say the least (same surface as Singapor) so be prapared to long drives on a rocky road to get to the lodging. DO NOT for any reason use your car to get to the lodge, unless you have a real SUV and know how to drive on bumpy non-paved roads. Use the complimentary shuttle instead.

Accomodation: we stayed at Dwyka and I can only say good things. The room was clean and cozy, hall and restaurants mixed perfectly the elegant interior with a "safari" mood. The tented lodges are in this little valley closely facing a wall of rock. Suggestive also the silence and the impressive number of stars you can see at night (no light pollution...).
The welcome at check-in has been flawless and warm, food was overall good, same as the service. I appreciated that they spontaneously proposed to arrange a different menu when they found I had dietary limitations.
Cell phones have no field but wireless internet is available for free (=Skype can be used)

Game Drives: we stayed only one night, so we got 2 game drives. Our ranger, Solomon, proved to be nice, competent and attentive. Animals are there and, collars aside, seem really on their own and moved from one place to another. This means that you have to drive a lot in order to see something. But, that's what we were expecting and augmented the sensation of being into a wild environment (which is not, of course) even if we didn't manage to see all the reserve has to offer.

Like everywhere else in SA, tips are encouraged so make sure to have enough cash to tip the drivers, the ranger and the waiters.

Sanbona takes time, we suggest to stay there for 2 or 3 days in order to see everything. For a day safari, this is not the place. We'll come back for sure when we'll return to Cape Town, and do the night safari with the spotlights!

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank FanfullaDaLodi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
simonber123, Manager at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, responded to this reviewResponded October 11, 2010

Dear FansullaDalodi

Thank you for your review of Sanbona Wildlife reserve I have passed on your postive comments to the team. I look forward to welcoming you back one day so that you can enjoy a night drive.

Regards
Simon

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Additional Information about Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

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 #1 of 35 Specialty Lodging in Montagu
Price Range: $619 - $1,285 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Sanbona Wildlife Reserve 5*
Number of rooms: 27
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Nestled in the heart of the Little Karoo, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is a three-hour drive from Cape Town, along Route 62. At the foot of the towering Warmwaterberg Mountains, Sanbona boasts sculpted Cape Fold Mountains, wide open Karoo plains, indigenous flora and fauna and rare examples of San rock art, some dating back more than 3, 500 years. Explore all this from your choice of 3 different luxury lodges. Whilst the free roaming Big 5 call Sanbona home, it’s the vastness of the landscape and the raw beauty of the boundless plains that make safaris at Sanbona unique. Explore the 54, 000 hectares of this malaria-free premier, private game reserve for an ultimate safari experience close to Cape Town. PLEASE NOTE THAT BOOKING IN ADVANCE is ESSENTIAL FOR VISITS TO SANBONA WILDLIFE RESERVE. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve - Tilney Manor, Dwyka Tented Lodge, Gondwana Hotel

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