On the morning of October 12th we, the 9 now cultured students ventured out of Montagu with a new Nissan Grand Livina for Lauren to drive to our next destination (hopefully you heard that her last car isn’t with us anymore). If only our precious Livina knew where we were going to be traveling to next! After about a 40 minute drive on Route 62 east we were soon greeted by a Sanbona sign leading us to the game reserve entrance. After another 14 kilometers on the dusty path winding through mountains and farms we reached the welcome gate of Sanbona Game Reserve. As if that wasn’t enough for us we traveled approximately another 35 kilometers into the reserve to our accommodations. Caught by surprise we were welcomed by Ostrich, Zebra, Springbok, tortoise, and another Puff Adder along the road. Nestled snug at the foot of the Warmwaterberg mountain range we were among the Karoo landscape and realizing quickly it was us and mother nature alone on 135,000 acres of reserve…
Here on the reserve, Sanbona has a group of over 100 employees working to make this part of South Africa a better place! Through various activities like animal re-introduction, conserving endangered plant communities, and improving water quality and run off through plant rejuvenation we were quickly impressed and anxious to learn more. Marco and Suritha were our rangers during our game drives and plant explorations. Both went through intensive training and took various tests to be guides and teach others about the importance of preserving these beautiful animals and plants. The property we were visiting was previously 19 abandoned farms, but the preserve had slowly expanded, so the animals could be free. Speaking of free I want to share the meaning of Sanbona. San- meaning of the sand people and -bona meaning free roaming. The name of this reserve is very intriguing and the more we encountered the animals there, we embraced the free roaming portion of the word.
When we arrived, we quickly unloaded our baggage and made our way to the lodge to have lunch because we had a game drive very soon. The time arrived and all eleven of us loaded up into 2 land cruisers and traveled down another dusty, but beautiful road leading us all around the reserve. First, I would like to describe the type of land we travelled on the reserve. Basically, Sanbona was made up of 3 different biomes, Succulent Karoo, Thicket, and Fynbos. The Fynbos here on Sanbona is known as the Renosterveld, which is one of the most threatened vegetation communities in the Cape Floral Kingdom. The land also had rock formations that were formed over 350 million years ago, and fossils of marine invertebrates are still being found. Now, onto the fun part of the trip the animals and plants! We started our safari and encountered a herd of African Elephants led by the female “Matriarch” followed by other females and young. The group slowly travelled past our vehicle and some made memorable eye contact with each and every one of the elephants The elephants possessed the most peaceful eyes I have ever seen. As if that wasn’t enough, we then encountered a huge herd of zebra and were also treated to the sounds of mating calls, and experienced a zebra crossing! We then viewed other animals including: White Rhinoceros, Eland, Springbok, Klipsrpinger, Kudu, Giraffe, Baboons, and much more which will be shown in pictures following the posting. As a side note, we took two game drives one in the night and one in the following morning, each lasting quite a long time. Unlike other game reserves in Africa, this one was large and it took time to find the animals on the huge property, so they were not presented to us easily.
While on the safari, we also encountered many different plants like the most prevalent Karoo Acacia or Sweet Thorn which was unbelievably grazed by most animals, even though it bore many 4-5 inch sharp white thorns. As the Acacia ages, it actually loses the thorns in the more mature parts of the plant, and the juvenile branches are loaded with thorns. We were fortunate enough to watch a bull (male) elephant feed on this plant, and it was amazing how they used their trunks to grab the branches and quickly devour the branches, thorns and all; but that is probably because their skin is 4-5 inches thick so they didn’t feel a thing. We also saw many different Aloes, Crassulas, and more Fynbos plants. On our second safari we went on foot and approached a group of cheetah just waking up from a long nights sleep located under the brush on top of one of the mountains. Believe me when you see the pictures you probably won’t believe me but we were less than 20 feet away from one of the sleepy cats! I digress, after we walked down the mountain into a quartz bed and stumbled upon quite a treasure! We walked into a group of Gibbaeum heathii which for you non plant lovers, they are called babies bottoms and are called this because of the resemblance. Let me tell you, it was a rare find to see them thriving so happily and in such a large group! ****After they age they are called “granny bottoms”!
Sanbona was truly a treat for our group and it was great to see all the flora and fauna making up such a beautiful part of South Africa. Between the knowledge that was shared with us, the animal encounters we experienced, and the overall experience we all shared, I believe Sanbona will forever be in our hearts. Just thinking of Sanbona brings me right back to when I was staring an elephant right in the eye or just having an early morning conversation with a group of cheetahs. Sanbona lives on and I will do my very best to share that experience with you through some beautiful photos!
By the way…Connie McCaw, you would be beyond impressed by the level of guest service at this reserve!!