Big 5, white lions and pure luxury: say hello to Sanbona

If you’re looking to add a Big Five safari and the chance to see incredibly rare white lions to your Cape Town holiday, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve should be top of your list.

Combining the ‘beach and bush’ is a popular option for travellers to South Africa, but if you don’t have time to fly from Cape Town to the bushveld reserves of far-flung Mpumalanga province, all is not lost.

Three hours’ drive from Cape Town you’ll find Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, in the region known as the Klein Karoo. This ancient landscape of dramatic valleys and towering mountains is a draw card in itself, but Sanbona has also crafted a remarkable 54 000-hectare wildlife reserve from this impressive backdrop.

Sanbona is home to three wonderful lodges. Tilney Manor is the most intimate option, with just six spacious suites. It’s ideal for mature travelers seeking gracious living and good conversation around the communal dinner table.

Gondwana Lodge is firmly family-friendly. It boasts a large pool, activities for kids and the option of inter-leading rooms. While parents enjoy the Relaxation Retreat spa, there’s a separate kids’ club – piled high with educational books and games – to keep younger ones entertained.

Dwyka Tented Lodge is all about romance: set in a rocky amphitheatre, these stone and canvas creations are the most stylish accommodation option on Sanbona, where private plunge pools offer a tempting option for nocturnal stargazing.

Regardless of which lodge you’re at, the highlight of Sanbona is the daily game drives that take guests deep into this remarkable wilderness. Along with the remarkable array of antelope – look out for eland, kudu and giraffe – the highlight for most guests is a sighting of Sanbona’s remarkable white lions. Caused by a recessive gene, not albinism, the white lions here are amongst just a handful living wild in South Africa. The chance to see cheetah is another highlight of Sanbona, and although they’re shy you have a better chance of spotting them than the rare Cape Mountain Leopards that prowl these valleys.

While Sanbona is home to all of Africa’s so-called Big Five – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo – game drives here are about admiring the landscape as much as the animals. Don’t get upset if there isn’t an elephant around every corner – there won’t be – so sit back and admire the landscapes and the lesser-known aspects of the wilderness that the well-trained guides bring to life.

While a handful of reserves close to Cape Town offer day-trip safaris, none of them can compete with the enigmatic wilderness of Sanbona Private Game Reserve. Book a night, ideally two, and get your fix of South Africa’s toothy furry locals.

Comfort meets conservation at Inverdoorn Game Reserve and Safari Lodge

Less than three hours from Cape Town by road, at Inverdoorn Game Reserve and Safari Lodge guests are almost guaranteed to experience everything presented in the promotional material.

Inverdoorn is, however, most famous for its cheetah conservation practices and plays host to rescued cheetahs in its rehabilitation camp and to wild cheetahs on the reserve. Two game drives (one at sunset and one at sunrise) present sightings of lions, rhinos, hippo, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, buffalo, ostrich and a variety of antelope over short periods of one- and two-day stays. Inverdoorn is, however, most famous for its cheetah conservation practices and plays host to rescued cheetahs in its rehabilitation camp and to wild cheetahs on the reserve.

It also provides a safe haven for its lions, which were rescued from an illegal canned hunting farm on which animals were either caged or sedated and presented as guaranteed trophies to international hunters. Inverdoorn is also at the forefront of rhinosceros conservation in South Africa. The horns of the rhinos on the reserve have been injected with a coloured, poisonous substance in an attempt to make them both difficult to smuggle out of the country and detrimental to the consumer (although ingestion is not fatal, it does lead to illness). The reserve’s Rhino Protect program goes a step further by helping other reserves to implement similar anti-poaching methods. Luxurious accommodation, warm fires, delicious meals and friendly and highly knowledgeable staff complete the experience, which offers the best of the wild in characteristic luxury.