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Sanbona Game Reserve - Gondwana Lodge
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Reviews (82)
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Reviewed 8 July 2014

We went to Sanbona with our 19 month old son and met our friends and their three children ages 6, 4, and 14 months. We had a WONDERFUL time! Our travel agent suggested we only stay two nights since the smallest children in our party could not go out on game drives, but we wish we had stayed one more day. The staff was great and attentive and our ranger Pascal was the best! Everyone was so accommodating and we enjoyed discussing South Africa's history, learning about the animals, and the reserve.

We visited in June at the beginning of winter so we made good use of the heated floors. There were lots of mosquitos in the room even in winter. Other than that nuisance, the rooms were very clean and comfortable. We had hoped to utilize the playroom, but it was not heated so found it too cold to have the toddlers play there for long. We did use the babysitting service to enjoy the game drives and the kids were well looked after and had fun running around the lodge.

We were able to see the white lions at such close range and on my birthday we did a walking tour where we got out of the jeep to see the cheetahs close up. That was an exciting and slightly scary experience, but will remember it for a lifetime and very grateful to have done it:).

The backpacks and packets for the 6 and 4 year olds in our party are the gifts that keep on giving now that they are back home and sharing what they learned with family and friends.

We booked this resort with the help of Rhino Tours so very grateful to Shawn for suggesting Sanbona. Family friendly, non-malaria zone, short ride from Capetown, couldn't have asked for a better time!

Room Tip: Second floor rooms were good for families as it was adjoining rooms. Bottom floor room was good for us with a 19 month old as he still uses a baby cot.
  • Stayed: June 2014, travelled with family
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2  Thank Steph R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 May 2014

We spent a long weekend at Gondwana with our two children aged 13 and 6 in April. The game viewing was great and, Dale, our guide was excellent. The lodge itself was a bit of a disappointment though, having stayed at a few 5 star lodges in SA before (Shamwari, Pumba, and Bushmanskloof). The management and staff seemed slightly inexperienced and unpolished for a 5 star place. If it was 4 star it would have been fine (and cheaper), but for 5 star you expect more. The kid's programme was something of an afterthought and the facilities for kids are geared more for the age 4 and unders. That said, the rooms were comfortable and nicely furnished. Sanbona Gondwana is still worth a visit because there are few similar alternatives in the Western Cape.

  • Stayed: April 2014, travelled with family
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3  Thank John M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 May 2014

We were here for a safari experience taster, and our ranger Christo has been brilliant.
Lions, Cheetahs, Elephants, Giraffes all available in close range.

If you want to see thousands of animals in a herd, Sanbona is not for you.
But if you want to see animals at close range, and off the car, this is perfect.
He also has the qualification to do walking tours close to the animals.

The lodge itself is a pretty one, however, there are lots of bugs that can enter the room.
I guess that is normal, the spray kills them or makes them passed out, however, about 100 corpses in the room per night is a little too much, hence sleep quality is not as great. These rooms were cleaned VERY WELL during the day time, its just a matter of trying to keep the bugs out at night.

I believe rooms on the ground floor may have less of a bug problem as they do not have the thatched roofing.

Room Tip: Don't stay on the upper floors as I believe it is closer to bushes and the thatched roofing doesn't help keeping bugs out.
  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Sam W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 April 2014

This is a difficult experience to rate – the facilities and food, and rangers and game hunts were first rate, but the management was distinctly sub-par. If your trip comes off without a hitch, you will have a fantastic, five-star experience; if you have problems and have to deal with management, you may leave with a sour taste and questions about what others lies have been told to you.

To get the negative out of the way, it started with the inexplicable policy that a thirteen-year old child had to have their own room, even though they allow two and even three younger children in the parents’ room. We agreed to pay the significant cost increment because we were promised adjoining rooms. However, when we were shown to our rooms, one was upstairs and one down, and the manager told us that we had not reserved adjoining rooms – he changed his story only after we showed him the email from reservations. Ironically, the proposed solution was to put the thirteen-year-old into our room, which we initially were told was impossible.

I wouldn’t even be mentioning this glitch except for the dishonesty that presented itself at checkout. As we were checking in, I asked if our invoice could be split into rooms and board on one hand and the safari on the other – we were on an R&R trip and the employer only reimbursed room and board. The manager assured me that he could provide me with that split. And at check out, as the van was loading and others were waiting, he handed us an envelope that he said contained the split. We checked before boarding, and discovered it was nothing of the kind. When confronted, the manager simply said that he wouldn’t satisfy my request. It seemed like he had my money, so he couldn’t be bothered to even apologize.

Moving on, we were at the Gondwana Lodge, and the rooms were very pleasant – spacious, lovely decorations, and a bathroom that I’d like to have at home. The deck had comfortable chairs and a hammock, and a great view over the veldt and lake, with mountains in the background. The food was always good and sometimes fantastic – the eggs benedict were a bit dry, but the kudu was sublime. Service was friendly and attentive.

Our “ranger,” Anthea, was superb. She was knowledgeable, friendly, great with the young children sharing our vehicle, and very good at finding game to view. The lodge managed the game viewing very well – each ranger reported what they had located, but that did not produce a hoard of other vehicles. I don’t think we ever had more than one other vehicle with us when we were stopped, so we never felt crowded. The roads are very rough in some places, and there’s little to be done about that, especially when you’re dropping into the riverbed or looking for hippo in the reed beds upriver. It was chilly this time of year, so we were provided with blankets and, in the morning, hot water bottles. Each time we returned, we were greeted with warm towels to wipe the dust off, and, in the evening, with port or sherry, or hot chocolate, to help transition to dinner.

The game diversity is impressive, especially since much of the range was goat farm just over a decade ago. They’ve made mistakes – we didn’t see one kind of antelope because the few left are hiding high in the mountains after being decimated by the lions – but they seem to be working hard at understanding the limits of the range and balancing wet and drought years. Of the bigger animals, we saw white lions, a jackal, and cheetahs up very close – they couldn’t be bothered to divert around our vehicle – springbok, rhino, zebra, and African Buffalo from a few yards away; elephants at more of a distance; and eland, Oryx, and red hartebeests at more than a hundred meters. We were not able to find the hippos, and leopards and hyenas are just too uncertain to spend time searching for them.

It’s hard to image another lodge doing a better job in most areas, but the management culture needs some refinement before it can earn the five stars that many of the pieces deserve.

  • Stayed: April 2014, travelled with family
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3  Thank William O
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 February 2014

My wife and 10 year old son joined me for 2 nights of safari in February 2014. There is much to praise about Sanbona. The star of the show here is the Karoo - a glorious yet neglected part of South Africa with a terrain unlike any I've seen. Very dry and sandy soil but with a range of succulents and plants each seemingly in a different shade of green that produce a mosaic like beauty. The Sanbona folks excel service wise - our guide (Anthea) was a fountain of knowledge and worked extremely well with my 10 year old son. In fact, the Gondwana lodge seems to pride themselves on their work with children (especially younger ones) and we saw a lot of other families. The food was also tasty, particularly given the relatively isolated location. The rooms were spacious and stylish with nice appointments and views.

One thing to keep in mind though, particularly if you have spent time in Kruger or other wildlife reseves and that is that the game density at Sanbona is relatively thin and there is much less of an approach here on spotting the "big 5" as opposed to learning about the other supposedly less glamorous flora and fauna. The plus is that the isolation affords greater solitude meaning that you are never clashing with other cars or vehicles which can also be a problem at other larger reserves. All in all, Sanbona is a special place but if you're deadset on seeing big game close up you should probably look elsewhere.

  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled with family
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3  Thank Ntsoelengoe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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