20 – 22 May 2012 – experiencing Sanbona

When someone asks me what my most memorable experiences out in the wild have been, it’s always been an easy answer. Definitely Antarctica and the Sub-antarctic Islands, seeing the ice and 250 000 King Penguins. And Uganda, coming face to face with Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees. This weekend wasn’t about one spectacular moment, but a series of moments and experiences that I rank up there with the other two…

We had the pleasure of spending two nights at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve to see if we could make a small dent in our challenge list. For those of you that don’t know, Trevor and I are trying very hard to find as many of the species of birds, mammals, reptiles and frogs (including vagrants and introductions) that occur in the Western Cape and you would be surprised as to just how many there actually are. This country has more to offer than just the Kruger National Park…

We arrived at Sanbona in the late morning taking a slow drive to our lodge, Tilney Manor. The Manor comprises 6 large open plan suites with a relaxation retreat facility, pool, dining rooms and a lounge. Our suite was absolutely beautiful with a huge bath, outdoor showers and a private veranda. Everything that we could want and more…

The sign says it all…

Inside the lodge

Our suite

The people were very warm and friendly when we arrived and we finally got to meet Keir and Alouise Lynch for the first time in person, after having had an “e-friendship” with them for some time already. We would be spending the rest of our time there with them and how lucky did that turn out to be in the end.

Alouise and Keir

That afternoon, after a great lunch, we took our first game drive. We had a great sighting of a Black-backed Jackal feeding on termites. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Jackal being so comfortable so close to a vehicle, especially in the Karoo. They usually run a mile!

Heading out on a game drive

Black-backed Jackal

We then made our way down to the dam to see the two adult Common Hippo’s with a little one, a new tick for our challenge, and on the other side of the dam were a herd of African Elephants also with little ones, also another tick for our challenge. We were doing well…

Dam at Sanbona

We were heading back to where the Lions were last reported, when we noticed a dog-like animal on the side of a mountain. A Brown Hyena!!!!! Wow, what a surprise. Neither Trevor nor I had ever seen a Brown Hyena, despite being to the right places on numerous occasions. And here was one out in the middle of the day! Magnificent! We spent some time with her taking many, many pictures. She even puffed herself up after a Cape Spurfowl had startled her. Just incredible!

Brown Hyena

Brown Hyena

We eventually dragged ourselves away from the Hyena and made our way back to where the Lions were reported, just in time to see them making their way towards where supper was probably going to come from. With the light fading fast, we managed to get some pictures of the white lion and her two companions before they headed off into the sunset.



Back at the Lodge, it was time for dinner. All our meals at Tilney Manor were exquisite and that evening was no different. But even better than the meals were the great conversations we had with Keir and Alouise. Hearing about their encounters in the wild, the history of Sanbona and all the ghost stories from Tilney Manor, some of which they had experienced themselves…

The day ended with a night drive to the southern side of the reserve in anticipation of a little bunny. With all the clothes in my suitcase on, we headed out into the cold. We drove for hours and managed to see a few Spotted Eagle Owls, Scrub Hare and an African Wild Cat. Then we spotted something in the road running away from us. An Aardvark!! We had not seen one of these in quite some time and was definitely another addition to our challenge list. Unfortunately, it didn’t really stick around for any pictures. A few hours later, Keir spotted a rabbit in the road. A Riverine Rabbit!!!! This rabbit ranks as the world’s thirteenth rarest mammal and an endemic to and the rarest mammal in South Africa. Unfortunately, it didn’t stick around for any pictures either, but it was a new mammal for both of us and a definite tick on our challenge. What an evening!! Cold and happy, we eventually got back to the lodge at around 1:30am and fell into a very welcome and warm bed.

Ready for our night drive

Spotted Eagle Owl

Scrub Hare

African Wild Cat

Considering the time we got back the previous night, we started the next day at a respectable time soaking in the beautiful view from our room. We even managed to save a butterfly, an African Migrant, from drowning in our shower. A lifer butterfly!!

African Migrant

After breakfast, we hit the road, heading north to see what we could find. The list was endless of all the things we saw. On the mammal side, we had Southern Giraffe, Cape Mountain Zebra, Burchell’s Zebra, White Rhino, Springbok, Gemsbok, Greater Kudu, Common Eland, African Elephant, etc. The Rhino sighting was amazing – you don’t often see them within 3m of the vehicle and you just cannot believe that people would harm such a creature. It’s sad and disgusting to think what man is sometimes capable of…


Cape Mountain Zebra

African Elephant

There were a also number of birds including South African Shelduck, Great Crested Grebe and a whole host of other waterbirds, many raptors including Black-Shouldered Kite, Secretarybird, Jackal Buzzard and even a Gabar Goshawk which was another tick for our challenge and then also a number of species typical of the Karoo habitat like Ludwig’s Bustard, Karoo Chat and Karoo Eremomela.

South African Shelduck

Black-shouldered Kite

Gabar Goshawk

We also added a couple of butterflies to our list: The African Migrant from our shower, Cape Black-eye, Meadow White and a number that refused to sit still for a picture! And, of course, there were a few reptiles including a Pulchell’s Sand Lizard which was a lifer for me! This place was really delivering a biodiversity overload…:)

Cape Black-eye

Meadow White

Pulchell’s Sand Lizard

The day was filled with so many great sightings that we even forgot to go back for lunch which the chef rectified with an early supper (after we plunged into the cookie jar)…

After dinner, we headed off for another night drive hoping that we might see another of the rare rabbits. It was a quiet night drive at first with a few Spotted Eagle Owls and a Scrub Hare or two, when Keir spotted another Aardvark and this time it wasn’t running away. It ran into a clearing which allowed us to get a picture or two and then came running straight toward the vehicle. Amazing. It’s not every day that one can’t take a picture of an Aardvark because it’s too close..!!


After all that excitement, we stopped and had a cup of hot chocolate under the starry skies and debated how many people have actually seen an Aardvark and how many wouldn’t even appreciate such a sighting.

We had been out there for a few hours already and I could sense that we were going to have to head back to the accommodation soon without another sighting of the Rabbit, when Alouise calmly asked Keir to stop and reverse and right next to road was another Riverine Rabbit. WOW!! We took a few pictures and then it slowly started moving away. Unbelievable!!!! Very satisfied, we headed back to the lodge.

Riverine Rabbit

Unfortunately after breakfast the next day, it was time for us to head off home. We reluctantly packed up and watched as the Bush Karoo Rats all came out to see us on our way. It had been a memorable weekend and the sightings had been amazing. We added two mammals, a reptile (for me) and a butterfly to our life lists and a good number to our challenge list. The Reserve and the accommodation was fantastic. But the best part was meeting such like-minded people like Keir and Alouise and I sense that we will be seeing a lot of them in the future…:)

Bush Karoo Rat


~ by hardakerwildlife on June 14, 2012.

One Response to “20 – 22 May 2012 – experiencing Sanbona”

  1. What an extraordinary trip you had, with the most amazing photographs, I will definitely be following these entries from now on.

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