my stay at sanbona wildlife reserve

My stay at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

I recently published my first airline review of the flight with Lufthansa to Cape Town. Now I want to share with you my first hotel review about a very special place, which is more than just a hotel. During my three weeks of vacation in South Africa, I stayed two nights at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve .

I had a lot of activities and places on my list. One of my top once was to do a safari, on which I would have the chance to see the big five. The african travel agency "Going to Capetown"  recommended to overnight at a lodge, which is located inside a wildlife reserve and offers daily game drives. The photos of the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve looked stunning. At first I was not convinced, because of the the high rate. But in the end every penny was worth spending.

Sunset vibes - Open Land cruiser for the game drives

The Main Gate of the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is about 270 km (approx. 3 hours) away from Cape Town. The landscape changes from green valleys to a more rough and mountainous countryside. A little bit of Jurassic Park feeling kicked in when waiting the big gate to be opened. A short drive on a gravel road took us to a Welcome Lodge, where we had to leave our car behind. After a warm welcome of the manager and some refreshments a transport took us to our lodge, where we would stay for the next two days. The ride lasted about 45 mins and we already got some amazing impressions of the landscape.

Insider Tipp: Try to manage to use the earliest pick up time at the Welcome Lodge, so it will be more relaxed and you will have the chance to go on a game drive in the evening.

Main lodge in the middle of the rock formation

The lodge

The reserve consists of three different lodge categories. We stayed at the most exclusive and luxurious lodge, called Dwyka Tented Lodge. The location is truly impressive. The nine tented rooms are concealed by striking rock formations. The roof of the "room" reminds of a tend but the inside can keep up with a five star hotel. The design of the tents invoke the feeling of a pioneering adventure with a modern touch. Luxury safari at its best!

"Hotelroom" of Dwyka Tented Lodge

A tented room for two adults features:

  • private deck with heated jacuzzi
  • outdoor shower
  • big comfortable bed
  • ensuite bathroom with bath tub
  • air condition (hot and warm)
  • private mini bar
  • amazing views (leave the TV off)
Luxury tent with a own private deck and amazing views Dwyka Tented Lodge with a private deck and jacuzzi

In the centre of the tented lodges is the main building, which features a cozy lounge, the reception and the restaurant (also open air). In the lounge is a telescope to watch the stars. I highly recommend to use it since there is only little artificial light. Adjacent to it is a smaller tent, which features a relaxation retreat. I booked a full body massage.

Total of nine tented lodges at Dwyka Tented Lodge

Wifi: You do not really need it. It is a good feeling not to be reachable from time to time. In the main lodge is Wifi provided with decent speed. The signal reached only some rooms.

Insider Tipp: Do not leave the jacuzzi cover open with the lights on after sunset. A lot of animals will join you in the water.

Game drives

The interactive game drives last up to three hours and take place in the tranquil moods of sunrise and sunset. Since it was summer in South Africa the day started at 05:00 am with a nice wake up call of the ranger. The game drive starts at 05:30 am in a comfortable open Land Cruiser.

Game drive with a comfortable Land cruiser last 3 hours (shot with my gopro)

In think we had the best ranger I could imagine. Owen explained everything in detail and was able to show us all major animals really close. We got to see the big five: elephants, rhinos, buffalos, lions and leopards. Additionally we got to see giraffes, zebras and many more. In all situation we felt safe, even when we stepped out of the Land cruiser to watch the cheaters eat. This experiences I will not forget in a lifetime! The Sanbona Wildlife Reserve aims to restore the ecological balance, that is why the animals are protected by a fence. Therefore the probability to see many animals in a short time is relatively high.

Elephants crossing our path Guided safari with an experienced ranger

Evening game drives offer a spectacular sunset over the Little Karoo. With a glass of gin tonic we enjoyed the amazing colors on top of a hill while the sun was setting. After arriving back at the camp you we offered a wet towel and drinks in the lounge to reflect the experiences of the day together.

The display of lights when the sun sets are spectacular

Food and Service

As you know I am a "Foodie Pilot" which means I am really picky when it comes to food. Keeping in mind that the next supermarket is definitely not around the corner, the menu offered a good variety. I really liked the south african cuisine, which was  tasty. I especially liked the BBQ evening, which offered many flavors and dishes I never had tasted before. The atmosphere during dinner was cozy since there are only a maximum of 18 guests in the lodge at the same time.

The staff was really friendly and the service during meals was really good. The manager of the lodge was really caring and we had some good laughs with her.

Lazy white lion - It was amazing to see them live in nature On the way back to the lodge. Little bush fires due to the dryness in summer

What to pack for the adventure:

  • Safari hat
  • Binoculars
  • Outdoor shoes
  • Camera
  • Warm clothing
  • Sun screen

It is not solely a classic hotel review. It is more a review of an adventure in the wilderness. I recommend to stay at least two days at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. I really enjoyed the time and I was sad to leave this unique place on earth.

The price during high season was over 800 Euros (night/room), which included meals, accommodation, game drives and much more. Nevertheless I had high expectations, which were surpassed. In the end every penny was worth spending for this amazing experience.

Have you been on a safari before?

Your Pilot Patrick

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what is in my bag

What's in my bag? - My packing tips

In my last blog post I shared my experience in Lufthansa’s Business Class to Cape Town with you. On this flight I was allowed to have four pieces of luggage. But who takes so much on a journey? You will be surprised about the number of pieces private jet customers take on a flight. One person with eight suitcases is no exception. In this blog post I will show you what is in my bag and additionally I will reveal my packing tips.

My home is where my suitcase is!

My Rimowa luggage 'Topas' in front of the Private Jet Citation XLS

Now I want to show you what I have in my bags and give you some advices when packing!

Through my profession as private jet pilot I became a professional traveler, who knows who to pack correctly. I am usually on duty for about seven days in the row and I sleep 15 days in a month in different hotels. Everyday I have to unpack and pack, unload and load and carry my luggage from one place to another. That is why the quality and the weight of my suitcase it vital.

Travel in style - aluminum case during a stay in Wildlife Reserve in South Africa

I am really convinced of the products of Rimowa. It is a German company founded in 1898. They put a lot of emphasis on the quality and practicability of their luggage. Especially their products with four wheel are handy. I currently use two products of the ‘Topas’ series, which are made of aluminum. They are little heavier than the once out of polycarbonate, but I prefer this design and they are almost indestructible.

In my hand luggage:

My travel essentials

My checked luggage:

  • Clothing (essential clothing which are easy to combine)
  • Wash bag (organic products of Lavera and Speick)
  • Two pair of shoes (one for sports)
  • TRX suspension trainer (perfect tool for a quick workout in the hotel room)
  • Cocktail shaker to prepare rice protein shakes
Home is where my suitcase is - What's in my bag?

My packing tips:

  • Use the space between the handle bar on the bottom of the suitcase, perfect to place socks or underwear.
  • Do not put valuables in your checked luggage to prevent them from theft. For example electronics, which can be easily detected by the x-ray.
  • Put important documents and essentials for the first day in your hand luggage in case your suitcase gets lost.
  • When taking shirts, I suggest to put them folded in a plastic or fabric bag. This way they stay flat and you do not need to iron them again
  • Put your wash bag in a plastic bag, so in case something leaks your clothing stays clean.
  • I take testers instead of heavy perfume flacons to safe weight.
  • I fill up small containers with the organic shampoo from home so I do not have to take the whole bottle.
  • When packing a suit I recommend to carry it in a clothes bag so the fabric does not get crumbled. An additional small personal items, like a purse or clothes bag, is usually free in economy on all major airlines.
  • Always put your items in the same spot. This saves time when packing and searching.
  • Use a suitcase with an international TSA lock when traveling by plane.
After landing in Rostov an Don with the Citation XLS

My bags

Besides my two silver cases I have a food bag for my journeys. In which you will find fruits, nuts, humus, carrots, couscous salad, coconut water, whole wheat bread and boiled eggs most of the time. Some colleagues think I am crazy, that I carry all this food with me. But this way I can have good food while on duty and I can omit the unhealthy catering on board and in hotels. Read in my blog post “I am a Foodie pilot” more about my healthy eating habits.

Me packing my small Rimowa - healthy food always on board

Happy landings and a well-packed suitcase for your next journey!

Which personal items do you always pack when you going on a journey? I always pack swim shorts. ;-)

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Your Pilot Patrick

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