Traverse the landscape of Sanbona Wildlife Reserve with a qualified ranger in comfortable open Landcruisers. During the drive, be it in the early morning or for sundowners, various species of plants, animals, big game and birds can be seen.
Sundowner evening drives offer spectacular displays of light as the evening sun sets over the Little Karoo.
Sanbona has initiated an ambitious rehabilitation programme that aims to introduce White Lions into the wild. This rare animal has been virtually wiped out in the Timbavati region, where they are endemic. Records indicate that the White Lion was spotted in the wild as far back as 1925. Its whiteness is not due to albinism, but due to a recessive gene - similar to that found in the rare white tigers of Asia. However, it is not a separate species of lion from the typical tawny African lion. We have integrated some wild tawny lions with the white lions in order to increase the success of the white lions to be self-sustaining and free-ranging.
The African Elephant is the world's largest land animal, and a bull elephant can reacha shoulder height of up to 4 metres anda weight of 5 - 6 metric tons. This powerful pachyderm used to live anywhere south of the Sahara where water and trees occurred but since the massive decline in numbers during the 1970s and 1980s from ivory poaching, the Elephant’s distribution has become less widespread. Possibly the most versatile herbivore of all, the Elephant's trunk enables it to feed from the ground to a height of over 6 metres - higher than a giraffe can reach. Elephants inSanbona vary their diet from thetrees, bushes, and grass to a range of succulents. Elephants roamed the Karoo in large herds up to the late 1700s.
The Leopard is Africa's largest spotted cat, because it is stockier in build to the cheetah and serval. The average mass of a fully grown male leopard is around 60kg and the female is considerably lighter at an average 32kg. However Leopards in the Western Cape are known to be considerably smaller and lighter in weight, and a male may be as light as 25kg. Leopards generally have a golden coat, with brown to black spots on the head, legs and tail, and larger 'rosettes' on the main body. It has a wider distribution than any of the other large cats due to its ability to live anywhere - from rocky hills and mountain ranges to forests and semi-desert areas. Predominantly solitary, this animal hunts by stalking and pouncing. It is an opportunistic hunter that will eat whatever food is available in its home range of about 400 square kilometers. Sightings of this magnificent cat are very rare.
The African Buffalo differs dramatically from the American Buffalo, which is actually a Bison, but was erroneously referred to as Buffalo by early American settlers with limited scientific knowledge. The African Buffalo is similar in shape to a domestic cow, but of a larger, heavier build. Adults are black to charcoal grey whilst the young have a reddish tinge. Both sexes have horns that are heavy and widely curved, with a massive boss on the males. The African Buffalo is an unselective grazer that eats leaves and grass, favouring areas with shady trees and a ready water supply
This is the largest of the five rhino species. It is also referred to as the square lipped rhino because of its broad, square muzzle designed for its feeding habits. There are two horns on the face and the skin is rough and grey. White rhinos are grazers, preferring short-grassed areas with cover and water. They are active any time of the day or night but tend to avoid the midday heat. The white rhino used to be widely distributed but was heavily poached in the past. They have since been reintroduced into private reserves all over South Africa.
The Brown Hyena is a large dog-like animal covered in a long shaggy dark brown to black pelt with tawny and white markings on the neck and shoulders. Its muzzle and face are black. The lower limbs are striped, with longer front legs creating a sloping effect down to a bushy tail. It is generally found in arid areas. The Hyena is active for most of the night. It is a solitary foraging animal, although living in social clans. Brown hyenas not only scavenge but feed on insects, fruit, eggs, ground nesting birds and small mammals.
This is a medium sized, dog-like carnivore. It has a characteristic black saddle with white flecks that extends to the tip of its bushy tail. The rest of the body is reddish brown in colour. The ears are large and pointed. Black-backed jackals occur over most the country from desert to mountainous areas, but it prefers drier areas. They have a very wide diet ranging from scavenging, hunting and eating fruit.
The fastest moving land-based hunter in the world, the Cheetah's lithe grace and speed are legendary. It has a uniform buff colouring with black spots with distinctive dark tear-shaped markings on the face, black bands and white tip to its tail. Cheetahs live on open grassland and savannah woodland extending into arid regions but avoid forests. The Cheetah preys on a variety of prey from small animals like hares to a range of antelope, including springbok through to kudu and young eland. It is typically diurnal with hunting mostly taking place during the cooler parts of the day, and usually involves a high-speed chase.
Hippos are very large, barrel-shaped animals with short legs. They can weigh up to 1.5 metric tons. The skin is naked, smooth and predominantly dark grey with pink tinge at the eyes and ears, throat, belly and inside some skin folds. They live in open stretches of permanent water or riverine pools with gently sloping sandbanks that are convenient resting places. Hippos typically graze on grass during night and rest in or near the water during the day. Sometimes they graze far from water especially during dry seasons, but prefer freshly sprouted, short growth that is not only tasty, but most nutritious.
The giraffe apparently gets its name from the Arabic “xirapha” which means “one who walks swiftly”. The Giraffe is the tallest animal in the world. It has a beautiful lattice pattern consisting of irregular patches covering the body. Both the male and female have knob-like horns. They once occurred widely in Savannah countries south of the Sahara, but are now broken into numerous isolated populations across Southern Africa. They feed from a wide range of trees and bushes. Giraffe were indigenous to semi arid savannah regions in Africa but their numbers declined. However, in recent years the giraffe has been widely introduced to new reserves.
This kind of Zebra generally has broad stripes, with lighter shadow stripes in between the darker ones. Although predominantly a grazer, a Plain's Zebra will occasionally browse, or even eat herbs. Savannah plains are the favoured environment; however open areas of woodland, open scrub and grassland are also acceptable, if water is available. Herds of Zebra were recorded in the Klein Karoo in 1799.
The Springbok is a medium sized antelope and has cinnamon brown upperparts with white under parts and a dark-brown stripe on its flanks. It is found in arid and semi arid scrub and grasslands. A Springbok changes its diet according to availability of food. It grazes on the leaves and sprouts of Karoo bushes but will eat plants that are unpalatable and toxic to other species. In the past springbok migrated in tens or hundreds of thousands, probably in response to drought in the Kalahari and Karoo. It is believed that in the late 1770s herds of up to 30 000 Springbok roamed these plains.
This is the region's largest antelope. Both the male and the female have horns, however a mature male can be identified by the darker shading around his neck. The male is also much heavier and larger than the female. Very adaptable, the Eland can be found on any terrain from semi-desert shrub-veldt to mountain grassland where it grazes on leaves and drinks water whenever available. The mountains of the Klein Karoo have provided the Eland with a refuge from human encroachment ever since its first local sighting by settlers in 1816.
This is a large antelope, with impressively long straight horns on both the males and females. Its bold black and white facial markings and long black tail are easy identifying features. Preferring open, dry landscapes in semi-desert and savannah areas, it grazes and browses on the local vegetation. Evolution has gifted the Gemsbok with the ability to subsist without water for long periods of time.
Narrow white stripes down the flanks together with a white bar across the face at eye-level make the Kudu easy to identify. It also has particularly large ears. The male is a brown-grey colour while the female has a cinnamon tinge. Only males have horns, and these rise from the top of the head in wide spirals. Found in savannah woodland, including rocky areas and slopes, but is not found in deserts or forests. The Kudu browses on a wide range of plants, with the Acacia species being particular favourites. Records from 1875 confirm the presence of Kudu in the Klein Karoo.
Red Hartebeest are one of the fastest antelope and can reach up to 70 km/h. This antelope has unusually bright colouring. Most of the coat is a glossy reddish-brown, with a black blaze on the face and black colouring on the outsides of the legs with a pale rump patch. Both the male and female have horns. The Red Hartebeest is found in semi-desert savannah areas, but may occur in open woodland. They graze and browse and are not dependant on water.
This Wildebeest is endemic to South Africa. Both males and females sport characteristic beards, hairy noses and distinctive long white tails - which its other vernacular name refers to, the White-tailed Gnu. Gnu is a Khoi name given to this animal due to the nasal bellowing snort that they make. The Black Wildebeest is predominantly a grazer, but during the cold winter months it will browse on Karroid bushes if necessary. It is usually found in open plains with water.
With its long, thin neck and exaggeratedly pointed, upright ears, the Grey Rhebok conveys an aura of aristocratic elegance. Its horns are straight and stand proudly upright. Predominantly a browser, this buck will also graze if necessary. The Grey Rhebok is usually found in the vicinity of rocky hills, mountain slopes and plateaus.
This small antelope has a shoulder height of only 60 centimetres. Also known as the Grey Duiker, this buck has greyish-buff or reddish-yellow upper parts, with a paler belly. Its forehead and forelegs are darker, with a black blaze on its face. With its tiny size, the Duiker needs to be a master at blending into its surroundings - whether it be karoo scrub, dense bush, grassland, woodland or forest fringe. Contrary to its delicate appearance, this is one of the few antelope that is not strictly herbivorous. As well as browsing from a wide range of trees and bushes, the duiker eats fruit, and has even been known to eat nesting birds.
Even smaller than a duiker, the large ears with black and white stripes inside them provide an easy way to identify this small antelope. They are bright rufous colour with white belly and buttocks. Only the male has horns. The Steenbok prefers to live in a region with open grassland that has patches of tall grasses or bushes for shelter. They are mixed feeders eating grass, seed-pods, leaves and fruit.
At first glance the Klipspringer appears to be weeping. This is caused by the large black 'tear marks' at the inner corners of its eyes, which are glands that they use to mark their territory. The antelope's colouring is brown with white underparts. Sexes are quite distinct in appearance with the female the heavier of the two and the male equipped with horns. The Klipspringer earned its name (which translates to 'rock jumpers') for its ability to move quickly over rocky terrain and ridges. Although its main diet consists of leaves, it resorts to grazing when necessary.
At first glance the posture of a Grysbok resembles that of a duiker - but with a shorter neck. Predominantly reddish brown in colour, the Grysbok's body is sprinkled with white touches, contrasting with the yellower brown of its face, neck, legs and flanks, and its buff underbelly. It has distinctive pale rings around its eyes and large ears. The Grysbok lives in thick scrub and bush, including fynbos, where it supplements its grazing with browsing on leaves and fruit.
The world's largest bird, the Ostrich has been farmed extensively in South Africa at different times for its fashionable feathers. Males are glossy black and white plumed with the females sporting a less glamorous grey and white plumage. An Ostrich will eat anything, which is probably one of the factors that have ensured its successful survival all over southern Africa.
Only known to exist in the central Karoo, a riverine rabbit was discovered on Sanbona in 2006. Riverine Rabbits are the 13th most endangered mammal in the world. Sanbona is currently the only protected area with Riverine Rabbit populations that provides sufficient space and diversity for ecological processes to function naturally. The riverine rabbit has long ears and a characteristic dark brown band along both sides of the lower jaw. They usually browse on shrubs but will graze when grass is available.