HISTORY OF SANBONA WILDLIFE RESERVE
In 1998 Linton Projects (Pty) Ltd. conceptualised the establishment of a private nature reserve, 27 000 hectares in extent, named the Cape Wildlife Reserve. This reserve was concentrated in the south and west area of the Warmwaterberg and was envisaged to operate a resort complex within a private nature reserve. 39 individually owned lodges along the banks of the Kalkoenshoek River were proposed, and permission was granted for the development in January 2000.
This endeavour, however, was not financially successful. And in 2002 the reserve was acquired by a private company. It was extended to the north and east, incorporating land adjoining the Warmwaterberg Forest Reserve and towards the Anysberg Nature Reserve. Altogether, 19 agricultural farms, previously utilised for wheat and lucerne crops, domestic animal production (cattle, sheep and goats), game farming, recreational farming, and tourism were bought. The reserve size was increased to over 54 000 hectares, forming what is today, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve.
The focus was shifted from private lodge development to the creation of exclusive five star accommodation for nature based tourism.
Tilney Manor was opened in 2002. Tilney is an original farmhouse dating back to 1898 and is named after Thomas Tilney. He was born on 15th July 1816 in North Shields (then called Northumberland) England. A successful marine captain, harbour master and, finally, a magistrate in the Cape Civil Service, he eventually became the Resident Magistrate of Swellendam, and passed away in 1899. Today, Tilney Manor bears his family name and still falls within the jurisdiction of Swellendam Municipality.
In 2009 two new lodges, Gondwana Family Lodge and Dwyka Tented Lodge, were completed, adding to the historical Tilney Manor. Dwyka is set in a magnificent horseshoe bend of a dry riverbed with a breathtaking view of the cliffs that protect it, while Gondwana family lodge is a modern thatched two-story lodge with awe-inspiring views of the Bellair Dam and the distant picturesque Anysberg Mountains.
In 2011 ownership was assumed by Dubai World Africa and the reserve was restructured under the Shamwari Group.
In 2012, a seasonal Explorer Camp was initiated, a two day walking safari with luxurious tents as accommodation, giving a sense of how the original safaris were enjoyed. The location changes each summer in order for repeat guests to truly get a sense of this unique Karoo wilderness area.
In 2015 Sanbona was purchased by the Caleo Foundation, a non-profit, conservation organisation – the birth of a new beginning for Sanbona Wildlife Reserve then began. Existing conservation projects will continue and be enhanced to ensure the vital protection of this pristine Karoo wilderness area.