In 2014, the CALEO Foundation acquired the largest privately owned protected area in the Western Cape, a 54'000 hectare reserve by the name Sanbona, which includes free roaming BIG FIVE and is also home to smaller and highly endangered fauna and flora such as the Riverine Rabbit and certain fynbos and succulent plants.
You have to be careful with African game reserves. Many of them are little more than zoos or fronts for illegal caged-hunting operations. Of the handful of genuine wildlife reserves within easy reach of Cape Town, Sanbona is one of them - and by far the largest in the Western Cape. Thousands of animals – including the Big Five – have 54,000 hectares of plains and mountains to explore, with no cages or fences, except the one marking the perimeter of the reserve.
From 2002, indigenous antelope species & white rhino were reintroduced, restoring the ecological balance and providing natural prey for the existing, leopard, brown hyena, jackal and caracal traditionally persecuted by decades of stock farming. In 2003 the conditions were suitable for the release of lion and cheetah, a return to the Klein Karoo for the first time in 300 years. Sanbona has signed a Stewardship Agreement with CapeNature, the provincial conservation authority. This agreement implies that Sanbona will be managed under strict conservation ethics, ensuring Provincial Nature Reserve status with an annually audited Reserve Management Plan.
Sanbona comprises 3 major biomes, Succulent Karoo, Thicket & Fynbos. The Fynbos found on Sanbona is known as Renosterveld, one of the most threatened vegetation communities in the Cape Floral Kingdom. Less than 1% of Renosterveld is formally protected. The Quartz Fields of the Succulent Karoo are a very special habitat characterised by beds of angular quartz debris. They are home to a flora of minute succulent shrubs, mostly members of the Mesembryanthemaceae (Mesembs or Stone Plants). Most of the component species are local or regional endemics. The genus Gibbaeum, has diversified extensively on the Little Karoo quartz patches.
Unique Rock Formations
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve has examples of the unique Cape Fold Mountain rock formations formed some 350 million years ago. Continental collisions, the submergence of the earth's crust and the cataclysmic influence of the oceans have all contributed to the magnificent landscape. The geology consists of sedimentary formations of the Devonian era, the beginning of life on earth and trace fossils of various marine invertebrates have been found.
Wilderness Area & Riverine Rabbit
This area covers 5'000ha within Sanbona and is situated in the mountainous western area of the reserve where no infrastructure exists. This area is managed with strict wilderness protocols.
In 2004, a surprise discovery of the critically endangered Riverine Rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis) near Touwsriver was the first recorded sighting of the species south of the Great Escarpment - and in the Fynbos biome. During July of 2006, this species was discovered on Sanbona. The discovery lead to a survey conducted during September 2006 in a combined effort between Sanbona, CapeNature and the Endangered Wildlife Trust Riverine Rabbit Workgroup during which five more rabbits were found in the southern section (Renosterveld) of Sanbona. Sanbona is currently the only protected area with Riverine Rabbit populations that provides sufficient space and diversity for ecological processes to function naturally.