Submit Press release  eTN Team ·  Advertising  ·  eTN Awards  - Worldtourism Events    

Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

British tourists sue Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

Chris Smyth and Sadie Gray  Nov 19, 2009

Eight British tourists are suing a South African safari park after they became trapped by a pride of wild lions when their tour vehicle overturned.

The group are claiming hundreds of thousands of pounds for injuries and post-traumatic stress allegedly suffered when they were exposed to the “threatening conduct of the lions” at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve northeast of Cape Town.

One of the animals also stole a boot from the tourists, they say.

Papers lodged at Cape Town High Court claim that the injuries were due to the irresponsible actions of Natasha Van der Merwe, a park employee.

According to the papers, the vehicle she was driving toppled over as she tried to reverse away from a pride of lions in March 2007.

The lions then approached the stranded tourists, causing them distress.

Richard Cornish, from Wimbledon,southwest London, who was on a honeymoon with his wife Sandy, suffered concussion, three broken ribs and internal bleeding during the accident, the papers claim. His wife suffered “severe shock and anguish”.

Other members of the group say that they suffered heavy bruises and post- traumatic stress disorder and are claiming a total of £582,000 for loss of income and medical bills.

One of the group said yesterday: “The lions were about a metre and a half from us, and one went off with my boot.”

Michael Hawker, 71, from Solihull, said: “The whole experience was terrifying and frightening, and I’ll do anything to make sure nobody like us has to go through that again. We were lucky it wasn’t worse — it could have happened to people with children.”

The group was eventually driven to safety by another vehicle.

Along with the Cornishes and Mr Hawker, the group includes Mr Hawker’s wife Patricia, Charles and Fiona Buck, from Chiddingfold, Surrey, and David and Susan Shearman from Highbury, North London.

A spokesman for the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve said that it would fight the claim in court. Acting Judge Alasdair Sholto-Douglas has postponed the case until February.

The reserve, which is three hours’ drive from Cape Town, charges up to £740 per night and is one of the largest privately owned game reserves in South Africa.

It offers dawn and dusk tours of its 54,000 hectares (210 sq miles) at the foot of the Warmwaterberg mountains, led by a qualified ranger and using open-topped Landcruisers to give tourists a view of the birds and big game.

The reserve claims to have the only free-roaming pride of white lions in the region after a successful programme to reintroduce the species into the area. Sanbona also boasts black rhinos, elephants, hippos, giraffes, cheetahs and leopards, and is a protected habitat for the endangered riverine rabbit.

Safari holidays are not without their dangers. In 2006 Patrick Smith, 34, of London, was trampled to death by an elephant while on his honeymoon in the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya. He was with a guide and only 300m from their camp.

British tourists sue Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
Lions at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve /


Premium Partners