The main destination for our anniversary trip is South Africa. First trip to Africa for my wife, and we wanted to experience a safari. Our time here was shorter than ideal, although too long if you ask our daughter who remained back at home, so we had to find something relatively close to Cape Town. This is how we settled on Aquila Private Game Reserve.
Aquila Private Game Reserve – What is it?
This is a large game park, and they advertise as the closest to Cape Town. Day trips are available, but that would make for a long day. We stayed on site for 2 nights. That was probably sufficient. Weather wasn’t great, and I think kind of figured out the routine after several game drives. I’ve never been on a safari before, but this felt a bit controlled. This isn’t really a negative, and this isn’t like a zoo train or something. The park is huge, and other than the lion enclosure, animals can roam anywhere, and there are no guarantees to see anything.
We saw 4 of the big 5, note that there are no leopards in the park. Various room types are available depending on the number of people in your party or how much space is desired. There are standard hotel rooms in the lodge, and some cottages which is where we stayed. Our cottage had a one bedroom, the building we were in had 2 rooms, and there were several similar buildings nearby.
We booked transportation through Aquila. It wouldn’t be a terribly difficult drive to do, as most of the way is on major roads, but due to heavy rain, we had several delays, including significant road closures on our way back to Cape Town, which turned an approximately 2 hour drive into almost 7 hours. Was glad to have a professional driver for that. Private transfers are available, but we booked a shared van. Plenty of space for a comfortable ride…even when ours was extra long.
We booked a Karoo cottage, basically a typical hotel room configuration, with King sized bed, bathroom, outdoor shower, desk, and a nice patio. It was cool and rainy for much of the time we stayed, and the outdoor shower was not desirable to us. But we did use the spa for warm indoor showers, which were available as overnight guests. Living in Milwaukee, my wife and I certainly are used to cold weather, but while temperatures barely dropped below 50F/10C during our stay, it felt much colder. We used the fire place in our room while sleeping to stay warm. Our first night, it burned out quickly, and since we didn’t have any way to restart the fire, it was a chilly night.
Wow. Seeing these gentle beasts up close was amazing.
Other than being cold, the room was fine. We didn’t spend a lot of time here other than to sleep. The back side has a nice patio, that looks directly into the reserve. Probably my most notable memory of our stay here was the loud noises I heard outside our cottage soon after arriving. Beyond the trees and brush in the background of the below photo is a river, and there were elephants there snacking on leaves.
More views of our cottage. The bathroom and outdoor shower:
But what about the animals?
The purpose of our stay is to see the animals, and besides the pachyderm welcoming committee that we saw, Going on game drives was where we saw the most up close. We went into the reserve twice a day, morning and afternoon. On African safaris, there is talk of the big 5; elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion, and leopard. All but the latter are on at Aquila Private Game Reserve. I’ve seen these animals in zoos before, but while this is a controlled environment to some extent, on all of the trips we took into the reserve, we went to different areas, different routes, and it didn’t feel overly repetitive or formulaic.
There is an internal enclosure where the lions live. This is done to maintain the rest of the population on the reserve, since as apex predators, lions eat whatever they want…
There is a male lion and several females. On our various drives we saw them up close a few times, but other times we only saw them far away or not at all.
Beyond the Big Five animals, we saw lots of other creatures in the park.
Other places at Aquila Private Game Reserve
Meals are included, at least with our rate. The property is halal certified. Meals are buffet style, and given the various groups on site, on different schedules this seems to work best. Food was perfectly tasty, if not that noteworthy. There is also a bar upstairs, and hard and soft drinks can be purchased in the restaurant as well.
We spent some time at the spa on site. Partially due to the favorable exchange rate from ZAR to USD, but I found pricing to be quite reasonable. I’m often too cheap to pay for spa treatments when traveling, but here it was well worthwhile. Plus, our anniversary trip, why not splurge a bit.
Besides the massage, we spent time time relaxing here, with the dry sauna, steam room and pools. Plus, warm indoor showers, which our cottage didn’t have.
Final thoughts on Aquila Private Game Reserve
We quite enjoyed our time here. An easily accessible game reserve near Cape Town, that allowed us to get out of the city, and see lots of animals. Our plans this time didn’t allow for a longer or more ‘wild’ safari experience, but I have no regrets about our visit here.