When going to South Africa for my sister’s destination wedding, I was able to take a few extra days for myself to explore more of the country. Once-in-a-lifetime destination weddings are always fun for world travelers since it gives us an excuse to go somewhere that may be lower on our list of countries to visit. It’s hard to pick when you have so many countries and only so much time. I was able to check off one of my bucket list items of going on a South African safari.
Seeing the wildlife in a private game reserve is better than what you would find at your local zoo. There are so many luxury safari experiences and private game reserves to choose from all around the country and the continent. What you can choose may depend on availability, weather, cost, and other factors but most are generally like one another with maybe a few specialty options.
My family researched between multiple locations but ultimately chose the Aquila Game Preserve & Spa, a high-end luxury and family-friendly destination that can accommodate both a day trip and a solid 2-day itinerary.
A little background on Aquila Game Preserve
You will find this majestic piece of African paradise 2 hours from the capital of Cape Town. It is set in the Southwest Karoo, a semi-desert region that encompasses South Africa. This is a 4-star safari destination operating for over 20 years. It is best known for the famously coined ‘Big 5″ of South African wildlife Lions, Buffalo, Elephants, Leopards, and Rhinos, some of the top animals you can see on safari. But here you will also see Giraffes, antelope, and multiple safari birds. Settled between two mountains of the Western Cape, Outeniqua and Langeberg, the Aquila Game Preserve is a gem of what this continent has to offer.
This location helps the African wildlife persevere and includes several sustainable programs in the preserve’s upkeep. You have the option to choose to view the animals by the standard safari vehicle, some nice quad bikes, or even horse riding (probably best for the less meat-loving animals).
How to get to Aquila Game Preserve
If you decide to get a tour group package, the private game preserve will provide van transportation and pick you up in Cape Town. Speaking to a safari representative they may be able to pick you up at your hotel but most likely it will be at a pre-determined meeting spot in Atlantic Seaboard, Cape Town CBD, Constantia, or Bellville.
This may involve you going to the location with other travelers, but you can book it privately as well with your reservations. If you decide to have a rental vehicle during your time in-country or just while in Cape Town, you can also drive yourself to the preserve. It is easy to navigate your way with direct dirt roads once you get yourself out of the city.
What to Expect Once You Arrive
Check-in begins at 2:00 pm so if you arrive early, you can spend your free time walking the grounds of the hotel or relaxing by the lounge. Aquila Safari gives you many options if you plan to only spend the day here or overnight. It has been rated as a top 10 day-trip destination. They have 3 Big 5 game drives, in the morning, afternoon, and night. You may decide to sleep in and prefer the afternoon safari instead or even just take the whole day to relax and go at night. Think about this as the activity of the animals differ between the hours of the day.
Your safari will be led by one of the experienced guides who will share experiences of the preserve as well as descriptions of the animals and their native habits. You will be driven past some of the waterholes and watch the animal migrate through the preserve. The time it takes to go through the preserve is always different as it strongly depends on whether there are animals you can see as well as how active you and the other riders are.
In between the game drives, you can relax at the hotel. There is a swimming pool which is large and provides an attached poolside bar. If the weather does not make poolside lounging an option, you can enjoy the tranquil spa, which includes an indoor pool, sauna, steam room, and additional treatment rooms for massages and additional services.
What You Will Be Eating at Aquila Game Preserve
The hotel restaurant provides buffet-style meals that serve local cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You will be served in a large hall that accommodates the entire hotel. Or weather contingent you can relax and eat on the patios outside and around the pool area.
When the day is over you can enjoy the serene night sky with stargazing. There are bolted telescopes outside that will let you see the clear southern skies.
Where you will be staying at Aquila Game Preserve
Depending on if you plan to go in the summer or winter time of South Africa, you have a few options for accommodations. At the preserve, you have the option of what is a standard hotel room or if you prefer a little extravagance get a charming little cottage placed on a dry riverbed. You will get an outdoorsy feel but still enjoy the amenities with an indoor fireplace, patio, and alfresco (outdoor) showers. For families, you can get a luxury cottage that offers a more personal family vacation.
Getting the safari experience should be on your bucket list. South African safaris give us an amazing opportunity to view the wildlife and are one of the top things you can enjoy in your life. With so many safaris and national parks, they use the tourism economy to help numerous conservation efforts. It will be a win-win for you and your family and friends to spend part of your vacation on the continent coming here or one of the other many safaris you will be able to find.