Planning my trip to Cape Town South Africa I knew I wanted to go on a safari as looking for the Big 5 was on my bucket list. As we didn’t have a lot of time we chose to go to the closest one: Aquilla Private Game Reserve
We booked a day tour where they picked us up at the hotel and took us to the reserve. If you have a car or your rented one, you can always self-drive there as well. The basic day tour includes two meals and the game drive with a small group in a safari truck. If you prefer discovering the reserve by horse or quad bikes they have those options too. You could also combine your day, just check their website for all options and prices.
How the day tour goes
After the scheduled pick up time at your hotel, around 7 am you will depart from Cape Town to Aquila , so prepare to wake up early!
It’s a short 2 hour drive to the reserve and after the arrival around 9 am you will get some information and a welcome drink. After the welcome you can go to the breakfast buffet and enjoy some
delicious breakfast in a big, safari decorated restaurant bungalow. Even the peacocks were ready and waiting to grab some morning snacks.
Around 10 am the group will gather to have the game drive in the typical safari trucks and visit to ARC (Animal Rescue Center) after the drive.
Around 1 pm you can have some lunch from the buffet in the restaurant and have some relaxing time around the pool and the shops before you leave for Cape Town around 3:30 pm
The Game Drive
The reserve is not a huge park, but you will have more chance to see the wild animals. The driver knows the spots and does his best to shows all possible animals.
The first animals we encountered are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa: the Hippo. They may look jolly and friendly, but they kill more people than lions… We found them where you would expect them: alongside the water. They were just chilling, enjoying each other, the water and the sun. Even if they looked super peacefully, the driver didn’t go closer.
Just turning the truck we could see some black dots upfront. Driving closer to it the driver said we were lucky to see them: Cape Buffaloes, an other dangerous animal and the first of the Big 5 that day. They were drinking and minding their own business, but when one buffalo turned around and looked to us like What the hell are you looking at? , I must admit it scared me a bit haha.
After that we drove around a bit and saw some antelopes, like the national animal of South Africa: The Springbok. It’s a slender kind of antelope and it’s also a popular dish to try in the region. We also came across some zebras. I don’t think I ever saw them in the wild before! Did you know that every zebra has its unique stripes pattern? You can compare with the finger prints of humans. So fascinating! I was really learning new things with our driver.
Moving along, the second Big 5 was just around the corner: The Rhino. We saw 3 of them laying together as the cute rhino family they are with the baby rhino, 5 months old at the time, in the middle. While being in awe for this cute baby, the driver told us the sad truth. As everybody know, many rhinos are victims of poachers. They only need one thing from then: the horns. Most of times they leave the animal behind to die, if they don’t kill them in the first place. Even if the Aquilla Game Reserve is small, poachers still manage to get in and do their cruel business there. As a result that all male rhinos of the reserve died and the park had to ‘borrow’ the male rhino (right of the baby) to breed in the park. Guys… did I tell you already how cute the baby was? Right…
Then it was LION TIME! You can’t miss it, the lions are kept separately from the other animals so you drive through some gates first. I must say it was really hard to find some lions in that area because they are very well camouflaged in the sand and high grass. BUT they can’t hide very long and we spotted 5 of them sunbathing together. Can you spot them?
After the lions we had a break. The truck stopped at a site with some giraffes grazing upon and we were allowed to walk around a bit or enjoy some refreshing drinks. But off course this girl wanted to get a bit closer to the long necks… without any success, they flee if they see you walking towards them.. dammit.. anyway I tried and this is as close as I got.
We were almost finished but were unlucky to see the Elephants… but then the driver said a staff spotted them, so we went to that place.. By spotted them, they must mean lured them, because we could all see the hay laying there haha. But hey, we saw the biggest one (in size) of the Big 5 and that is what counts.
I know what you are thinking… What about the fifth and last one, the Leopard? Well.. after the game drive, we could visit the animal rescue center and there she was. There are no leopards in the wild here in the reverse and I didn’t take a picture of her as she was in a cage. The guide explained that she was rescued but very wounded. By the time it took for her to heal, she was used of living in a cage and never really learned how to hunt, so she wouldn’t survive in the wild anymore. Either way she looked very healthy and had a whole cage of her own.
I did though, manage to take a picture of an other beautiful big cat and one of my favorites (crazy cat lady Jess talking): The Cheetaaahhhh. What a beauty! A good finisher of the day for me haha.
Not gonna lie: the first safari I imagined of doing, was in a much bigger park with those typical small white safari carts. I guess I’ve been watching too much of National Geographic documentaries. But this wasn’t like that. I noticed from the booking till the end this is just an easy tourist money making reserve.
But after learning about how they contribute to the preservation of these animals, it wasn’t a problem for me at all. The people are nice, the driver guide was super funny and very helpful with our questions and had a lot of stories to tell and information to give.
Also the food was delicious and we actually saw all of the Big 5 and many more. So I can’t say it was a bad day. In fact the sun was shining and I was very excited from beginning til the end.. it was definitely a fun experience!
~I still want to do a wild safari somewhere in the core of Africa when I find myself in one of these fascination countries, but that is something for the future~