Escape to Aquila Safari Reserve: An Amazing Journey into the Wild


When we think of South Africa, our minds instantly conjure images of magnificent animals and breathtaking nature. You don’t have to hop on a flight to Johannesburg to witness the majestic Big Five and have a mind-blowing experience. There are fantastic options to see wild animals just a short 2-3 hour drive away from Cape Town at a nearby game reserve and the Aquila Private Game Reserve (“Aquila Safari Reserve”) is what we have chosen. 

Disclaimer ahead! It would not be magnificent as the ones in Kenya. However It’s a great valued elementary safari choice and fits perfectly into Cape Town itinerary in a week.

After research and comparisons of private game reserves near Cape Town, we decided to go with the highly acclaimed Aquila Private Game Reserve. It came highly recommended by travelers, and we truly enjoyed the experience. The price for a two-day tour was reasonable, making it an excellent choice for a memorable Christmas celebration. 

From the moment we arrived, we were captivated by the enchanting atmosphere and warm hospitality. The highlight of our tour was, of course, the wildlife encounters. We were awestruck by the sight of the Big Five in their natural habitat. The sight of lions, elephants, rhinos, and buffaloes left us in awe. The reserve’s dedication to conservation efforts was evident, and we felt privileged to be part of their mission. Despite its size (there are larger safaris around Africa), it definitely offers a comprehensive experience for your travel in Cape Town. Plus, it is also one of the safest place in Cape Town.

Yes, safety is something you should be concerned for traveling in Cape Town. Make sure you check out my safety guide before you go.

Me and my wife sitting next to the Aquila Safari Reserve logo
Me and my wife sitting next to the Aquila Safari Reserve logo

Itinerary for the Aquila Safari Reserve Two-Day Tour

Here is the itinerary for the two-day tour.

Day 1

  • 12:00 – Buffet Lunch in the Restaurant (close at 15:00)
  • 14:00 – Check in Accommodation
  • 16:30 – 2hr Game drive
  • 18:30 – Buffet Dinner (close at 21:30, Bar close at 23:00)
  • 20:00 – Star gazing with roasted marshmallows

Day 2

  • 06:45 – Coffe and Tea serve at the restaurant
  • 07:00 – 1 to 1.5 hr Game Drive
  • 07:00 – Buffet Breakfast (close at 10:00)
  • 10:00 – Check out and Time at leisure
  • 12:30 – Leave

We have booked a minibus transfer directly with Aquila Safari Reserve. The journey from our hotel in Cape Town to the Game Reserve took around 2 hours, giving us plenty of time to soak in the beautiful scenery along the way. The driver was friendly and made a quick 15-minute stop at a convenient spot with toilets, a Spar supermarket, and even some fast food restaurants like Spur. It was the perfect pit stop before continuing our journey for another 1 hour to the Aquila Safari Reserve. 

Upon our arrival, we were greeted with refreshing welcome drinks at the reception. They offered a range of beverages, including beer, sparkling wine, white wine, and non-alcoholic juices, all complimentary. What a thoughtful gesture that kept us entertained while we waited for our room, which wasn’t ready until 14:00. Before settling into our accommodations, we enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch and took some leisure time to explore the beautiful surroundings. 

The highlight of our first day was undoubtedly the exhilarating 2-hour game drive. We spotted incredible wildlife and our knowledgeable guide shared fascinating insights about the reserve’s ecosystem. As the day came to an end, we indulged in another mouthwatering buffet dinner before participating in the star-gazing activity. 

The next day, we woke up bright and early for a thrilling 1.5-hour game drive at 7 am. After the game drive, we treated ourselves to a hearty buffet breakfast before checking out of our room at 10 am. At 12:30, the minibus transfer arrived, marking the end of our unforgettable two-day Aquila Safari Reserve Tour.

Big Five Game Drive and Star Gazing

The highlight of the Aquila Safari Reserve was surely the game drive. 

Spanning an impressive 10,000 hectares, Aquila Safari Reserve is home to the legendary Big Five animals: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalos. But that’s not all! The reserve is also teeming with other native African species, including zebras, hippos, ostriches, eland, wildebeest, springbok, and many more. 

During our game drive, we were fortunate enough to encounter four of the Big Five—lions, elephants, rhinos, and buffalos. Getting up close and personal with these incredible wildlife creatures was a truly awe-inspiring experience. We were amazed as the rhinos strolled right in front of our vehicle, seemingly unbothered by our presence. It was fascinating to observe how the animals had their preferred spots and routines each day. 

Real close rhinos at aquila safari reserve
Real close rhinos at Aquila Safari Reserve

Surprisingly, we spotted more animals during the evening game drive than the early morning one. During the evening game drive, we were treated to some remarkable sightings. We got to see zebras, elephants, and rhinos up close, all while feeling reassured that the lions were kept in a separate enclosure to ensure the safety of other wildlife. Our ranger provided detailed explanations about the animals’ behavior and natural habitats. We had the opportunity to stop and observe the animals for a while, allowing us to truly appreciate their beauty and grace. 

After an hour of witnessing these incredible creatures, we took a break at a designated spot. They provided us with a variety of snacks, including dates, nuts, biltong, and dried fruits. And for drinks, we had the choice of hot coffee (black and white), tea, or even a glass of wine. 

As night fell, we eagerly participated in the star-gazing activity. Unfortunately, the day was cloudy, and we couldn’t see any stars. However, the experience was still delightful as we enjoyed some roasted marshmallows, adding a touch of sweetness to the evening.

Sad that it was too cloudy at night so we could not see any stars.
Sad that it was too cloudy at night so we could not see any stars.

Karoo Cottage and Swimming Pool

We couldn’t book the Aquila private game reserve standard room in time. Then we tried instead, but still only cottage was available (though at a cheaper price). The Karoo Cottage surpassed our expectations, and we were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful surroundings and thoughtful amenities. 

The spacious room had an outdoor area with comfortable bench chairs, allowing us to relax and enjoy the stunning views. Although the outdoor bathing facilities were not suitable for the cold weather, we were glad to have an indoor bathtub.

There are a couple of things to note about the stay. Since the Karoo Cottage is located within a game reserve, we you may want to bring some mosquito dispellers just in case.

One of the highlights of our stay was the large swimming pool next to the restaurant. The pool offered a breathtaking view and served as a perfect backdrop for a relaxing swim. The only drawback was the cold water due to the weather, but it didn’t diminish our enjoyment of the stunning surroundings.

The swimming pool is right next to the restaurant.
The swimming pool is right next to the restaurant.
The Karoo Cottage from the outside
The Karoo Cottage from the outside

Buffet (Lunch, Dinner and Breakfast)

We had the pleasure of enjoying a delightful lunch buffet and a dinner buffet on Day 1, followed by a satisfying breakfast buffet on Day 2. While the food selection wasn’t extensive, we found the dishes to be quite tasty. 

During the lunch buffet, we indulged in roasted shrimp, potatoes, various vegetables, refreshing salads, and jasmine rice. The dessert spread was a treat, featuring delectable options like tiramisu, fresh fruits, tempting brownies, and an assortment of cakes. 

One of our favorite aspects was the option to dine outdoors, which offered a stunning view right next to the swimming pool. To add to the charm, two adorable little cats kept us company during our meals, making the experience even more enjoyable. 

The dinner buffet showcased delicious fried chicken, fried prawns, savory Shanghai beef ribs, fresh salads, and potatoes. Since it was Christmas day, the restaurant had thoughtfully prepared small gifts for the visitors, which were placed on each table. It was such a sweet gesture that added to the festive atmosphere. 

The breakfast buffet greeted us with a satisfying spread of fried mushrooms, ketchup beans, tomatoes, fresh bread, sausages, and eggs prepared. I think the buffet was nice.

Kids-friendly facilities

We discovered that Aquila Safari Reserve had a dedicated Children’s Entertainment Area near the game pick-up point. It was the perfect spot for kids to have a blast while the adults could relax and unwind. 

One of the highlights was the Mini Golf Course, with the equipment available for borrowing at the indoor center. It provided endless fun and entertainment for both kids and adults alike.

Another exciting feature was the Giant Chess Set, which not only offered a fun and challenging game but also provided a fantastic opportunity for Instagram photos.

For the little ones, there were delightful options like the Wooden Playground and the Indoor Play Area. These thoughtfully designed spaces allowed children to play around and enjoy themselves to the fullest.

Children's Entertainment Area with Mini Golf Course, Giant Chess Set and Play Area
Children’s Entertainment Area with Mini Golf Course, Giant Chess Set and Play Area

Additional Activities

Aquila Safari Reserve also offers some extra options for an additional cost, such as horseback and quad bike safaris. The horseback safari is priced at R550 per person for a 45-minute ride, while the quad bike safari is priced at R750 per person for the same duration. These activities depart daily, with hourly departures starting from 9:00 am. 

We didn’t take part in these activities during our visit as we had tried similar activities before., However, if you haven’t had the opportunity to try these activities before and are interested in getting a closer look at the animals, we would recommend giving them a try. They can provide a unique and thrilling way to explore the reserve and interact with the wildlife. Just make sure to coordinate with the reception to arrange your participation in these activities.

Things you should know before going

1. What should you wear?

When going on game drives at Aquila Safari Reserve, I recommend wearing comfortable clothing in neutral tones. During my visit in late December, despite it being summer, the reserve’s vast and borderless terrain made it significantly cooler than the city center. So, it’s important to dress warmly and layer your clothing to ensure your comfort throughout the drive. Additionally, Aquila Safari Reserve provides blankets in the vehicles, so don’t hesitate to ask your ranger for one if you feel chilly during the game drive. Since the reserve is an outdoor environment, it’s also essential to bring insect repellent to protect yourself from any pesky bugs that may be present.

My wife and I were inside the game drive vehicle.

2. When is the best time to go to Aquila Safari Reserve?

Aquila Private Game Reserve is a year-round destination, with each season offering its charm. If you’re looking for optimal game viewing, I would recommend coming in the dry winter months as there would be less rainfall and increased animal sightings.

3. How long should you stay there?

I believe that two days in the Aquila Safari Reserve, with a total of two game drives, would be a great choice. On the first day staying there, I was bursting with excitement to see the animals. I couldn’t help but capture countless photos of these magnificent creatures. However, on the second day, I noticed that the animals tended to stay in similar spots as the previous day. While I still enjoyed observing them, my enthusiasm waned a bit. That’s why I feel that two days with two game drives is the sweet spot. 

Opting for Aquila private game reserve day trip might feel a bit rushed. The journey from Cape Town to the reserve takes over two hours, which means spending a total of 4-5 hours on transportation alone if you’re doing it all in one day. Therefore, I would recommend setting aside two days, to enjoy the game drives, buffets, swimming pool and beautiful scenery without feeling hurried. 

The view was spectacular at the reserve.

4. Transportation: Cape Town to Aquila Private Game Reserve

For my transportation to Aquila Safari Reserve, I opted for the convenient mini-bus transfer provided by the reserve itself. The pick-up point was in the heart of Cape Town City Centre, and they collected me directly from my hotel around 9:30 am in the morning. The cost for the overnight round trip was R1550 per person, and children aged 12 and under enjoyed a half-price discount. 

If you prefer driving your vehicle, the journey from Cape Town City Centre to Aquila Safari Reserve takes approximately 2 hours. To get there, simply follow the scenic N1 out of Cape Town towards Worcester, passing through the picturesque Cape Winelands. Then, take the R46 Ceres turnoff from the N1, and you’ll find the entrance to the reserve on your left. 

For those seeking a more luxurious experience, Aquila Safari Reserve offers additional transportation options. They offer private transfer services and fly-in experience by a fixed-wing plane or helicopter. 

Want some more animal encounter!

The two-day stay at Aquila Safari Reserve was a best valued safari experience during our Cape Town visit.

Want more (and closer) animal encounter ? I highly recommend you to check out my comprehensive guide for visiting the South African penguins.

Please leave me a comment for the Safari experience.

Regulus K

A budget travel blogger passionate about exploring different destinations worldwide, while balancing a regular 9-to-5 job.


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