Located just outside Cape Town, the Aquila Private Game Reserve is home to the Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and Cape Buffalo – and a variety of other big game, a luxury spa and four-star accommodation, but the experience runs deeper than all of its admittedly impressive offerings.
From family-friendly experiences to close encounters with lions and rhinos, here are five reasons you NEED to add Aquila to your list of to-do’s while in Cape Town.
Something that stands out at Aquila is their effort to make it an all-inclusive experience for families with younger kids.
The daily game drives – running from 7am in the morning and 4pm in the afternoon – last for two to two-and-a-half hours, meaning younger kids and their families can enjoy the experience without any unfortunate meltdowns. Private game drives are also an option and these can be tailored to meet your family’s needs.
Aquila has a number of family units – both in the form of luxury adjoining rooms and private chalets – while the restaurant is super family-friendly with a big open area, a large patio and buffet offerings for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The kids’ centre is great and hosts everything from a ball pit to a miniature golf course to keep your children occupied, while you head out for a treatment at the spa or put your feet up for a breather. There are child-minders on site to watch the little ones as you sneak out for a bit.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Located in the southern Karoo, Aquila is close to Cape Town, which means the Big Five are right on our doorstep, but the Karoo landscape alone is well worth the visit. Clear blue skies in the day and a star-gazers dream at night, with mountains rising forth like great monoliths, you can feel the city tensions melt away as you step into an area that is almost alien in its beauty. The geology of the Karoo is incredible and the local rangers are on-hand to answer any questions on the area’s natural terrain and vegetation. A word of warning though, pack some warm clothes because mornings and nights in the Karoo can be pretty chilly.
Sure, a spa may not be family friendly, but it sure is parent friendly and Aquila has pulled out all the stops here with a luxury experience from start to finish. Opened in 2016 as part of the reserve’s new developments, the spa offers a wide range of treatments using natural products such as indigenous plants, flowers and herbs that are free from petrochemicals, synthetic ingredients, colourants and preservatives.
Facilities include two indoor heated pools, a steam room, a sauna, a nail bar, 10 treatment rooms, a couples or group treatment room and an outdoor pool.
Drop the kids off at the kids’ centre or book separate treatments and relax before or after a game drive. The spa is happy to work around your times and ensure you leave free of all those little niggles and stress you entered with.
THE GAME DRIVE
The Game Drive is the most valuable component for Aquila when it comes to visitors. You will be hard-pressed to find a more inclusive experience so close to Cape Town. Whether it is a private experience or a group game drive, the rangers ensure everybody’s needs are catered for with a friendly, and knowledgeable, approach to the experience. While it can’t compare to larger safari experiences, the game found on the reserve is considerable with the Big Five joined by hippos, springboks, giraffe and more.
Lasting for two-to-three hours, visitors are afforded plenty of time to snap pictures of the animals and the local geology of the area, while a visit to the lion enclosure is bound to tick a number of boxes for those seeking out the king of the jungle. Like any guided experiences, the guides are key to the success of it, and Aquila has succeeded in securing engaging and charismatic locals to take centre stage here.
They take everybody into account – young and old – to ensure everybody gets the most out of the experience.
THE BIG FIVE
I have visited Aquila on two occasions in the past year and on both I saw elephants, lions, buffalo and rhinos. The only member of the Big Five I have yet to see at Aquila is the leopard, but they are notoriously rare because of their nocturnal habits. We did spot tracks recently while on a morning drive and there have been recent sightings of a female and her cub, making Aquila one of those rare establishments that can live up to its promises. If you visit, you are almost guaranteed to see four of the Big Five, and if you’re very lucky, you may spot number five as well. It’s a huge selling point for the reserve and local and foreign visitors are always positively giddy after seeing these impressive animals up close and personal.
For more information: www.aquilasafari.com