It was a Thursday afternoon, and I was told rather desperately: “We’d like to see the Big 5, and leave South Africa on Saturday!” I knew, and my foreign guests knew, that the Kruger National Park was just not going to work. Taking their request seriously, I went to the wisest source of all things travel and experience – google! The ever helpful google was quick to point out that there were a few options available for us, making sure that after a day’s activities and animal spotting, we’d be back before dark.
After surveying the options I decided on Aquila Private Game Reserve, booked our afternoon game drive and off we went. The 2 hour drive from Cape Town is a spectacularly scenic two hour affair, as you wind through line after line of the Cape fold mountains, passing fruit farms and padstals along route. Driving through the end of the Wellington tunnel always releases a healthy dose of wanderlust as you exit the dark, and are immediately greeted by towering mountain vistas, and impressive bridges.
Upon arrival at Aquila, you’re greeted with a glass of bubbly, and then ushered to the expansive restaurant. A triple volume thatched building houses the Aquila dining hub, where lunch is a very impressive buffet spread of countless South African favourites. After this all you can eat lunch, you climb aboard one of the game-drive vehicles and off you go for a 2-3 hour drive in the bush. Our guide gave us detailed education on the various animals we saw, and the bushveld that is their home. Lazy lions, swimming hippos, casual zebra and a rather aggressive rhino – all view-able from meters from the vehicle!
On a subsequent visit to Aquila I decided to treat myself to something special. After lunch I waved my guests goodbye on their game drive, and I headed straight for the spa. This spacious and elegantly finished spa is truly a 5 star experience: I landed up walking through their facilities mouth aghast for at least 3-4 minutes! I opted for an hour long Swedish massage, which was sixty minutes of pure therapeutic bliss. Thereafter I had a choice of using any of the 4 pools, sauna or steam room, relaxation beds, and of course a wide variety of tea and fruit.
Compared to most game reserves in the country, Aquila is small, and therefore can’t be compared to the likes of Kruger or Addo. Locals who have had the privilege of visiting these bigger parks will undoubtedly be a little disappointed. However, Aquila’s charm lies in the fact that it is the perfect destination for those visiting Cape Town, but haven’t the time to venture further than a day trip from the city. The private game reserve also has an impressive range of accommodation options, perfected suited for those who want an overnight option. I even spoke with a Capetonian who hadn’t managed to visit the bigger South African parks, and had thoroughly enjoyed her visit to Aquila with her husband.
The proof will always be in the pudding – and every time I’ve taken guests to Aquila I’ve always been greeted by the broadest smiles of satisfaction at the end of the game drive, and often a pre-sunset cocktail in their magnificent pool bar. Thanks Aquila and here’s to the next visit!