Last Updated on December 27, 2023 by thecapetownblog
A safari is a must do while in South Africa, but the best place to do it isn’t actually in Cape Town. For a true safari experience, you can travel to the Kruger National Park to do a multi-day safari, but time and budget don’t always allow for this. If that’s the case for you, then there’s no need to be sad about it, because you can still enjoy a mini safari from Cape Town!
It may not be the Kruger, but the Aquila Private Game Reserve is home to tons of amazing African animals. You can take a day tour here and enjoy a fun and informative game drive, while glimpsing some of the most majestic creatures that call South Africa home.
I’ve done the Aquila safari twice now with friends who came to visit – once in the summer, and once in the winter. Keep on reading to discover everything you need to know about the Aquila safari and decide whether or not it’s the right tour for you.
What is the Aquila Safari?
The Aquila safari is a tour that takes you to a private game reserve, where you’ll take a drive to see the animals. You can take a day tour or do an overnight experience, since there’s accommodation at Aquila. Most people just do the day tour, though.
As well as animals, lodges, and cottages, you’ll also find a restaurant, bar, spa, and lounge at the Aquila Reserve. In fact, it’s basically a resort.
Visiting Aquila is a really popular thing to do in Cape Town, and the Real Housewives even visited!
I’m no housewife (although I’m waiting for Bravo to call at any moment), so my two visits were drama free.
Where is the Aquila Game Reserve?
The Aquila Private Game Reserve is 176 kilometers (109 miles) from Cape Town. It takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to drive there. Fortunately, tours here include transport – but more details on that below!
What’s included on the Aquila Safari?
The Aquila safari day tour includes transport from Cape Town. You’ll be picked up from your accommodation in the city and then driven out to the reserve in a shuttle van. There’s a stop at a service station where you can grab a coffee or use the toilet along the way.
Then, when you arrive, you’ll be greeted with a complimentary welcome drink – ours was a very sweet sangria – and be taken through to the restaurant for lunch. The price of lunch is included in the tour but any drinks (including soft drinks) cost extra, which I thought was a bit weird.
The food is good but not exceptional. There’s certainly plenty of it! I liked the cheese selection, the fresh fruit, and the salads, but the desserts weren’t great.
After that, we climbed into the van and headed out for the highlight of the day, which was the game drive! It was so much fun, and we got to see four out of the big five (rhinos, elephants, buffalo, and lions) as well as hippos, zebras, springboks, and giraffes which really was amazing. The reserve is huge so it doesn’t feel like a zoo, and the animals have a ton of space.
After the game drive, we had some free time to hang out at the resort. We had brought our swimming costumes with us so we made full use of the beautiful infinity pool. There’s also a spa where you can go and enjoy a quick treatment (for an additional fee) or a lounge and bar to hang out in.
Then, you’ll be driven back to Cape Town and be dropped off at your accommodation sometime between 5 and 6 PM.
Click here to book your Aquila safari day tour!
Okay, so the tour I just described was my experience during the summer, because that’s the most popular time to do the Aquila safari. However, the first time I did it was during winter, and there were a few differences.
The basics are still the same – you get transport and a game drive. However, we got a buffet breakfast as well as lunch. The pool was closed, so after the safari we hung out in the lounge instead. There’s an indoor pool in the spa that we could have swam in, but we would have had to pay for a spa pass.
The overnight Aquila safari includes one night in Aquila’s luxurious accommodation, so that you can make full use of the resort. You’ll get to enjoy the beautiful grounds (and the gorgeous pool during the summer), and all of your meals are included.
Best of all, the overnight experience allows you to go on two game drives – one in the late afternoon, and one in the early morning, so you get an even richer experience.
And again, you get return transport to and from Cape Town. Alcohol and spa fees are on your own account, but that’s pretty much all you’ll have to pay for once you arrive!
How long is the Aquila Safari?
If you do the day tour, you’re looking at 8-10 hours between your pickup and dropoff times. However, the game drive itself only lasts for around 2 hours. It really flies by! You’ve also got around 4 hours of transit time, and another 2-3 hours to eat and enjoy the resort.
If you do the overnight tour, you’ll leave Cape Town at either 6 or 9 AM, depending on your preference, and get back the following evening.
What do you see on the Aquila Safari?
On the Aquila safari, you’ve technically got the chance to spot the Big Five: elephants, buffalo, lions, rhinos, and leopards. However, both times, I’ve spotted the first four but the leopard has evaded me. I haven’t heard of anyone spotting one at Aquila, but I think that there are some here – they’re just famously elusive.
I also saw giraffes, hippos, springboks, and tons of zebras!
Can you do the Aquila Safari all year round?
Yes! I’ve done it in both the summer and winter.
As I mentioned above, the experience is slightly different at different times of year. I got an extra meal during the winter but the pool was closed. It’s worth doing whatever season you’re in Cape Town for.
How much does the Aquila Safari tour cost?
The day tour costs R3,190, which is £135 or $173 at the time of writing. The first time I went, my friend and I visited the tour company’s head office to get a quote and the price we were given was way higher than the one we found online. I can’t remember exactly what it was now, but booking online definitely saved us a fair chunk of money – over R1000.
If you go for the overnight Aquila experience, it costs R10,511 per person (£447 or $570). It’s definitely a little bit pricey for this part of the world, so I was happy just to do the day tour.
Is the Aquila Safari suitable for kids?
Yes! Kids of all ages are welcome on the Aquila safari, but there’s no reduced rate for them. There were lots of kids on the tour both times that I did it and they seemed to be having a lot of fun.
Is the Aquila Safari worth it?
Yes, but only if you’re not going to the Kruger.
It was a fantastic experience and I genuinely had a fantastic time, but I haven’t yet been to Kruger National Park. If you’re also going to the Kruger while you’re in South Africa, then you’ll see everything that you see at Aquila – and so much more!
Click here to book the Aquila safari day tour!
Do you get free cancellation?
Yes, and they’re really good about it. When you book through Viator, you can cancel up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund.
When I did the Aquila safari with my friend Steph, she woke up on the day of the tour feeling really unwell. We gave the company a call, and they allowed us to reschedule the tour without paying a penny. This was in mid January, which is peak tourist season in Cape Town, but they still managed to fit us in and made sure that we got to do the tour on a date we were happy with.
What should I bring on the Aquila Safari?
During the summer, I recommend bringing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a swimsuit so that you can make full use of the pool. We also brought our own towels to use, as well.
In the winter, it’s best to wrap up warm because you might get chilly during the game drive. Our driver gave us blankets, which were certainly welcome, but I was glad that I wore a coat and hat, too.
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