This week we did a day safari to the Aquilla Game Reserve, which is about a 2 hour drive from Cape Town. The cost for the day trip was a bit of $AUD300 per person which is considerably cheaper than more traditional safari’s but also in an enclosed privately owned reserve, so we approached with some unsurity as to what to expect.
An early morning pick up around 6.30am from our accommodation took us out via the winefarm areas past Stellenbosch and Worechester to the venue just off the highway. Upon arrival we were given a buffet breakfast which was surprisingly good, and then at 10am we hit the vehicles to enter the park area. It was a hot day, over 40 degrees with the guides saying the vehicle temperature was around 47 degrees so drink lots of water! Before entering we were asked what we wanted to see and of course all said the Big 5 – Water Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, Elephant and Rhino, and the driver said he would ‘do his best’.
Soon after entering we saw a water filled dam area where bubbles could be seen, and apparently there were Hippos in there, but not much could be seen, but upon the exit, we did get a glimpse of the occasional head popping out of the water as they frolicked.
Onward we drove and soon we came across two of the parks Elephants roaming around in the soaring heat…pretty awesome too… We got very close to these guys are they strolled around beside us and the other park vehicles.
Not far from the elephants we came across several giraffes and Springbok and some other bok family members which I cannot recall the name of grazing on the side of the road. Upon closer look there had been feed left for them, so the level of ‘natural’ discovery was diminished, but no one seemed to care, as again we managed to pull up right in front of them as they ate and watched us strangely as we looked and snapped away with our cameras (or iPhones).
Some more cruising around and soon after the first sighting of Rhinos appeared, and not only adult, but baby Rhinos with us getting very close to these animals that are known for their ‘anger issues’, and at one stage the driver appeared to ‘shit himself’ as he thought it may charge us, but it didn’t…
Further along we came across Zebras, Ostriches who again were eating planted ‘feed’ on the road to stop, and amusingly we watched as two of the 3 decided on a public crap in front of us, including on who shat on his mates head, which was quite amusing! A group of Wildebeest were loitering in the background but the guide didn’t really seem to interested in even mentioning them. No love shown there…
As we were watching the Zebras we had one of the other guides on the road giving a talk to 3 vehicles about the dynamics of Rhino turds…even holding it up, breaking in half and shoving in his nose to explain how poor their digestive system was as it was mostly grass and didn’t smell – I hope he was well paid!
As the heat continued to soar, we moved through an electrified area into the area where we may find Lions and Leopards…it was like a well rehearsed show, as we entered a Male Lion walked out of a cave on the hill and looked at us, then without many noticing, a few females were right in front of our van on the road, quite cool…no Leopards were seen.
Our tour then took us to a dodgy ‘rest stop’ just off the lion area for a drink, along with about 4 other vans full of people all at the same time, so we got to stand in the heat for 30 minutes of total time wasting and poor organisation, before heading back to the main resort area.
Upon returning, around 12.30pm we had a lunch provided, which again was great, but the only downside was were then stuck there until 4pm until our return transport back to Cape Town. Clearly a tactic to get people to spend more on drinks, spas, horse rides or quad biking, but you could use the pool etc. Whilst good, the time was a bit long, but overall for the days event it was a great way to see the animals in a ‘semi wild’ environment and wasn’t too dodgy. While we didn’t see the Big 5, we did see Elephant, Lion and Rhino plus many others, so was pretty good, and speaking to many who have done safaris and even live in S.A, the Leopard is a tough one to find. A good day and good value.