Our 4 night stay at Aquila Private Game Reserve was the highlight of our time in South Africa. The reserve itself is more like a rustic resort with indoor/outdoor pools, a full service, affordable spa, amazing food and drink selection and very quaint romantic accommodations. We stayed in cottage #7 which is one of the rooms in Aquila's FB cover photo above. It was perfect for a couple with the large comfortable bed, fireplace, exquisite view and all around loveliness. It even had an outdoor shower...which my husband enjoyed thoroughly. We highly recommend booking one of these premium accommodations as it makes the experience so much better! At night, we could even hear the hippos playing in the waters right in front of our room (but don't worry, there is a barrier to keep the animals at a safe distance).
It seems that most guests only come to Aquila for a day-trip or 1 night stay; but, we found that 4 nights was a great amount of time and we could've easily stayed longer. They provide 3 meals a day with excellent food and much variety, featuring a lot of local fares. We enjoyed trying all the authentic South African food. Alcohol and beverages cost extra, but the selection is good and affordable too.
As far as the safari experience, we very much enjoyed the group safari with head ranger Memory. He also took us on a few private safaris as well - we rode quad bikes throughout the 10,000 hector property which was adventurous and exhilarating and we even did a couple of walkabouts. Each safari (2 per day) offered us a unique and exciting experience. Memory provided a wealth of knowledge, history, cultural facts and entertainment. He is literally the most amazing guide we could've asked for. We also had an incredible horseback safari with Shadrik. Even if you are afraid of riding horses, he will make you feel comfortable, safe and I am convinced he is the horse whisperer!
During our stay, we saw 4 of the BIG 5 wild animals (Rhinos, Elephant, Buffalo, Lion) but of course, the leopards evaded us. We also saw Zebras, Ostriches, Hippos, Giraffe, SpringBok, Eland and more! If the weather is nice, you can hang out by the pool and in the evenings, they do fireside hang outs and star gazing. We have NEVER seen so many stars in the sky. It's breathtaking.
Please note that this game reserve has a lot of rescue animals which is wonderful to see. Even within the 10,000 hectors of land, you are pretty much guaranteed to see 4 of the BIG FIVE if you stay for 2 or more safari tours. For us, we enjoyed having the extra time to explore the reserve and go on a few private safaris. It made our experience unforgettable.
Also, connecting with the staff was quite a treat as well. We learned a lot from Barend, the head of security and had a fun time chatting with Mr. D and Timothy over meals. These guys all made our experience so special and we can't wait to go back! The ladies in the spa do great work as well. I had an amazing deep tissue massage by Zena.
The only bad experience for us was that we needed a private airport shuttle from Cape Town airport to Aquila which is a 2 hour drive. The reserve quoted us 7,000 rand round-trip which is about $500 USD. They did not offer any other options for us so we had to search quite extensively for a separate shuttle company who offered a much better price of 3,100 rand round-trip. We used Mitchell at Western Shuttles which was a great experience.
Overall, we absolutely loved our time at Aquila and highly recommend it for anyone wanting to go on Safari in Cape Town. It's the perfect mix of rustic and relaxation!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Aquila Private Game Reserve and Spa is a family-friendly, Big 5 safari destination just 2 hours' drive from Cape Town. Experience luxurious African hospitality with world-class facilities and services. ... more less