My friends came to visit while I was in Capetown and were interested in doing a Safari; due to a lack of time we decided upon Aquila Private Game Reserve and Spa and though Kruger would always be my number one Safari spot (read my review here), Aquila had a number of great things going for it!
Background — lowkey boring stuff
Aquila Private Game Reserve and Spa is an award winning 4-star private game reserve and spa that has been acclaimed for its conservation programmes and social responsibility efforts in addition to its luxurious amenities. Though its number one purpose is the protection of threatened wildlife and job creation for the local community, the resort offers a day and overnight safari experience via quad bike, private/group safari tours or horseback alongside an amazing spa experience.
After a 2 hour ride from Capetown, we arrived at Aquila wide eyed and bushy tailed. Upon arrival, we were greeted by staff who took our luggage and offered a glass of champagne (Aquila… I love you already!). Two glasses in, we head in to check into our villa. You can choose from an array of accommodations from standard lodge rooms to Luxury Cottages all which are available for upgrades. We opted for a luxury cottage and were pleasantly surprised by it’s space and particularly the gorgeous all rock ALFRESCO shower!!
The Aquila resort space itself is incredible and boasts a sizable infinity pool with a swim up bar and tons of sunbathing space. Not a fan of the pool? there is also a large fire pit for braais (Southern African BBQs) and nighttime gathering; Aquila also does a nighttime star gazing mini course for those that are interested.
It is important to note that there are animals (baboons, peacocks, etc) on the grounds, so be careful not to leave things around such as your cellphone or food laying around.
After a late lunch we headed out for a nighttime group safari. It was a fun outing and everyone seemed to really enjoy it; they even got to see the big 5 including a feeding of the lions. The guides were extremely lively and helpful; my favourite part of the excursion was having the opportunity to have a wine and charcuterie break with the zebras and giraffes out in the wild.
Disclaimer: My last safari experience was at Kruger National Park which was an incredible, life changing experience that I’m sure nothing else can come close to touching.
Now let’s get to it — it didn’t feel authentic. It was painfully obvious they positioned the animals to congregate at certain times for the tour in that you could literally see guides making “feed trails”. As a silver lining, due to the seemingly ‘domesticated’ behaviours of the animals, we were allowed to get a really close up view which would’ve been terrifying in a place like Kruger. If you have older people and/or kids in your group, I would suggest Aquila since it’s not as taxing and you get the “gist” and can say you went on a safari.
We drove into a lion enclosure and since they had nowhere else to go, they were pretty easy to spot. We saw 4 pregnant lionesses and two lions; I asked if there were any cubs or younger lions and was told there wasn’t. I’m not a complete idiot and so I was a bit confused since these weren’t first pregnancies and there were no “teen cubs” to be found. I pondered outloud where the cubs were and the two guides, though very nice, ultimately told me that we can speak later (aka shut up) – fair enough, we were in a group and who wants to be the annoying person asking questions. During the break, I asked again, in my usual annoying manner and one of the guides filled me in that the cubs are usually taken to a bigger place like Kruger. Again, fair enough, they don’t have the space to raise cubs (they apparently don’t feed the lions live animals which I kinda found odd.. at least let them exercise a little and work for it, but hey! what do I know); so I asked how long the cubs were at Kruger and do they come back? ding ding ding you guessed it, they don’t come back because they can’t be reintroduced to the pack. I personally know zilch about conservation so I’m sure this is a perfectly good reason, but the dodginess just felt unnecessary and sketchy. Just say that you are basically using these old ass lions for breeding purposes and you don’t have the space to care for the cubs (Kanye shrug), I mean it is what it is no?
Spa — Godsend!
Aquila definitely made up for their sketchiness with their Tranquil Spa! It features two heated indoor and an outdoor pool, 10 treatment rooms, nail bar, steam room, sauna and even group treatment rooms for events! I opted for the 90 minute Body Scrub and African Wood Massage and it was GLORIOUS! No lie, I was so relaxed I fell asleep mid massage; my masseuse was so cute and was super informative. She started by scrubbing me down with their housemade sugar scrub and since there was a shower within the room, the clean up was super easy afterwards. After a complete (and I mean complete) rubdown with a Marula oil/shea butter heavenly concoction, I was fast asleep two minutes into the massage.
I would definitely recommend Aquila Private Game Reserve and Spa to those who are interested in a safari while being short on time. It’s an easy destination from Capetown and you do get really close to the animals! If you have the opportunity to do a “real” safari.. then I wouldn’t waste my time with this. Honestly — I’d go back strictly for the Tranquil Spa and relaxation options. The Tranquil Spa facility is on POINT, the infinity pool/pool bar is amazing (the bartenders are quite heavy handed), the grounds itself is gorgeous.. what else does a girl need?
Got kids? This place is a goldmine — there is a child play area complete with mini golf and playgrounds, you can dump them in a day program and grab a glass of champagne and head to the spa (can you tell I love the spa).
The Aquila Private Game Reserve and Spa is a definite plus if you’re looking for relaxation and wildlife with a sprinkle of adventure mixed in.
Sooo what had happened was…. Ready? Read ahead…