You are literally not Capetonian if you haven’t been intrigued by the Aquila Game Reserve ads online and fliers posted all around Cape Town. I’ve often thought of visiting, but with overseas having been my main focus in recent years, I’ve only now starting to explore South Africa and what’s available close to home.
I was very lucky to have been invited to visit Aquila and jumped at the opportunity. It’s been winter and a bit gloomy, so I knew some animal exploration would be good for us. Before you read on, two quick notes:
- Pictures by my fabulous husband Team Team Photography.
- There is A LOT to do at Aquila so this post is rather long
Arriving at Aquila
I must say that it was really easy to get to Aquila. Straight down the N1, a left and voila. We arrived, were assisted at the front desk and greeted by a lovely peacock! BUT, as soon as we headed towards our room, WOW! PEOPLE! A LOT OF PEOPLE! I was NOT expecting Aquila to be as busy as it was!
Because it’s a private game reserve, I thought it was a smaller venue but no, this is like a full blown RESORT! Coupled with an outside lunch time buffet, drinks by the pool, giant fire pit; Aquila is quite overwhelming if you have different expectations. Our Premier Cottage was a welcome break from the madding crowd.
Why You Should Visit Aquila?
- Close to Cape Town.
- SO many things for kids to do.
- Beautiful spa.
- White Rhinos.
- Great cultural displays for visitors (dancers during dinner).
- Lots a different types of accommodation to suit your family & budget.
Staying at Aquila’s Premier Cottages
The Premier Cottages do offer a cosy cabin for couples visiting the resort. Wonderfully quiet, with a lovely view towards the hills, we felt quite at home in our stilted cabin. The bathroom was really fun as it was totally built into the rock face, was extremely clean and offered a lot of space – it was almost as big as the room!
Unfortunately, the door broke when we arrived but Aquila were quick to repair it – which I thought was quite surprising considering we were in the middle of no where!
We were silly and refused having our bedroom fire lit, which was silly. I’m sure it would have set a lovely tone for the evening. The bed was very comfortable with soft sheets and they were SO sweet to put animal hot water bottles in our bed! Snuggly!
The aircon also worked really well, there was a cupboard and fridge to keep our water cool. There is no TV or radio, which suits me just fine. I don’t go away for the weekend to watch TV!
For the premier cottages (R3300 per person per night), the following services are included:
- 2 x Big 5 game drives
- Complimentary bottle of wine
- Lunch, dinner & breakfast.
Meals at Aquila
Aquila has a HUGE banqueting hall that literally hosts 100’s of people. So guests come in and out and the kitchen staff keep topping up the food platters. A lot of the food was freshly cooked, but some of it was also a bit ‘ho-hum’. For example, the cakes looked ok but the cream based desserts were a no go. There was cheese and butter available, but some of the bread had been kept over from lunch time (or put out a day ago because it was clearly old). The potato chips were to die for though! YUMMY! There are a lot of stews and casseroles available.
All your meals are covered which I actually think is very helpful as there’s a HUGE spread. You are only required to pay for your drinks whether at dinner or around the venue, but the premier cottages also have a bottle of wine included.
Game Drives at Aquila
The game drives are much like everything else as Aquila, BIG AND BUSY! There is a morning and afternoon game drive as well as horseback game viewing. All the guests are piled into 4 – 5 HUGE trucks and taken on a tour of the grounds.
White Rhinos at Aquila Private Game Reserve
We were SO luck to see white rhinos! I’ve only been seeing black rhinos in recent years (they have equal horns) but at Aquila they have white rhinos and they are INCREDIBLE! (Even cooler than the black rhinos dare I say!). They also had a baby who was just TOO cute.
Our game ranger was very nice and quite knowledgeable, but very patient which is what I think you need with this amount of people on a drive. We also saw zebra, wildebees, giraffes, eiland, hippos, springboks, ostriches, elephants and my favourite, gemsbok.
The animals have more than enough space to wonder around, but Lord only knows what they think of hundreds of humans gawking at them, HAHA!
They have lions in an individual pen which they aim to release into the greater area in the future. They are the FATTEST lions I have ever seen!!! So there’s no concern about them going hungry! My word! Here they had just had their dinner and were beyond lazy, look at those fat tummies!
Each trip is also includes a stop for a glass of wine and snacks on a hillside overlooking the property. If you’re short on time or have guests who are keen to see animals, then Aquila is perfect as you are guaranteed to see the animals. It’s not a massive venue (like Kruger where you definitely might not see anything), you will 100% see the animals.
Best Activities at Aquila
As mentioned, Aquila has a RIDICULOUS amount of activities for guests. It’s the perfect family get away, and I saw quite a few single parents with their kids there. I really think it’s a great place as your kids won’t be bored and will be able to play/meet other children there. Apart from the outside pool, there’s also games for the kids, face painting and game drives (I think I might have even seen mini golf!).
My top 2 activities (apart from game drives) included:
Aquila put out telescopes in the evening and we were fortunate enough to be able to see the moon and Saturn with all its rings! It was awesome! There are LOTS of stars at Aquila. My second favourite activity was the spa…
I was fortunate enough to be spoilt to a wonderful massage at the newly renovated/constructed spa. And it was HEAVENLY! Great to get away from the masses and have some ‘me’ time.
I had an awesome hour long massage BUT, the masseuse never checked if I was going on the 4pm game drive. So as I lay there living the dream, I had NO IDEA that it was 4:15 when I had finished. I walked out and the resort was empty! While I loved the massage, I then had to organise a lift to the game drive with another ranger who was luckily enough able to help us! So if you book at the spa, tell them that you’re going on the game drive – or if you’re not going on the afternoon drive, that’s fine.
Cultural Performances at Aquila
During dinner we were treated to some African singing and dancing, including gumboot dancing. I personally enjoy that South African culture is shared with foreign visitors and I really think they enjoy the display.
Things I Didn’t Like About Aquila
- No telephones in the room. Our door broke and we kept having to walk back and forth to reception, even though we were in some of the premium accommodation options, because there was no telephone in the room. We had to carry our own bags for the same reason (luckily I packed light, but this wouldn’t be ideal for older people).
- Hotel Food – I feel like Aquila is in a position where they just won’t be able to win no matter what they do. Why? Because how do you cater for hundreds of people and make them all happy? You can’t. So while the food offered a large spread, it was quite “hotely” and wasn’t super delicious (except for the slapchips, they were ah-mazing!). Bread that had been out during lunch time for the soup was reserved for dinner, not good.
- Busy – I actually don’t have an issue with the fact it was super busy (they had had over 300 people through the spa that morning before I even got there!), but I think it’s important to note that it’s not the most romantic location when it comes to safaris.
- Slow Reception – Reception was a bit slow. I know there were a lot of people, but I did feel like I did quite a bit of waiting around in there and that’s not so nice when you’re keen for privacy and relaxation.
Aquila Game Reserve Rates
If you want to book at Aquila imminently then use their live booking chart to see what it’ll cost this week or this weekend.
If you want to book ahead for Aquila, take time and explore their rates page which lists ALL their options in a really easy to read layout.
Thank you very much to Aquila for having AJ & me.
It was certainly a very unique experience and I think it’s a fantastic resort for local families and tourists alike.