It wasn’t going to feel like Africa until I had at least seen a monkey/zebra/elephant and so a few night’s into our stay we checked into Aquila Private Game Reserve, about a two-hour drive from Cape Town. From our research it seemed that to do a real 5-dayer of a safari the place to be is Johannesburg and you’re looking at spending a lottt of money. However this wasn’t the the main focus of our trip and we were staying primarily in Camps Bay, Cape Town, so we were content with doing a sort of half–way house safari which Aquila provided perfectly. On driving up to the reserve, little monkeys hopped across the road in front of our car as if to welcome us.
Aquila is essentially a large private reserve, but it’s so huge and set out in such a way that you do feel at one with nature and very much that you are within these amazing animals’ habitats, as opposed to the other way round. There’s a peaceful hush in the place, and as we grabbed lunch outside by the pool we spotted elephants in the distance, quite a surreal lunch experience. After we ate we were straight into a safari truck and off for a sunset game drive – our guide was knowledgeable and funny and led us around the reserve, pausing as we passed rhinos, elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, hippos, monkeys, before taking us through to the lion enclosure. For me, my only experience seeing such animals have been in zoos back when I was younger and this can be an uneasy experience, with small enclosures and the animals just sat there still. It was amazing to see giraffes, zebras, lions prowling the area, with the soft warm glow of the golden hour before sunset.
It was the following morning however that cemented our stay as an experience we won’t forget in a long time. We’d booked onto a quad bike tour and luckily it was just us and the guide left to prowl the reserve. Phil, having quad-biked numerous times before, zipped off and circled the carpark area while I struggled to put my helmet on properly. Do you drive? The guide asked. Yes. Badly… I added. I failed my first driving test with 4 majors before my test was terminated and although this was almost 10 years ago, I’ve never quite got my confidence back yet….
A few runs round the carpark and Phil was chomping to get going so off we went! It was amazing to be out in the open amongst the animals, just the three of us at times with no one else in sight. The scenery was breath-taking. Our guide, x, had a trained eye and would point out both an elephant in the distance and stop to pick up a little tortoise the size of my hand on the side of the track. On seeing a pack of giraffes, he led us right up to them and we pulled up while they stalked around us.
We did hit a slight problem when, about 10 mins into the trip, the terrain got a little rockier and demanded slightly more masterful steering… On hitting some rocks and steering into some bushes on one side, I got my accelerator and break mixed up… so instead of breaking myself to a stop, I actually sped up and crashed into the bushes to the right, causing the quadbike to topple over and throw me right off. Phil, the hero that he is, jumped off his bike and came running. The guide looked a little despairing and asked if i wanted to do the rest of the session on the back of his. But no, resilient(!) and with a cut on my elbow that phil was going to hear a lotttt about for the next week or so, I continued, albeit a little slower…
It was one of the best mornings we’d had in a long time – seeing wildlife up so close and being out in the open with them was amazing. The thrill of racing around on quadbikes, and in such beautiful scenery, was an experience I’ll never forget. The quadbike tour ended up being about 3 hours in duration, which was real good value for money – a definite must if you visit.