After a couple of hours of winding our way through relatively quiet roads from Cape Town, Aquila Private Game Reserve was a most welcome sight. Masterfully blending into the surrounding Renoster veld, fynbos and hills, you could easily mistake it for a natural feature of the landscape. Aquila is situated on 4500 ha in the Klein Karoo, approximately 2 hours’ drive from Cape Town and named after the Black Eagle (Aquila verreauxii). The reserve is home to the Big Five and a rehabilitation centre for wild animals.
Our morning was supposed to start off peacefully with a nice breakfast buffet with authentic De Doorns sparkling wine, but due to an accident in the Huguenot tunnel, we turned up a bit late. Luckily Cara, one of the always helpful Aquila staff members, managed to grab us a quick bite to eat as we made haste to join the game drive.
First of all I need to tell you what not to expect from this reserve. This is not the Kruger National Park. Aquila is a private game reserve existent for the protection, re-introduction and breeding of highly endangered species. In doing their part for conservation, we are lucky enough to have a chance to see these majestic animals up close and personal.
Our first animal encounter was with a family of nosey hippos, blowing bubbles and checking us out dubiously. Hippos are the most dangerous animals in Africa, killing more humans than any other animal. The game ranger, Romeo, told us that their jaws are strong enough to snap a crocodile in half. Naturally, we remained at a safe distance.
Driving along, we were introduced to the colourful Cape Fold Mountains. They were formed millions of years ago by tectonic movement and you can clearly see the lines of sediment, indicative of an ancient ocean bed.
Nearly as ancient looking as the mountains, were the group of white rhinos we encountered next. Two of these dinosaur-like creatures were the first rhinos to be born in the Western Cape for 250 years. They were very inquisitive and we had to keep on reversing as they decided we were standing over their favourite relaxation spot!
Rhinos always lie with their backsides together in a defensive, ready-for-a-fight pose.
Two bull elephants striding in the background seemed to be on their way to a juicy looking spot of vegetation. They were relocated at great expense from the Lowveld to grow the reserve from Big Four to Big Five territory.
If you would like to get even closer to the animals, you can enjoy a horse back safari. It comes highly recommended and is definitely the greenest way to enjoy your time here. The numbers are limited to 3 persons at one time as not to spook the animals. The guides are fountains of knowledge and love it when guests show a real interest in their surroundings.