It was our first time at the Aquila Game Reserve and we were determined to make the most it. Between lots (and lots) of eating, we tried to experience everything they had on offer. In our short time there, we did 2 game drives, a horseback safari, a quad-bike safari and had a massage at the Tranquila Spa.
Aquila is situated in the Karoo and the terrain is very different from the tropical climate you might experience up-north. It’s very dry and instead of tall trees, the area is populated with dense succulents. The area is very beautiful- I especially loved gazing at the evening sky on a cloudless night.
You can read more about our experience at the hotel here.
Game Drives at Aquila
For the game drive, we hopped into a large, noisy vehicle and were accompanied by an informative local guide. Our evening drive was a whopping 3 hours long! Time passed so quickly and it was impossible to feel bored. We came across so many diverse species of flora and fauna, and the guide was able to give us details on all of them. The guide made an effort to spot as many animals as possible.
About halfway through, we stopped for drinks and a snack platter. Even though most people were using a daily deal, it at no point felt like they were skimping on anything.
Aquila keeps lions in a separate 3-acre enclosure. Ideally, they’d be roaming freely but the reserve is still too young and my guess is the lions would eat their way through it pretty quickly. The area is expansive and there’s no guarantee that you’ll spot a lion. We were lucky enough to spot a pride of lions under the setting sun. The males looked playful but the females looked fierce and highly on guard.
The morning game drive was much quicker. It was about 90 minutes, followed by a visit to the Aquila Rehabilitation Centre. Aquila is doing some amazing work at the Rehab Centre! They care for animals that cannot be reintegrated into the wild or alternatively, prepare others to be reintegrated. The reserve is fully solar powered.
There was a pair of lions at the Rehab Centre which for months they tried to integrate into the reserve’s pride. Unfortunately, the female lions became aggressive and they are now being kept at the Rehab Centre indefinitely.
After the game drives, they serve drinks but it’s almost always time for a meal anyway (it always is!).
Quadbike Safaris at Aquila
I consider myself to be a good driver – I bet most people probably think they are! Personally, I don’t like sports suspension in cars (too bumpy), I like to be tightly strapped to my seat and surrounded by powerful airbags. Needless to say, quad biking isn’t really my thing.
I was pretty scared to be so exposed to the wildlife. Have you seen how fast an ostrich can run??? I had no intention of been on the receiving end of that nasty beak.
To my legitimate surprise, quad biking was quite fun once I got used to it. It was very bumpy and I found it a bit hard on my hands (you have to keep your thumb on the accelerator). At least I was glad I knew how and when to change gears from driving, so that wasn’t a struggle.
Quad biking wasn’t as intimate as I thought it would be. The animals clearly get annoyed by all the noise and pretty much stayed away. My take on it is that the quad bike safari isn’t really for wildlife lovers (and definitely not for bird-spotters!), it’s more for those who want to have a bit of fun.
Horseback Safari at Aquila
The horseback safari at Aquila was by far my favourite activity. It’s tranquil and relaxed and we were able to go off the trail and get really close to the animals. The horses are very tame and basically follow each other without having to actively guide them, which is great for a novice like myself. We walked between a group of zebras and they barely flinched.
Horses can be easily spooked. My horse freaked out when he saw a baby rhino. Funny enough, the baby rhino is adorable! The horses aren’t used to the baby rhino and when they see him, they try to make a run for it. Pretty weird, as they don’t seem to mind the giant hippos or other dangerous animals.
The baby rhino was unfortunately abandoned by his mother so he is being raised by a carer at Aquila. Poor baby has a goat-friend that shows him how to feed.
I loved all the activities we got to do at Aquila but the horseriding safari was my favourite. I love that Aquila is not a glorified petting zoo and that the animals are treated with respect and caution.
I’d highly recommend you try all these activities when visiting Aquila.
For more on the Aquila Game Reserve, see our previous post on the accommodation here and look out for our post on the Tranqila spa (forthcoming).