So, you’re a South African local that’s never seen the big 5? Shock, Horror!
Actually, it’s not surprising at all.
Game drives are notoriously expensive and many of us would have to consider selling a kidney before thinking about staying on a wildlife reserve. Thanks to daily deal websites (e.g. Groupon and Wikideals), there is a glimmer of hope for those of us who want to explore and enjoy our home country without breaking the bank. Usually, these deals are restricted to off-season or certain days, but who cares? It’s worth it.
Aquila Private Game Reserve is situated between Ceres and Touws Rivier in the Western Cape, and is no exception to being pricey. Peak seasons are playtime of the wealthy (or those holding stronger currencies). Luckily, an off-peak daily deal allowed me to be whisked away for my birthday weekend.
Our deal included accommodation, 3 buffet meals a day, 2 game drives and a horseback safari. We stayed 2 nights and ended up substituting the horseback safari for a quad-bike safari.
Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed with a drink. Since we couldn’t check in until 2pm, we were directed to the restaurant for our first (of many) buffet meals. The great thing is that their food is Halaal (note that they serve alcohol from the bar). The selection is extensive with salads, mains and desserts for EVERY meal. Some dishes were really great quality – the delicious lamb pie and steak stand out in my mind. Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked…
We were initially checked into a smallish but well-appointed room with a lovely bathroom. After spending a few minutes in the room, we started hearing an unbearable noise. We couldn’t figure out what the noise was and reported it to the front desk.
The maintenance staff were aware of the issue and informed the front desk staff that there was a problem with the plumbing that couldn’t be resolved at the time. It always drives me nuts when hotels allow sub-par rooms to be given to guests when other rooms are available. Thankfully, we were upgraded to a reserve-facing room on the ground floor, which was spacious and best of all, had no plumbing issues.
I loved that the room decor consisted of earthy tones which perfectly complimented the location. Aquila do know how to guarantee a peaceful night. The bed was very comfortable, the room had block-out curtains and even though we were on the ground floor (close to the pool), we couldn’t hear much noise from outside. In addition, the room had an aircon, a seating area, an empty minibar, a kettle (with only decaf coffee for some reason) and a balcony. There’s no TV in the rooms and the WiFi and cellphone reception was non-existent in our room (Room 101). Perfectly fine if you’re aiming to get away from it all.
I really enjoyed some of the extra touches Aquila adds. At night, they light a fire and make marshmallows available to those who want to relax around the fire. They also put out a telescope for those who want to stargaze – trust me, the Karoo night sky is absolutely awe inspiring.
I must admit, after a day of game drives and eating A LOT, most people are happy to sleep early to be well rested for the morning game drives. For those who want to stay up, there’s a bar/ lounge with TV which was mostly empty during our time there. The coffee is pretty well-priced.
…Aquila is not the luxurious tented camps you find in the Kruger. You don’t really feel like you’re out in the wild but we had a fantastic time there nonetheless. I would highly recommend Aquila to any locals or tourists that don’t have the time or money to go further north.
Keep an eye out for upcoming posts on the various activities (including the Tranquila Spa) available at Aquila.