Top Game Reserves In and Around Cape Town
If you can’t make it to the Kruger National Park, there are a range of game reserves close to Cape Town where you can still experience a safari. Whether you are looking for the elusive Big Five experience, a bird watching escapade, or just wanting to relax in nature, there is a place for you. Read on to find out more about some of the best game reserves within a four-hour drive of Cape Town.
The figures mentioned in this article are as of 20th January 2017
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Game Reserves with The Big 5
If you love big game, then your safari should include seeing the famous Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard, and buffalo). There are several game reserves around Cape Town that offer you this unique experience depending on how far out of the city you want to venture.
1 Hour from Cape Town
Fairy Glen Game Lodge
The Fairy Glen reserve near Worcester was founded by the late Pieter De Jager to provide a sanctuary for endangered wildlife. This means that you can experience the Big Five up close and personal while supporting a worthy conservation effort.
The reserve is only an hour’s drive outside of Cape Town and offers a variety of packages. If you want to be back in time for dinner, you can choose a day trip for game viewing. If you have a bit more time, you may want to consider spending the night at the reserve’s accommodation. You can choose from two or four-person luxury or standard chalets.
In addition to game viewing, the reserve offers:
- A restaurant which serves traditional African meals
- A conference and wedding venue
- A well-stocked bar
- A swimming pool
- Hiking trails
- A curio shop
If you want to take a break from game drives, visit any of the surrounding top-class wine farms.
The safari-only packages (which include a 3-hour game drive and a meal) start at R1 450 pp and the overnight safari packages (which include a 3-hour game drive, dinner, bed, breakfast, and lunch) start at R1 850 pp. To find out more about Fairy Glen, visit their website.
2 Hours from Cape Town
Aquila Private Game Reserve
Aquila Private Game Reserve in Touws River offers various ways to see the Big Five. If you are interested in more than just big game, there is also a range of fauna and flora to keep your safari full of unique and interesting sightings.
Aquila offers (and is willing to customize) a huge range of safari options. You can choose a unique experience that suits you and your budget. The offering includes:
- Quad bike safaris
- Horseback safaris
- Fly-in safaris (helicopter flight to the reserve followed by a game drive)
If have more than a day for your safari, you may choose to stay overnight. If you do, Aquila offers luxury accommodation in the lodge with access to a top-class restaurant and even a spa. This makes it a perfect venue for weddings and conferences too.
The safari-only packages start at R1 295 pp (meals and game drive included) and the overnight safari packages start at R1 795 pp (standard room with two game drives and meals included). You can enquire about safari packages and options by visiting the Aquila website.
Inverdoorn Game Reserve
The best part about a visit to Inverdoorn Game Reserve near Ceres, is the cheetahs. The reserve is home to the Big Five as well as a cheetah rehabilitation centre. This means that you can meet and learn more about these beautiful creatures while on your safari.
The reserve offers visitors a choice of day visit safaris or overnight safaris. The day visit safaris take about 5 hours (excluding travel time) and include:
- A guided tour
- Lunch and drinks
The overnight safaris give you the chance to have a more leisurely experience. The Iziba Safari Lodge offers a range of accommodation for guests to the reserve. You can choose from:
- A luxury tented campsite
- Luxury/family chalets
- The guest-house
- The 5-star ambassador suite (Tip: includes cheetah encounter and private game drives!)
Spending the night will give you time to visit the cheetahs and enjoy the natural surroundings, clear night skies, poolside relaxation and the culinary delights prepared in the kitchen.
The day safari will set you back around R1 500 (including a game drive and welcome drink) and accommodation starts at R2 820 pp (including 2 private safaris, meals, and a welcome drink). All of this is a click away.
Three hours from Cape Town
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
The Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in the Little Karoo near Montagu is a luxury game reserve. This is an experience for the discerning guest who wants a well-rounded relaxing safari experience.
The reserve boasts many attractions, including:
- Game drives (twice daily — in the mornings and evenings)
- Boat safaris on the Bellair Dam (home to abundant birdlife and hippos)
- Bird watching (there are over 200 bird species on the reserve)
- Kids safaris (keep the little ones busy and let them learn about nature)
- Stargazing (each lodge has a telescope and ranger who will explain what is seen)
- Nature walks (from hikes to wilderness trails, something for all fitness levels)
- Khoi San rock art
The reserve can accommodate guests in three luxury lodges and a manor house. Each lodge suits a different type of guest.
- The Explorer Camp offers a unique walking safari experience. The camp serves as a home base with two days of walking through the reserve with an armed guide (around 4 hours of walking a day). At night you can relax and enjoy the luxury tents situated around a camp fire. The Explorer camp will set you back R4 101 pps and includes meals and walking guides.
- The Dwyka Tented Camp consists of luxury tented accommodation (there are only 9 units). Each tent has a private deck with a spa bath and guests may access the relaxation retreats. Prices start at R5 828 pps.
- The Gondwana Family Lodge has 12 family friendly luxury suites, priced from R5 411 pps. The lodge has a swimming pool, relaxation retreats and even has a children’s play area.
- Tilney Manor offers six open plan luxury suites that overlook the reserve. Guests can make use of the swimming pool, relaxation retreats and the steam and sauna rooms after a busy day of game viewing. A night at the manor starts at R5 411 pps.
Sanbona is well worth the drive from Cape Town, given the range of activities and accommodation on offer. Find your fit by visiting their website.
Other Popular Game Reserves
So, you've seen the Big Five and ticked an item off your bucket list. Safari done, right? Well, there are so many other wonderful things to see and do on safari that you might have missed out on. Here are some epic game reserves between one and four hours from Cape Town, to make sure get the most out of your safari experience!
1 Hour from Cape Town
Buffelsfontein Game and Nature Reserve
Buffelsfontein’s location is a true gem. Unlike most game reserves, it is located up the West Coast from Cape Town and gives you a chance to see big game and the sea in one trip.
The reserve is family-owned and spans approximately 1 600 ha (that’s 1 600 rugby fields). All of which is home to a large variety of animals, including:
- White rhino
The reserve is a popular wedding and conference venue but also boasts:
- Guided safaris
- Bicycle safaris
- A swimming pool and bar (perfect for hot summer days)
- An excellent restaurant, open daily (well worth the drive!)
If you want to spend the night, you can choose the campsite, cottages or guest house accommodation. The campsites start at R135 pp/pn, self-catering chalets are R660 per unit, self-catering cottages are R1 300 per unit, full board cottages are R1 320 pp, and the guesthouse is R4 840 pn for the 20-sleeper venue. More information on rates and availability here.
If you are looking for a more intimate safari and wildlife experience, Bartholomeus Klip in Riebeeck Kasteel is the place to visit.
While the reserve doesn't offer the Big Five experience, they make up for it in local authentic charm. There is a huge variety of local indigenous fynbos for the horticulturalists, thriving birdlife (including Black Eagles and a variety of water birds), and a buffalo and quagga breeding project. Other animals include:
- Springbok and bontebok
- Foxes and lynxes
There is also an enormous range of activities to make your visit truly unforgettable. You can choose from:
- Daily game drives (in the morning and evenings when game viewing is at its best)
- Guided hikes
- Mountain biking
You could also venture out into the surrounding areas to visit museums, enjoy some wine tasting, or go horse-riding.
If you are looking for accommodation, the reserve has four luxury double rooms in the guest house and a self-catering cottage for families (with two double rooms and a swimming pool). There is also a restaurant that serves delicious food every day.
This is a safari experience with so much more! A room including meals and game drives will set you back around R5 000 pp. The self-catering 6-sleeper unit will set you back R6 325. To book a visit, go to the Bartholomeus Klip website.
2 Hours from Cape Town
Bontebok National Park
Located on the majestic Breede river, Bontebok National Park is a must-see for birders. The park does have large game such as bontebok and zebra, but the true attraction lies in the bird life which boasts over 200 species of birds.
The various activities in the park and its surrounds will keep you and your family occupied. Some of the activities on offer include:
- Robertson and Swellendam wine routes
- Montagu Hot Springs
- Hiking (including multi-day trails)
- Mountain biking
The park offers a self-catering accommodation in the brand new “Lang Elsie’s Kraal” rest camp. There are 10 units (starting at R1 060 per unit) as well as around 41 camping and caravan sites (starting at R210 per site).
As a national park, conservation fees are applicable. A South African resident can expect to pay R37 per day (R18 for children) and foreigners will pay R100 per day (R50 for children). To find out more about rates and availability, visit the South African National Parks website.
Tip: You can purchase a Wild Card from SANParks, which, for a flat annual fee (around R500 for an adult) gives you free access to National Parks for a year! Find more fee information, check out the Wild Card website.
3 Hours from Cape Town
Botlierskop Private Game Reserve
Up the Garden Route, near Mossel Bay, is the Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. The reserve is home to an impressive four of the Big Five (no leopards) and boasts a diverse bird life.
The reserve offers several options for guests. You can choose a day safari — perfect as part of a trip up the garden route. Alternatively, if you have a bit more time, you can choose to stay overnight. The reserve offers a range of accommodation including:
- Bush villas (from R2 500)
- A luxury tented camp (from R3 600 per tent)
- A manor house (from R3 400 per room)
The reserve also offers a range of activities to keep you entertained during your stay. These include:
- Horseback safaris and outrides
- A spa
- Guided bush trails
- Walks with lions
- Kids activities
- Great white shark diving and tours
- Wedding and conference venue
Botlierskop is a great option if you want to see the Big Five and the Garden Route at the same time. Visit the Botlierskop website to book or find out more.
Karoo National Park
Found in the semi-desert area of the Tankwa Karoo, the Karoo National Park is unable to sustain a large population of game, but it’s still a beautiful place to visit. Thousands of people come to the Tankwa Karoo for the annual Afrika Burn festival (basically South Africa’s answer to Burning Man).
Despite the rugged conditions, animals found in the park include:
- Springbok and gemsbok
- Eland and kudu
- Black rhino
Fun activities in the area include:
- A fossil trail
- An eco-4x4 trail
- Guided walks
- Picnic facilities
- Bird hides
The Karoo National Park is also part of the South African National Parks. Conservation fees are R44 per SA citizen per day (R22 for children) and R176 for foreigners per day (R88 for children). Accommodation options for guests include chalets (from R1 200 per unit), cottages (from R1 300 per unit) and a campsite (from R250 per site). You can find out more on the SANParks website.
Tip: The Wild Card as mentioned above should apply here too!
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