After having spent two months in South Africa with numerous safari experiences I would say I have a pretty good overview regarding the best game reserves near Cape Town. In this article I am going to share the experiences I had at the four different game reserves I got to visit and will let you know which one was the best!
All four reserves I am sharing with you today are within a couple hours driving distance to Cape Town. So it’s possible to do a day trip there and go back in the evening. We always spent one night which I think is the perfect length for your safari stay!
What I loved about Inverdoorn are the amazing lodges. As you can see on the picture below they are very stylish, modern and luxurious. With more than 43 degrees outside it was still nice and cool inside and the whole hotel area is beautifully designed and they have two nice pools for their guests. The dinner area is also very pretty and personal. Food was not overwhelmingly amazing, but I got to try ostrich steak for the first time, which was definitely a new experience for me.
One thing that stood out especially at Inverdoorn was our incredible ranger. He was so insightful and shared so much interesting information with us. You could almost feel his immense passion for the subject and his love for wild animals. It was very inspiring to have such a knowledgeable person driving you around the reserve.
Very special about Inverdoorn is their Cheetah rehabilitation center. They prep the Cheetahs for life in the wild and you can watch them chase their bait and get close to them with the safari car. They are beautiful animals and we have not seen them in the other game reserves.
Kughana Private Glamping
Kughana is actually located within the Inverdoorn Game reserve and is made up of three beautiful and private glamping tents. Staying at Kughana is such a boutique experience. You will have your own private catering, pool, dinner gazebo and barbecue dinner. The experience is much more customized than at the main camp and you will have a dedicated ranger to guide you through your stay. There is a nice little pool and sun chair area.
The glamping tents were so luxurious and even had electric blankets, since it got quite chilly at night. Make sure to bring warm cloths in the colder months, but they are also prepared with comfy blankets here and will heat you up a bonfire at night and in the morning. This is also the perfect place if you love stargazing! We were greeting with the most beautiful welcome platter and the service was outstanding!
The animals you will see are the same as at Inverdoorn, but what was absolutely unique this time were the elephants coming to drink from our pool in the morning. They just came out of the bush to take a little shower with our pool water and cool themselves down a bit. Out of all the safari experiences I had so far, this was the most well-rounded overall experience!
Aquila impressed me with its wildlife experience. Even though it is quite a lot of mass tourism there it still makes my list of the best game reserves near Cape Town because of the many incredible animals we encountered on our daily game drives. At Aquila 10 safari cars with up to 30 people in it leave the camp at the same time. This is way more than at any other reserve. However, they also have the biggest property and the most animals.
The animal experience
Within a 90 minute game drive we saw all of the big five. We were even lucky enough to see hippos out of the water and a 4 day old baby rhino. Lions were relaxing in the afternoon shade by our safari car and the elephants came super close. I got the best pictures at Aquila.
Let me note that the game driver seemed very unmotivated and partly unfriendly. He did not give us much information and you could tell he was bored of doing this every day. But maybe it was also just that specific driver we had. We did one drive in the afternoon and one the next morning giving us two very different experiences. The food was really bad at the buffet, but the swimming pool area was nice. The accommodation was alright, but nothing compared to other game reserves we have been to.
I was thinking for a long time if I should include Aquila in my list of best game reserves in Cape Town, since there were quite a lot of things that I didn’t like. On the other hand trips to a game reserves are pretty much all about the animal experience and that was simply the best Aquila and therefore it made the list regardless. Just be aware of the down sides I pointed out when visiting!
De Hoop Nature Reserve
If you are on your way from Cape Town to the Garden Route you might want to visit de Hoop Nature Reserve. It lies three hours from Cape Town in the Overberg region, near Cape Agulhas, the southern tip of Africa. The area is 340 square kilometers large hosting a fast array of different wild animals and bird species. The nice thing about de Hoop reserve is that you can do a lot by yourself and don’t necessarily need to book a game drive. You can simply take your own car around the reserve and spot some incredible wildlife along the way. We stopped to watch a herd of zebras a couple meters away or took some photos of impressive antelopes while heading to the beach.
Speaking of the beach – that’s probably what impressed me the most. You find a 32 square kilometer long mini dessert by the beach. Huge sand dunes everywhere that make quite an impressive photo spot. You can walk for kilometers and only see sand. There are modern beach houses and with the nordic flair you feel like being somewhere by the North Sea in Germany.
De Hoop is definitely one of the best game reserves near Cape Town just because of its breathtaking nature.
Indalu Game Reserve
Indalu was by far the most private and personal experience out of the four game reserves I visited. It is owned by a couple who bought 800 acres of land with wild animals a couple of years ago for their private use. At some point they decided to open their gates to the public and founded Indalu Game reserve.
There are only two self-catering chalets on the huge property which ensures you the most private and tranquil experience you could find. The wife is managing the lodges and the office and her husband Gerhard is in charge of the game drives. The tour was super personal. We go to see so many amazing wild animals and got to go up quite close. Gerhard even has a seat in the front of the car that lets you get closer to the animals than at any other more commercial reserve. (He doesn’t have lions by the way and no one is allowed to sit there when passing the water buffalos)
The elephant walk
A very special experience we booked at Indalu was the morning elephant walk. Each morning the elephants walk to the water hole to drink and you can join them on their walk. It is a guided walk but you can see the elephants are not trained or harmed in any way. The whole walk was very natural and in harmony with the animal. It was a magical experience being so close to such a gentle creature. At one point the elephant picked up a stone along the way and handed it to me. The cutest experience ever made.
Even though Indalu is the most private experience I also need to mention that they don’t have all of the big 5 animals in the reserve. So if you are really looking for seeing leopards and lions this might not be the right game reserve to visit. Other than that it is a huge recommendation perfectly situated at the beginning of the famous Garden route.
My recommendation on the best game reserves near Cape Town
So this was my list on the best game reserves near Cape Town. All of them are different and each one has something special to offer. It really depend on what you are looking for. For the best wild life experience I would recommend Aquila, for the best accommodation and guide Inverdoorn, for the best nature experience de Hoop and for the most private as well as unique experience Indalu.
I hope this article on best game reserves near Cape Town was helpful for you. Let me know which one you are planning to visit in the comments!
If you are based in Cape Town definitely check out my healthy food guide on best fitness food in the city!