Visiting Africa without going on a safari is similar to seeing Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. It’s a must-do experience that immerses you in the continent’s distinct natural landscapes and allows you to get up close and personal with its renowned wildlife. There are several safari activities available to guests in South Africa’s lovely city of Cape Town that can add a sense of adventure to their trip.
As African travel experts we usually advise our clients to rather add a more well known safari destination to their African holiday rather than trying to go on a safari too close to Cape Town. We suggest travellers fly to either The Kruger National Park, Madikwe, Marakele, Pilansberg or create a multinational African trip by visiting Victoria Falls, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia or Nambia. To find out what we think are the best safaris to take from Cape Town click here.
The reason we do this is that we do not feel that the offerings close to Cape Town offer an authentic safari experience. The main reason for this is that the animals at the safari lodges near Cape Town are often in large segregated enclosures. I.e. There are separate enclosures for the Lions, Rhino, Elephants and other animals. This means that the animals do not interact with each other and the land in a natural way, and so the experience you have of them is not as authentic. We also feel that the accommodation offerings are not up to the same standards as the private game reserves that are found in other areas of the country.
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However some people do not have the time to travel to one of the better safari destinations but still want to see Africa’s famed wildlife. In that case there are a few safari options near Cape Town, where the Big Five – lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and buffalo – roam free. In this section, we’ll look at some of the top safari experiences near Cape Town.
Aquila Private Game Reserve
Aquila Private Game Reserve is a famous safari destination close to Cape Town. It’s in the Klein Karoo, about two hours from the city center. This reserve offers a big five safari experience that would enchant any wildlife enthusiast.
There are several ways to explore Aquila. You can take a standard game drive, but if you’re feeling a little more daring, you can also tour the reserve on horseback, quad bikes, or even from the air! Aquila welcomes day tourists as well as those who want to extend their safari experience by staying overnight in one of their luxurious chalets.
If you don’t have much time, Aquila also provides half- and full-day safaris. It is advised that you stay overnight at the Aquila Lodge for the best chance of seeing the Big Five. Visitors can also spend time with rehabilitated animals at the reserve’s Animal Rescue Centre.
Sanbona Game Reserve
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, roughly 3.5 hours from Cape Town, is another Klein Karoo favourite. This Big Five reserve is noted for its elegance as well as exceptional safari experiences, including the rare opportunity to observe free-roaming white lions in the wild as well as cheetahs, elephants, and zebras.
The reserve, which is situated at the foot of the Warmwaterberg Mountains, covers 143,000 acres and offers four lodges for accommodation. With so much open space and so few lodges, Sanbona is ideal for people wishing to unplug and immerse themselves in the tranquillity of the African wilderness.
Inverdoorn Game Reserve
Another must-see safari site near Cape Town is the Inverdoorn Game Reserve. It’s only a two-hour drive from town and is particularly well-known for its cheetah rescue and rehabilitation program. In addition to the traditional game drives, this 10,000-hectare park in the Klein Karoo has the Big Five and provides unusual guided walks with giraffes.
For those who want to stay overnight at Inverdoorn, there is the Ibiza Safari Lodge. For added convenience, the reserve provides shuttles to and from Cape Town.
Garden Route Game Lodge
The Garden Route Game Lodge is located along South Africa’s gorgeous Garden Route, a four-hour drive from Cape Town. It is a bit further afield but well worth the journey. The reserve is home to the Big Five, as well as a cheetah conservation center and a reptile center.
The Garden Route Game Lodge offers three-star accommodation, such as chalets, lodge rooms, suites, and family rooms. It’s a great option for families and individuals on a tight budget. Transfers to and from Cape Town, like with the other reserves, can be arranged for guests.
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is a private nature reserve in South Africa.
The Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is around two hours south of Cape Town along the coast. Grootbos, unlike the other reserves, does not have lions or cheetahs. Instead, you’ll be surrounded by an incredible variety of vegetation and marine life.
Located on 6,200 acres of pristine wilderness that runs along the coast towards Gansbaai, guests staying at the reserve’s modern Forest Lodge can see over 800 plant species (including proteas and other fynbos found nowhere else on the planet), as well as antelope and whales calving in the nearby bay (whale season typically runs from June to November).
Gondwana Private Game Reserve
Though it is a bit further from Cape Town (about four hours), the Gondwana Private Game Reserve is definitely worth the trip, not least for the scenic drive through the Garden Route. This reserve offers safari drives to observe the Big Five as well as a variety of lodging alternatives, including Kwena Lodge’s modern huts and a solar-powered tented camp where you can “glamp” among the fynbos. Mountain biking and hiking are also available, allowing a variety of opportunities to enjoy the area’s beautiful natural scenery.
From the iconic Table Mountain to the picturesque coastline, Cape Town is a captivating city with a rich cultural legacy and spectacular natural beauty. Yet, only a few hours away, you might be in an entirely other world, where lions roam, elephants trumpet, and the African jungle stretches as far as the eye can see.
This being said we advise everyone thinking of going to one of these safaris to check reviews on sites like TripAdvisor so that you can manage your expectations of your experience.