Domestic and international tourists flock to ‘the Mothercity’ for vibrant culture, stunning beaches, and pristine natural scenery.
But for many, a trip to South Africa is not complete without a bush adventure and safari experience.
While the north of South Africa is home to the famous Kruger National Park and many smaller reserves, Cape Town visitors don’t have to give up their safari dreams. And for those who have a limited amount of time in South Africa, a Cape Town safari day trip is the perfect option.
There are a couple of excellent game reserves near Cape Town that offer day trips and the opportunity to see the big 5. These reserves are privately owned and don’t compare to the size and wildlife density of bigger national parks in South Africa. But are perfect for a quick getaway from the city.
Here’s our guide to the best reserves for a Cape Town safari day trip.
A popular reserve committed to conservation, Aquila game reserve has a number of safari options for day-trippers. It covers 10 000 hectares and is home to the big 5, grazing wildlife, and almost 200 bird species
Unfortunately, there are no self-drive safaris permitted. But expert guides with a wealth of wildlife knowledge and an all-inclusive experience make it a worthwhile safari near Cape Town.
Visitors have the option of a half-day Aquila safari which includes a 3-hour game drive. You can begin the drive early in the morning, the afternoon or during sunset hours.
If you’re keen for a full day in the bush, you can do full day safari tours. You can tailor your day to include a couple of hours on horseback or quad bike in addition to the game drive.
Getting there: The reserve is 176km from Cape Town. The drive takes around 2 hours. Alternatively, book a safari Cape Town tour with pick up included.
Extra Activities: Onsite spa, quad bike safaris, horseback safaris.
Aquila Animal Rescue and Conservation Centre: Working towards the rehabilitation of rescued, abused or captivity-bred animals.
Located in the Klein Karoo, Iverdoorn prides itself for being a luxury game reserve. And the price tag of their safaris lives up to that reputation. Albeit not the cheapest Cape Town safari option, the attentive staff and extensive facilities make it a popular choice.
The big 5 and the South African national animal, the springbok, can be spotted on a day safari. A day trip safari with Iverdoorn ensures a five-star experience. It includes welcome drinks and a buffet-style lunch under the trees. And of course, a guided game drive with knowledgable guides in an open-air 4×4.
Getting There: 200km from the city center, the drive takes around 2h 30 mins. Or enjoy a hassle-free experience by booking a safari tour with inclusive pickup and drop-off.
Cheetah Conservation program: Offers rehabilitation center tours, viewing of the cheetah runs and more.
This is the best safari near Cape Town for those looking for a quick trip. It is the closest game reserve to the city. But the wild and untamed bush feels much more remote and secluded than it actually is.
Look out for the big 5 on half-day or full-day safaris. But don’t get too excited about seeing a leopard. The park has a small population and the big cats are elusive. The sightings are very rare, so keep your eyes peeled!
The reserve is a beautiful mix of free-roaming bush animals and typical fynbos flora. Animal sightings are often intimate and within close proximity.
Getting there: Only 113km from Cape Town. A 1h 20min drive.
Added activities: Horseback safaris and hiking trails.
Game reserves and national parks play a huge role in conserving South Africa’s incredible wildlife. Visiting these parks greatly contributes to conservation efforts.
However, there are many rehabilitation centers and wildlife sanctuaries that conduct unethical practices for profit. These organizations mislead visitors by glamorizing captivity and breeding programs. They do little to actually rehabilitate or release wildlife.
Practice responsible eco-tourism by following these tips
1. Say no to animal interactions of any kind. It may be tempting to interact with big cats. But this encourages captivity and disrupts natural structures that prohibit a release back into the wild.
2. Avoid organizations that allow for breeding in captivity. These wild animal offsprings will not be able to be released back into their natural habitat at any point.
3. Ask a lot of questions! Find out where the animals at the sanctuary came from and why they have not yet been returned to the wild.
4. Does the sanctuary support local education? Conservation needs to focus on the education of local communities to avoid the harm of animals at the hands of humans. A focus on educating communities demonstrates long term conservation goals.
5. Who is the sanctuary working with? Do they work with other wildlife conservation programs and non-profits? These credentials help with credibility.
As a visitor to a game reserve and to wildlife centers, you play an instrumental part in protecting and conserving wildlife. Your role is important.
It seems you really can have the best of both worlds. Choosing to holiday in Cape Town doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice a safari expedition. With three amazing game reserves on the city’s doorstep, even those who are crunched for time can spot the big 5 on safaris near Cape Town.