Aquila’s Big 5 Karoo Safari: All You Need to Know

Aquila Private Game Reserve is a wildlife paradise located on Cape Town’s doorstep. Bordering the region known as the Great Karoo, this 10 000 hectare conservancy is situated in the Western Cape’s unique and succulent fynbos mountain biome.

Forming part of the vast and stunning Succulent Karoo Biome, one of South Africa’s three biodiversity hotspots, Aquila Safaris is a must-visit destination for travellers and visitors to Cape Town hoping to experience and witness the wilder side of Africa. In fact, the Karoo is home to the richest diversity of succulent plant species on earth.

A Must-Visit Destination for Birdwatchers and Nature Lovers

Found only 2 hours from Cape Town, the Great Karoo is famous for its stunning landscapes that have inspired many of South Africa’s greatest artists, writers and poets. Its rich palette of dessert hues, stillness, night skies, endless plains and teeming wildlife will entrance you. 

The Karoo boasts a staggering diversity of life, with over 407 bird species calling this region home. Birdwatchers can sight a remarkable 294 species unique to the area. Guests at Aquila Private Game Reserve should look out for the rare Verreaux’s Black Eagle, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Common Ostrich and African Spoonbill (just to name a few).

Foraging enthusiasts and those with a passion for natural remedies will also find the Karoo to be a fascinating treasure. The veld is abundant with local herbs, including the famed Cancer Bush (Sutherlandia frutescens), Buchu (Agathosma betulina), and Wild Rosemary / Kapokbos (Eriocephalus africanus). With over 3,200 plant species documented, hundreds of which are endemic to the region, the Western Cape’s Karoo biome offers a botanical wonderland for nature lovers.

Be sure to include Aquila on the spectacular wild flower routes along the West Coast. During the spring months (September through to November), the landscape transforms into a kaleidoscope of shapes colours. Everything about this region is an experience one can only truly appreciate in person. The Karoo even has a different climate to that of Cape Town. The weather on winter days can be mild to warm, with cold nights. While the Summer (December to March) is usually hot and dry, often being many degrees higher than the city. 

Th extraordinary richness of the Great Karoo is a testament to the region’s status as part of South Africa’s Succulent Karoo Biome, one of the world’s three biodiversity hotspots.

Preserving the Historical Heritage of the Karoo

The Great Karoo valley cradled by Aquila Game Reserve forms part of the Cape Fold Mountain Belt, with the two mountain ranges situated on either side, composed of erosion-resistant, quartzitic sandstone belonging to the 510-million-year-old Table Mountain Group.

Visiting Aquila is like taking a step back in time, with the presence of ancient fossils and Bushman paintings adding a layer of historical intrigue to the breathtaking wild and natural scenery. The reserve is committed to protecting the Western Cape’s natural landscapes and indigenous flora and fauna.

Rare and endangered species, like the Cape Mountain Leopard, are specially adapted to the region’s harsh terrain. Protecting their habitat is vital for the survival of many endemic species.Despite challenges faced by urbanisation and wildlife poaching, Aquila’s conservation initiatives and community programmes are helping to preserve the Karoo’s cultural and wildlife heritage.

Witnessing the Return of the Big 5 to the Western Cape

Our team at Aquila Private Game Reserve take immense pride in their role in re-introducing the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo) back to the Western Cape. Following the settling of the Cape, the province saw a horrific decline in their wildlife populations, resulting in the tragic extinction of the Cape Mountain Lion and the regional extinction of the Southern White Rhino and Black Rhino.

However, Searl Derman (owner and founder), set about searching for the perfect place to reintroduce the Big 5 to the Cape. He was fortunate enough to find a nature reserve that would one day become the wildlife sanctuary and private game reserve we now know as Aquila. And, after an absence of almost 250 years, the reserve’s Animal Rescue team successfully introduced the first rhinos back into the Western Cape.

Today, Aquila serves as a leading South African wildlife sanctuary and Cape Town Game Reserve, offering day visitors and overnight guests the chance to witness these iconic animals in their natural habitat.

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