As parents, we often find ourselves dreaming of doing special things with our kids. Things that we once did that we loved and cherished so much. In our case, it was taking our little guy to a game park. Game parks have always been a very treasured memory of David and mine. We visited one soon after we started dating, and just fell in love with being there. That slow life, and being completely surrounded by nature and rustic beauty. That smell of thatch and wood and the delicious hearty meals that we enjoy. It’s sitting around the fire having drinks and being totally absorbed in the stories the game rangers share of their experiences. It’s absolute bliss.
This dream came true when we visited Aquila Private Game Reserve this past weekend. We couldn’t wait to finally have the opportunity to share our love for this experience with our little boy. We were told by a couple of people that he would be too young and wouldn’t enjoy such a long game drive, but we in fact experienced the opposite. We arrived a bit late on the Friday, which resulted in us missing out on the longer afternoon game drive, which actually worked out for us, as it was getting cold, but it also meant that we had the afternoon to relax a bit and to enjoy watching the two elephants stroll on the mountain side in front of our room, have some coffee and then take him to swim inside the Tranquila Spa which has two heated pools.
We then got ready for a delicious dinner.
Before dinner, we headed down to the Pub for a drink which has the most incredible kids play area as well as a kid sitting service. Olly wasn’t feeling well, so we didn’t make use of the service unfortunately, but it was totally kitted out, neat and hygienic. The pub is super cosy with fire places and couches. Everyone was enjoying a drink to warm up while watching a bit of the Football World Cup.
The meals are buffet style, and NOBODY is left out. There is so much variety, and everything was delicious. Before going, we actually had people raving about the food and telling us that they were jealous because it was so delicious when they went. I couldn’t agree more. I loved that the restaurant was totally kid friendly and very casual. We didn’t have to feel that we needed to keep Olly quiet or seated the entire time. They also cater for the kids with food which is fantastic. We were enjoying this so much, I actually forgot to take any photos!
We then headed back to our Premier Suite and climbed into our warm, cosy beds. I loved that they put hot water bottles on our bed, already filled up knowing how incredibly cold it was. Our room had a main bed, a sleeper couch, a bar fridge and coffee station.
We woke up early the next morning, it was icy cold and windier than it’s been in a LONG time. We layered up and headed down to the reception ready for our Private Game Drive. Memory was our game ranger and we just fell in love with him. He has been a ranger for over 20 years and has experienced almost everything. He is so passionate and just loves every single one of these animals so much. It was a bit of a struggle at first with the wind and cold air, but the sun soon started to shine and Memory made it so worth the while. He allowed my little boy to sit in the front with him where it was warmer and answered all of his 3 and a half year old questions.
What makes Aquila so special is that it is home to the Big 5, yet it is just a 2 hour drive from Cape Town. But it gets better – Aquila is like a rehabilitation reserve for their animals. As an example, their two male elephants were once used at another game park for Elephant Back safaris. This means that they had been ‘trained’ in an inhumane way to obey commands, etc. They were used to make money. I love that they have saved these beautiful animals from such a terrible life and have replaced that with a new home that is on their on their +/- 10000 hectare conservancy.
If you’re holding your breath for a Kruger type experience, then Aquila isn’t for you. Aquila is about educating their guests, and installing a love for these beautiful animals in the hearts of young children. Instead of having uncountable wild animals, they instead have a smaller amount, which they know the story behind. They have studied their behavior and understand their emotions and way of doing things. Due to their space, they respect the animals and only have a certain amount so that they can live a happy life in the space that they each need.
They also have anti-poachers who follow their Rhino to ensure that they are not harmed. This truly makes my heart happy. They are known for their responsible tourism and have a non-profit, conservation and comprehensive anti-poaching solution which offers free anti-poaching training to game rangers working on African private game reserves that are home to rhino and elephants.
We had the opportunity to see their Elephants up close at the water hole, these boys have become best friends since growing up together, and it is truly something special to see. We also saw a family of hippos, Zebra, a Giraffe family, a pride of lions as well as various Buck and a female ostrich doing the mating dance for her male friend. The buffalo were beautiful but seeing the Rhino up close, and having the opportunity to have my little boy see them was quite an emotional experience. I really do pray that we are able to save these spectacular animals, so that my son can show his kids them one day.
Our two and a half game drive went by in the blink of an eye, and we were sad to end the drive, despite the icy cold wind. We then headed to the restaurant for a divine buffet breakfast. We were planning on doing the Quad Bike Safari, however it was just too cold, and Olly wasn’t well so opted out. Olly was also going to go on a very special Children’s Adventure on their own Game Drive to see the Rhino Orphans with the other kids. Here they would have had the opportunity to be educated at their level on these rhinos and do activities in the ‘wild’. This was sadly cancelled due to the weather, but we were somewhat grateful as he wasn’t well, and actually fell asleep soon after. We had booked ourselves a back, neck and head massage at the Tranquila Spa, and luckily they catered for us and put us into a couple treatment room as he slept throughout the entire thing on a chair in the corner of the room.
Now, this massage should be an entire review of its own! It was something that still feels surreal. When it was over, David still looked at me and said ‘ Now, that’s how a massage is done.’ We both had written on our form that we wanted to our aim for the massage was for muscle relief. They understand exactly what you mean when you tell them the pressure you want, and I have never had that before. It was incredibly relaxing and we did leave feeling loosened up. It was such a treat, and I can highly recommend booking yourself in for a treatment at the Spa.
We really had such a special time at Aquila, and I do believe that my son was the perfect age for us to take him! He didn’t seem to take note of the long game drive and was very alert and excited, asking questions the entire drive. Aquila is DEFINITELY family friendly. They really cater well for children. We wished that we had braved the cold and taken our little guy down to the Star Safari down on the lawn in the evening, but we were exhausted after a long day, and were ready to just climb into our warm beds and to read Olly the incredibly special multilingual book they had left waiting for him (which is available here: https://www.florenceandwatson.co.za
Words will never fully be able to describe how much this night was at Aquila for our little family. Thank you for having us! Your beautiful place is so close to our hearts.
I want to take this moment to mention that Aquila is currently running 5 Winter specials which you can read more about here: http://bit.ly/2HuINIS
Aquila has some beautiful social media accounts, so to keep up with all of their news and specials, you can follow them here: