An overnight experience at Aquila Private Game Reserve.

Aquila, named after the endangered black or verreaux eagle (Aquila verreauxii) is situated just two hours away from Cape Town. This private game reserve is home to Africa's big five– elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino, leopard- various antelope species and other wild game, which all roam freely on the 10,000 hectares.

The reserve's story began in 1999 when owner, Searl Derman, had the intense desire to share his passion for wildlife with the public. He was lucky enough to acquire this piece of land, just outside of Touws River between the picturesque Langeberg and Outeniqua Mountains in the Karoo, transformed it into a nature reserve and by doing so, re-introduced the big five to the Western Cape.

Today, the public is welcome to visit for the day or there's the option to stay as an overnight guest. With all of the various ways to experience the reserve, whether it be on one of the 4x4 safaris, on quad bikes or horse-back, it's not difficult to see why we chose to stay for the night.

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As always, I question and research the social responsibility of the places I visit and I couldn't be more impressed with Aquila's conservation efforts and what they do for the surrounding community.

Dedicated to the preservation of wildlife, Aquila’s conservation efforts extend to wildlife rehabilitation and re-introduction, land rehabilitation, anti-poaching programmes, eco-friendly tourism and community support.

They were the first reserve to re-introduce the big 5 to the Western Cape, where they once roamed naturally but came to the verge of extinction through human settlement and hunting in the region. Now they have programs in place to care for each member of the big five and I highly recommend you read the story of the LION, RHINO, ELEPHANT, LEOPARD, and BUFFALO.

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In addition to wildlife conservation, Aquila’s objectives are to develop the local community, both economically and socially and reduce its carbon footprint.

They've done wonders for the local community of Touws River by employing approximately 500 previously disadvantaged members, thus being the largest employer of Touws River. Along with that, Aquila prides themselves on training and uplifting residents of Touws Rivier in relation to wildlife, conservation and sustainable farming and development. Find out about all of their incredible community projects over HERE.

The lodge itself is also working on reducing their carbon footprint through their eco-synergy systems (read all about it over HERE) and they also introduced a solar renewable energy project. Allowing them to supply much-needed power to the Western Cape grid, in times of load shedding and power shortages, as well as reducing the daily energy consumption of the lodge and facilities itself.

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On to our time at Aquila; an overnight stay in one of the beautiful Premier Lodge Rooms, with an incredible view of the reserve. We woke up to the roar of a lion and enjoyed our morning coffee on the balcony, overlooking the elephants and buffalo drinking at the watering hole. An overnight booking in one of these rooms include 2 x big 5 game drives, lunch, dinner & breakfast, you also receive a complimentary Horseback Safari when you stay for 2 nights or more, additionally you can book any other activities during your stay (at an extra cost).

We jumped at the opportunity to add a quad bike safari to our itinerary, which left us covered in dust after whizzing through the 10,000 hectare reserve, chasing the latest elephant sighting or making an abrupt turn when "Baby rhino, just below the koppie." comes up over the walkie talkie. It came to be my favorite way in which we experienced the reserve itself.

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After roughing it up on the quads, a trip to the spa and a dip in the heated pool came as a no-brainer. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the poolside, spent some time bouncing between the steam room and sauna. Then, just for good meausure, booked a back, neck and head massage before heading to dinner (I might just have to take back what I said about the quad safari being the highlight).

All of the products used in the spa are natural, harness the medicinal powers of indigenous plants, flowers and herbs and are completely free from petrochemicals, synthetic ingredients, colourants and preservatives.

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Our overnight booking of a premier lodge room automatically came with three meals (lunch, dinner & breakfast) included. Served as incredible buffets that truly catered to every taste, dietary requirement and age (yes, they have a kiddies-only section, including chicken strips and fries). Expect hearty, traditional South African cuisine in a restaurant perfectly situated to offer breath-taking views of the reserve.

Our stay came to an end with a horseback safari which proved to be the perfect mix of an adrenaline-boosting adventure and some relaxation. Opting for a horseback safari allows you to get incredibly close to wild animals, closer than any of the other options and it was special to experience the beautiful Karoo landscape from their point of view.

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A recap of our itinerary: we arrived for lunch, headed to a quad bike safari, spent some time in the spa, booked a treatment and ended the day with dinner and an overnight stay in one of the premier lodge rooms. Coffee on the balcony and a buffet breakfast was followed by a horseback safari after which we jumped in the car and arrived back home less than two hours later.

I absolutely loved that we got to fully experience everything the reserve had to offer, but it’s one of those places that allow you to tailor your stay to be exactly what you want it to be. The activities, experiences, meals, safaris, treatment- and accommodation options are presented as a buffet to pick and choose from and there truly is no wrong way to spend your time at Aquila.

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This stay and all images captured came as a collaboration between myself and Chelsea (@epitomeofadventure), who shot and edited all images picturing me (and some extras).

Throughout all of these images you’ll see me wearing a local, environmentally aware fashion brand called Sitting Pretty, who are particular about sourcing natural and sustainable fibers, whilst also caring and respecting the people who produce their pieces.

You can learn more about Aquila here: www.aquilasafari.com