The Closest Safaris to Cape Town
Fairy Glen (about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Cape Town - Northeast)
Aquila (about 2 hours and 20 minutes from Cape Town - Northeast)
Inverdoorn (about 2 hours and 50 minutes from Cape Town - Northeast)
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve (about 2 hours and 50 minutes from Cape Town - East)
Garden Route Game Lodge (about 3 hours and 50 minutes from Cape Town - East)
Indalu Game Reserve (about 4 hours from Cape Town - East)
Botlierskop (about 4 hours 30 minutes from Cape Town - East)
Buffelsdrift (about 5 hours from Cape Town - East)
Knysna Elephant Park (about 5 hours and 50 minutes from Cape Town - East)
Which Safari is the Best for You?
1. Fairy Glen (about 1 hour and 45 minutes)
SIZE: 128 hectares
We did not go to the safari here due to advice in Facebook groups to avoid this one as it was more like a zoo. We can not confirm if that information is true as we did not go - however, it’s size is a potential indicator.
However, it claims to be Cape Towns closest Big 5 Safari - including animals such as elephants, rhinos, lions, mountain leopards, buffalo, wildebeest, elands, bontebok, zebras, lynx, oryx, and other smaller buck species as well as the black eagle.
Additionally, they include free arrangements with qualified guides to walk through their botanical gardens. The scenery and mountain backdrop look amazing. Fairy Glen offers day safaris and overnight safaris.
Note: We did not try this experience.
2. Aquila Game Reserve Safari (about 2 hours and 20 minutes)
*DECENT SAFARI, AMAZING MEALS
SIZE: 10,000 Hectares
We did go to Aquila, and we thought it was a decent safari. The animals are a bit scarce as there isn’t a massive amount of land and each animal is required to have plenty of space. We saw only 2 elephants, 3 giraffes, about 5 rhinoceros, a few dozen zebra, a few wildebeest, a few springbok, a few ostrich, a couple hippopotamus, a few eland and kudu (from afar), and some lions (in a separate enclosed area). We did not see any cheetah (although they said there was 1 or 2 on the property) or buffalo (although they said there were a few there as well). Note: We did the Early Morning safari.
Additionally, after our safari we were welcomed to enjoy a meal at the lodge. The brunch was fantastic - and really made the experience worth the price. We enjoyed the buffet style brunch so much that we went back for seconds. The food was really quite good!
They offer 4 different day trip safari packages (with or without transfer) including: the Traditional 2 or 3 hour Game Drives, a Horseback Safari, and a Quad Bike Safari. You can even fly in here on a 30 minute helicopter or aeroplane flight over the winelands if you desire! Additionally, they have a luxury Spa & Treatment Facility available as well. You can go on an Aquila Game Reserve Safari tour with transportation from Cape Town, or check out their accommodations here.
Aquila believes in Responsible Tourism: They are the largest job creator to the local community and have a solar renewable energy project which provides all of the Reserve’s daily energy requirements, as well as a recycling and waste management initiative which includes vermiculture and aquaponics. They also offer free anti-poaching training to game rangers.
Yes, we saw wild baboons on our drive through the Swartberg Pass! As this isn’t a safari, we won’t cover the Swartberg Pass in this article.
3. Inverdoorn (about 2 hours and 50 minutes) *TOP RATED SAFARI
SIZE: 10,000 Hectares
A unique experience of African Wildlife, and the one that was recommended to us by a number of people in the Facebook groups that we checked.
Some features of this location:
You can make reservations to do a “Self Drive” Safari
Home to a successful cheetah conservation centre
There is a Boma Style Restaurant at this location
Offers Day Trip Safaris and Overnight Safaris
Set in a big green oasis in the arid Karoo, you can see lion, cheetah, rhino, elephant, hippo, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, bontebok, springbok, and other antelope large and small, along with soaring eagles and numerous species of birds.
You can try an Inverdoorn tour that includes transportation from Cape Town, or simply check out their accommodations here.
Unfortunately, we did not attend Inverdoorn as we planned to go on this safari about 4 weeks after we thought our baby was going to be born (38 week induction - per our OBGYN). Additionally, Jenny’s parents were going to be there with us for the Inverdoorn safari. But, we decided not to induce and let our son come naturally. So, then he decided to come late (at 41 weeks) and we simply couldn’t go to this safari when he was only a week old. We were really looking forward to this safari and it is definitely on our list for the next time we go to Cape Town! If you have been here, please let us know if you enjoyed it in the comments section below (thanks!).
4. Sanbona Wildlife Reserve (about 2 hours and 50 minutes) *MOST LUXURY SAFARI
SIZE: 58,000 hectares
We didn’t know about this one until just before we were about to leave Cape Town. It’s the largest reserve that we know about near Cape Town and boasts itself as:
“More than a Big 5 wilderness reserve, it’s the vastness of the landscape, the alluring stillness and isolation amid raw beauty and boundless plains that make Sanbona unique… Three Luxury Lodges and an adventurous Explorer Camp nestle in 58, 000 hectares of sculpted Cape Fold Mountains and wide-open plains.”
You can reserve the Dwyka Tented Lodge, the Gondwana Family Lodge, the Tilney Manor, or the Sanbona Explorer. This one is sold as a VIP fully pampered experience. Booking in advance is essential - there are no walk-ins here.
Here are just a few of the comments about it:
“From the moment of arrival, we were spoiled silly. Welcome drinks, champagne toast to celebrate our anniversary, exquisite food, lovely pool.”
“This place surpassed our expectations - by a long way.”
Although they don’t allow kids under 4 years old to go on Game Reserves, Sanbona has a “Kids on Safari” packages.
It receives a 4.6 / 5.0 score from 87 reviews on Google, and a score of 4.8+ / 5.0 on most other review sites. Most of the lower scores were from people who stated that they had difficulty getting close to any animals and should have brought binoculars or others who wished for a more rugged experience with a barbecue as they were situated in one of the Luxury Lodges when they likely should have booked the “Sanbona Explorer” tent style experience instead. People say that they’ve seen cheetahs, white lions, elephants, rhino, hippos, buffalo, birds, baboons, and giraffe.
5. Garden Route Game Lodge (about 3 hours and 50 minutes)
*AFFORDABLE, ENJOYABLE SAFARI, AMAZING MEALS
SIZE: 2,000 Hectares
Of the safaris that we tried in the Cape Town area, this one was actually our favorite. We didn’t take the tour that we are linking to as we decided to do our own drive from Cape Town, to Aquilia (early morning), then through the Swartberg Pass to stay in Oudtshoorn on day 1. Then we saw the Cango Caves and Cango Wildlife Ranch and stayed in Mossel Bay on day 2. Last we went to this Garden Route Game Lodge on our way back to Cape Town on day 3.
The price was extremely reasonable at 500 Rand per adult - and they had safaris available at 11 AM or 2 PM (different times are available for guests at the Game Lodge - including an “Overnight Safari and an “Overnight Safari Self Drive”). They have the Ayana Spa for wellness and relaxation, a few chalets (2 bedroom family units), standard 1 room units, and even:
five luxury free standing rooms that are perched atop a small ridge and offer 180 degree views of the game reserve with magical sunsets.
The land felt about twice as big as Aquila, even though it is a fifth of the size, and we saw many more animals. Note: We went to the 11 AM Day Visitor Safari which included a welcome beverage.
Again, we only saw 2 elephants here, and 3 giraffes. But we also saw whole herds of Springbok and Zebra (including babies), dozens of ostriches (and babies), a small herd of wildebeest (and babies), a couple of rhinoceros (and a baby), a fair number of buffalo, a number of impala, a decent number of eland and kudu, a few hippos, a wild cheetah, a secretarybird, and we got much closer to lions while inside a separate enclosure. It was certainly a more enjoyable safari experience than what we experienced at Aquilia - especially for the price - but it was a little bit farther from Cape Town.
They note that they also have
Additionally, we ate lunch at their “Serengeti Restaurant” and thought that both of our meals were absolutely fantastic here as well (although not included in the price of the safari like at Aquila, but the total price still ended up being cheaper here). We were sad that we couldn’t eat here again as it was so far from Cape Town, but we plan to stop in for a meal on our way along the Garden Route the next time we are in out in South Africa! YUM! Check out their accommodations here.
6. Indalu Game Reserve (about 4 hour from Cape Town)
SIZE: 800 Hectares
Here you are able to get up close and personal with elephants while in their natural environment. They have guided walks with elephants, elephant interactions, and elephant feeding. They do not have elephant rides.
The Game Drive and Bird Watch experience is also available, but binoculars and comfortable walking shoes are recommended. They note that you can “Experience 4 of the Big 5, as well as eight different antelope species and over 200 species of bird, including the beautiful fish eagle and Verreaux's eagle”. Based on photos that we’ve seen, that would include rhinos, buffalo, zebra, springbok, deer, eland, kudu, giraffe, and ostrich. We couldn’t find out if they had lions or cheetahs as their #4 of 5 Big 5 animals though.
Indalu is open to the wild and has 800 hectares of landscape. It receives a 4.9 / 5.0 score on Google with 44 reviews. You can book a night at Indalu here.
Note: We did not try this experience.
7. Botlierskop Day Safaris (about 4 hours and 30 minutes from Cape Town)
SIZE: 3,500 Hectares
“The ultimate luxury game experience on the Garden Route” according to their brochure.
Botlierskop has hippos, rhinos, lions, buffalos, elephants, giraffes, black impalas, and more. All in, it has 26 different species of wildlife and over 200 species of birds. You can do bush walks and even Horseback Safaris at this location.
The accommodations are Luxury tented suites on private wooden decks which have “breathtaking views”. It also has 7 bedroom Manor house suite that have view of the plains where game animals roam. The Bush Villas are 3 bedroom self-catering villas which overlook the waterhole - some also have a pool. The resort also has a full spa as well.
Note: We did not try this experience.
8. Buffelsdrift Private Game Reserve is in Oudtshoorn (about 5 hours from Cape Town)
SIZE: 3,000 Hectares
“LUXURY AIR-CONDITIONED EN-SUITE TENTED ACCOMMODATION IN OUDTSHOORN, GARDEN ROUTE SOUTH AFRICA”
We should note that we only stopped here to eat a quick snack on our way from the Congo Caves to the Congo Wildlife Park. Unfortunately, while the dessert was alright, we were very dissatisfied with our milkshakes as they were served with milk which we thought was sour, curdled, or possibly even containing soap. It was disgusting. So, after describing the situation to the staff, they decided to bring us new ones - which were also not good. I am curious where they get the milk - possibly from one of the animals that we are not accustomed to drinking milk from?
Despite our bad experience with the shakes here, the animal experiences and the safari’s looked like they would be acceptable. You can see some animals, and the 5 hectare hippo pit area, from the restaurant area (although you might need binoculars to get a decent view of them). You can see rhino, zebra, elephants, cape buffalo, eland, springbok, giraffe, and hippo - as well as over 200 bird species at this location.
They also do Safari Game Drives, Meerkat Safaris, and Elephant Feedings, Elephant Interactions, and Elephant Walks.
You can check out their luxury accommodations here.
9. Knysna Elephant Park (about 5 hours and 50 minutes from Cape Town)
SIZE: 60 Hectares
Here you can literally sleep in the same facility as the elephants in the Elephant Lodge. Additionally, you can volunteer, go on elephant walks, have a breakfast picnic walk, have a tailor made package, eat at their Indlovu Cafe, have weddings and other functions, and take daily tours - where you can interact with, feed, and walk amongst their herd of elephants.
Not really a safari per se, but an interesting elephant experience worth mentioning. Check out the Elephant Hide of Knysna Guest Lodge.
Note: We did not try this experience.
Recommended Hotels in Cape Town
Best Luxury Hotel, Experience & Location: The Andros Boutique Hotel (price varies)
Best Value, Experience & Location Hotel: Constantia Oasis (as low as $64 USD per night)
Best Experience & Location VRBO: Apartments & Condos (as low as $84 USD per night)
Cheapest Decent Hostel & Location: DS Backpackers (around $20 USD per night)
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Jenny & Bradley of EatWanderExplore