A GUIDE TO CAPE TOWN SAFARI EXPERIENCES
A Cape Town Big 5 safari tour is not something you hear about too often when people are planning a trip to South Africa. Most wildlife enthusiasts arrive at OR Tambo International Airport and head straight to the Mpumalanga Province where you find some of the best Big 5 safari destinations in Africa.
We won’t pretend that the game reserves near Cape Town and in the Garden Route come close to the sheer scale and diversity of the iconic Kruger National Park. However, we can promise that they offer travellers a unique and wonderful safari experience.
Most people combine a Big 5 safari tour in the Cape with a tour of the Garden Route or Cape Winelands and it’s the perfect combination of stunning scenery, incredible wildlife sightings and days jam-packed with fun-filled adventures.
If you consider the fact that the Big 5 game reserve closest to Cape Town is a 2-hour drive away and it takes between 5 to 6 hours to get from Johannesburg to the Kruger Park; the Cape competes well on this point. More importantly, the game reserves in the Cape are located in malaria-free regions while Kruger Park is a medium-to-high risk malaria area.
There are three national parks in the Western Cape that are home to an array of animals and incredible plant species. This includes Table Mountain National Park which incorporates the spectacular Cape Peninsula, the West Coast National Park and Addo Elephant National Park. You’ll find the biodiversity of the national parks and private game reserves in the Cape both fascinating and enchanting.
A Cape safari experience is different to a Kruger Park experience but it’s the perfect compromise if you are only planning to visit Cape Town and don’t want to miss an opportunity to see the Big 5.
CAPE SAFARI versus KRUGER SAFARI
Whether you opt for a Cape safari or a Kruger safari depends on your budget, time and priorities. For a truly authentic Big 5 safari tour, nothing beats Kruger National Park in the northern region of South Africa.
However, if you’re looking for a fun safari day tour or overnight stay at a premier safari destination in the Cape where you can spend some time in the bushveld and see the Big 5, you have a number of superb options.
Cape safari tour
There are 7 well-known Big 5 safari destinations in the Cape that are relatively easy to get to from Cape Town. A few of them are ideal for a safari day tour, others in the Garden Route require an overnight stay or longer.
The best thing about a Cape safari tour is the game reserves are located in malaria-free areas. This is a big consideration if you’re travelling with young children, are pregnant or you prefer not to take anti-malaria tablets.
Apart from Addo Elephant National Park, the Cape safari destinations are generally small and offer an intimate and unique safari experience. Daily game drives in an open safari vehicle is the main attraction but you can also enjoy guided bush walks and horseback, mountain bike or quad bike safaris, stargazing and photographic safaris.
The closest Big 5 safari destination to Cape Town is Aquila Private Game Reserve which is just over 2-hours’ drive from the city. The other popular Cape safari destinations are located in the Garden Route or on the fringes of the Little Karoo. This isn’t really a problem because the Garden Route is one of the most scenic and biologically-diverse regions in South Africa and a place you should definitely try to get to on a trip to South Africa.
There’s so much to do in the Garden Route that you can combine a Big 5 safari tour at one of the Cape safari destinations with everything from golfing tours, walking and hiking trails, adrenalin-filled outdoor adventures, shark diving or whale watching, adventure caving at the Cango Caves and surfing in J’Bay. The list goes on and on when it comes to things to do in the Garden Route.
Bear in mind, if you’re visiting Cape Town on holiday, you don’t have to drive 2 to 4 hours to a private game reserve to see animals and birdlife. Table Mountain National Park and West Coast National Park are home to a wide array of animals and prolific birdlife which you’ll see on a full-day Cape Peninsula tour or tour of the West Coast.
Kruger safari tour
Kruger National Park is the oldest and largest national park in southern Africa and renowned worldwide for its outstanding biodiversity and rich fauna and flora. It’s an iconic Big 5 safari destination and one of the most famous safari destinations in the world.
Kruger Park is located in the far north-eastern region of South Africa in Mpumalanga Province, otherwise known as the Lowveld. Mozambique lies on its eastern border and Zimbabwe on its northernmost boundary. It covers an area of 19 485 square kilometres (7 523 square miles), and stretches over the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. It’s 360 kilometres (220 miles) from north to south, and 65 kilometres (40 miles) from east to west.
If you walk out into the middle of the dry riverbed at Crooks’ Corner at the very top of the national park where the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers merge, you’ll find yourself standing on the three-way junction of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Kruger National Park and Greater Kruger are located in a protected wilderness region that is without doubt one of the most biologically diverse in the world. The region is core to the Kruger2Canyons (K2C) and Vhembe UNESCO Man and Biospheres.
K2C forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which is a peace park that links the Kruger Park with Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and with Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.
Many travellers ask what the difference is between the Kruger National Park and the Greater Kruger. They are next-door neighbours located in the far north-eastern corner of South Africa and are two of the country’s most popular ecotourism destinations.
Individually, one is the oldest and largest national park in South Africa and the other is an amalgamation of private game reserves that collectively form a vast protected conservation area that lies adjacent to the Kruger Park.
Combined; Kruger National Park and Greater Kruger represent one of the finest and most diverse biospheres in Africa. The vast protected wilderness region is the core of the Kruger2Canyons (K2C) and Vhembe UNESCO Man and Biospheres, and the heart of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTP Treaty, 2002).
Which is better? Cape safari or Kruger safari?
You really can’t compare a Cape safari experience with a Kruger safari experience. Kruger Park is an iconic Big 5 safari destination that wins on sheer scale and biodiversity. There’s an astonishingly wide choice of places to stay in Kruger Park and Greater Kruger while a Big 5 Cape safari is limited to about 7 popular safari destinations that are relatively easy to get to from Cape Town.
However, there are two factors that affect Kruger Park’s winning position on the leader board and why many travellers opt for a Cape safari experience that’s combined with a wonderful holiday in Cape Town.
Firstly, Kruger Park is located in a malaria region while the Cape safari destinations are located in malaria-free regions. Malaria is a life-threatening disease and can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated early. Cape safari tours are safer for young children who aren’t able to take malaria tablets.
And secondly, Kruger Park is at the other end of the country from Cape Town. If you have your heart set on exploring the beautiful Cape Province but also want to experience an authentic Kruger safari tour; it means you have to split your holiday in South Africa between the Kruger in the north-eastern region and Cape Town at the southernmost tip of the country.
Cape safari destinations present travellers with the perfect compromise. You get the opportunity to see the Big 5 and an array of plains game and predators in beautiful bushveld surrounds without having to leave the Western Cape and you don’t have to worry about malaria.
BEST BIG 5 SAFARI DESTINATIONS IN THE CAPE
Can you go on a Big 5 safari in Cape Town? No, not in the Mother City itself but certainly at a selection of excellent safari destinations that are anything from 2 to 4-hours from Cape Town.
The Top 5 of the Big 5 safari destinations in the Cape are:
- Aquila Private Game Reserve 2-hour drive from Cape Town
- Inverdoorn Game Reserve 3-hour drive from Cape Town
- Sanbona Wildlife Reserve 3 to 3.5-hour drive from Cape Town
- Garden Route Game Lodge 3.5 to 4-hour drive from Cape Town
- Gondwana Game Reserve 4 to 4.5-hour drive from Cape Town
Of course, the most popular safari destination in the Cape region is Addo Elephant National Park located in the Eastern Cape. It’s a long way from Cape Town (over 8 hours’ drive) but most travellers make a trip of it and combine it with a tour of the Garden Route.
AQUILA PRIVATE GAME RESERVE
Aquila Private Game Reserve is a 10 000-hectare Big 5 game reserve located in a malaria-free region in the Western Cape. It is located close to the historic town of Touws River and lies in a semi-arid valley between Langeberg and the Outeniqua Mountains in the Little Karoo. It’s one of the most popular Big 5 safari destinations near Cape Town which means it’s ideal for a Cape Town day tours.
The game reserve was named after the endangered black or Verreaux eagle (Aquila verreauxii). It was established in 1999 and the Big 5 (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard) were re-introduced to the area after a long absence.
Aquila Private Game Reserve is located in an area renowned for its incredible biodiversity and rich fauna and flora which you can experience on daily game drives and guided nature walks or on horseback, mountain bikes and quad bikes.
How far is Aquila Private Game Reserve from Cape Town?
2 to 2.15 hours (180 kilometres)
Where is Aquila Private Game Reserve?
Aquila Private Game Reserve lies between De Doorns and Touws River in the Western Cape, on the fringes of the Little Karoo. Take the scenic Route 62 from Cape Town to Ceres and follow the signs to Touws River.
How big is Aquila Private Game Reserve?
10 000 hectares (100 square kilometres/ 39 square miles)
Accommodation at Aquila Private Game Reserve
Aquila Private Game Reserve has a 4-star luxury safari lodge and luxury cottages. Guests have the choice of standard, premier and family rooms.
A modern Afro-chic safari lodge with 22 rooms, comprising standard, premier and family rooms. The safari lodge is built on 3 levels and rooms are accessed via a glass-paneled lift. Each room has a magnificent view of the Little Karoo plains.
The luxury cottages on Aquila Private Game Reserve are built using local rock, thatch and wood so they blend in perfectly into the semi-arid surrounds. Each luxury cottage is ensuite, has air-conditioning and a log fireplace with an alfresco rock outdoor shower and wooden deck. Guests have a choice of luxury cottages, family Karoo cottages and premier cottages that are positioned on the side of a hill overlooking the wonderful Karoo plains.
Are children allowed at Aquila Private Game Reserve?
Children of all ages are welcome at Aquila Private Game Reserve. Children’s rate available on request. Children 12 years and older are charged the adult rate. Children 6 years and younger are not permitted on the open safari vehicles for game drives and invited to join the Kids on Safari programme.
What is there to do at Aquila Private Game Reserve?
Guests enjoy daily game drives in open safari vehicles as well as the option of guided bush walks. There is a children’s entertainment area on the property as well as a large swimming pool. The triple-volume restaurant offers spectacular views of the game reserve and the Aquila Wet Bar is ideal for sundowners with a selection of specialty cocktails on offer.
Enjoy a pamper session at Aquila Safari Spa which also features 2 large indoor heated pools and an outdoor pool, steam room, sauna, nail bar, 10 treatment rooms and a couple massage room.
INVERDOORN GAME RESERVE
Inverdoorn Game Reserve is located in a malaria-free region in the Tankwa Karoo district which lies on the edge of the famous Cape Winelands. The game reserve is a comfortable 2.5-hour trip from Cape Town and is a popular option for a Cape Town day tour.
Inverdoorn is a Big 5 safari destinations and home to more than 1 200 animals and over 80 bird species. The renowned Inverdoorn Cheetah Conservation Centre is based at Inverdoorn Game Reserve; however, cheetah interaction is currently not allowed under the new management of Inverdoorn.
How far is Inverdoorn Game Reserve from Cape Town?
3-hour drive (150 kilometres)
Where is Inverdoorn Game Reserve?
Located in the Ceres district on the fringes of the Little Karoo, on the R356 route to Sutherland. The closest town to Inverdoorn Game Reserve is Ceres and Touws River. Ceres is the gateway to the Cederberg area (to the north) and Route 62 (to the south).
How big is Inverdoorn Game Reserve?
10 000-hectares (100 square kilometres or 38 square miles)
Accommodation at Inverdoorn Game Reserve
Guests stay at Ibiza Safari Lodge and have a choice of stylishly-decorated luxury suites, chalets or the family lodges. Each unit has an ensuite bathroom, air-conditioning and a fireplace. Standard features include a mini bar, tea and coffee station and satellite television. Kuganha Tented Camp and Spa is a private retreat in the game reserve.
Iziba Safari Lodge
- The Ambassador Suite: 5-stary luxury suite for 2 guests with a private roof terrace
- 4 Ambassador Chalet: sleeps 2 people with a private patio
- 7 Tankwa Chalets: sleeps 2 guests with a private patio
- 2 guest houses: suitable for families or large groups
Kuganha Tented Camp and Spa
Tranquil safari retreat located in a remote section of the game reserve. Guests stay in luxury permanent safari tents and enjoy private game drives, wonderful pamper sessions at the spa and authentic Karoo meals prepared by a personal chef. Kuganha Tented Camp is unfenced and game roams freely in the area. Children must be 16 years and older to stay at the camp.
Are children allowed at Inverdoorn Game Reserve?
Children of all ages are welcome at Inverdoorn. Children must be 4 years and older to join game drives in an open safari vehicle and must be accompanied by an adult.
What is there to do at Inverdoorn Game Reserve?
Guests enjoy daily game drives in an open safari vehicle in the Inverdoorn Game Reserve. There is a wide choice of outdoor activities at the safari lodge including a golf driving range, quad biking, guided bush walks, bird watching, large swimming pool, star gazing with a telescope, visits to rock paintings and cactus garden walks.
SANBONA WILDLIFE RESERVE
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is a 54 000-hectare wildlife reserve that is home to the Big 5 and renowned for its outstanding biodiversity. It is located in the Little Karoo and lies at the foot of the towering Warmwaterberg Mountains on the edge of the famous Cape Winelands in the Western Cape.
The Big 5 at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve includes black rhino which were introduced recently. The reserve is also home to the endangered Cape mountain zebra and South Africa’s national animal, the springbok. Popular things to do at Sanbona include daily game drives, guided nature walks and hikes, mountain biking, fishing, birdwatching and picnics. There is also an well-maintained golf course close to Sanbona.
How far is Sanbona Wildlife Reserve from Cape Town?
Between 3 to 3.5 hours (230 kilometres)
Where is Sanbona Wildlife Reserve?
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is located at the foot of the Warmwaterberg Mountains in the Little Karoo. Take the famous Route 62 through the Cape Winelands to Robertson and over the Montagu Pass. The game reserve lies between the towns of Montagu and Barrydale. The last section of the drive is on a gravel road.
How big is Sanbona Wildlife Reserve?
54 000 hectares (540 square kilometres/ 209 square miles)
Accommodation at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
Sanbona has a Welcoming Lounge which is 15-kilometres from the main gate. A complimentary shuttle service runs from the lounge to the different lodge which is available on request with 72 hours’ notice. Secure parking is available at the Welcoming Lounge.
Dwyka Tented Lodge
9 luxury permanent safari tents with twin or King-beds. Each suite has an ensuite bathroom, air-conditioning, underfloor heating, indoor and outdoor shower, mini bar, tea and coffee station and private deck with plunge pool.
Facilities include an open-air dining boma, lounge with fireplace, satellite television, wine cellar, Wi-Fi and a relaxation retreat.
Gondwana Family Lodge
Spacious thatched lodge with interconnecting rooms if booked on an exclusive-use basis. Each suite has an ensuite bathroom, air-conditioning, underfloor heating, indoor and outdoor shower, mini bar, tea and coffee station.
Facilities include an indoor and outdoor play area and child-friendly pool. The relaxation retreat offers a range of therapies and treatments as well as a steam room.
Guests have the option of:
- 6 luxury suites on the ground floor with private decks
- 6 luxury suites on upper floor with private balcony (2 with sleeper couches)
Children of all ages are welcome at Gondwana Family Lodge. Children 4 years and younger are not permitted on the open safari vehicles for game drives but can join the Kids on Safari programme.
A luxurious manor house with 6 spacious open-plan suites leading on to a private patio. Each suite sleeps 2 people, and the manor house sleeps 12 people if booked on an exclusive-use basis.
Each suite has an ensuite bathroom, air-conditioning, underfloor heating, indoor and outdoor shower, Wi-Fi, mini bar, tea and coffee station.
Facilities include a rim-flow swimming pool, relaxation retreat with steam room and sauna, lounge with fireplace and television with satellite channels, indoor and outdoor dining facilities, Wi-Fi and gift boutique.
Children of all ages are welcome at Tilney Manor. Children 4 years and younger are not permitted on the open safari vehicles for game drives but can join the Kids on Safari programme.
Three classic canvas tents at a seasonal camp set up at Sanbona and specially geared for guided walking trails. Explorer Camp operates in the summer months between October and April. Each wilderness trail takes 2 days to complete and departs on Friday.
Guests stay in luxury permanent tents and dine under the stars. Meals are prepared by a personal chef. Each tent sleeps 2 people on stretcher beds. Linen and bio-degradable toiletries are provided. The safari tents are ensuite and comprises a bucket shower, chemical toilet and canvas basin. Relax in the shade of an ancient schotia tree in a hammock.
Children must be 16 years and older to stay at Explorer Camp and participate in the wilderness trail walks. Restrictions apply to guests who are 60 years and older. The camp is unfenced and wild animals roam around the camp.
Are children allowed at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve?
Children of all ages are welcome at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, except for Explorers Camp which is restricted to children 16 years and older. Children 4 years and younger are not permitted on the open safari vehicles. They can join the Kids on Safari programme.
What is there to do at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve?
Popular activities at Sanbona include daily game drives in open safari vehicles, birdwatching, guided nature walks, photographic safaris, kids safari, relaxation retreats, Khoi-Khoi rock art tours, stargazing with a telescope and the Sanbona boat safari. Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is home to a pride of rare white lions and endangered riverine rabbits.
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve does not offer day trips and self-drive game drives are not permitted. Daily game drives are in an open safari vehicle. Children 4 years and younger are not permitted on open safari vehicles.
Sanbona is one of two protected areas in the Western Cape that boasts a healthy population of riverine rabbits. You may see this highly-elusive rabbit which is the 13th most-endangered mammal in the world. You’ll also find the rare aardvark, caracal and white lions at Sanbona as well as the Big 5 (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard).
GARDEN ROUTE GAME LODGE
Garden Route Game Lodge is located on a private nature reserve on the magnificent Garden Route. It’s popular for an overnight stay or longer stay and is ideally located to the major tourist attractions in the Garden Route. Founded in 1999, the 3 000-hectare reserve was the first private game reserve established in the Western Cape.
The wildlife reserve is home to 4 of the Big 5 which includes elephant, rhino, buffalo and lion. The Cape leopard roams through the reserve but is very elusive. The Garden Route is a malaria-free region which makes Garden Route Game Lodge ideal for families with young children. The game lodge also allows day visitors who can book a guided safari tour and have lunch at the lodge restaurant.
Guests staying at the game lodge have a choice of safari-chic rooms to suit different budgets and families. Things to do at Garden Route Game Lodge include daily game drives in an open safari vehicle, guided nature walks and reptile encounters. There is also a cheetah conservation centre on the reserve.
How far is Garden Route Game Lodge from Cape Town?
3.5 to 4 hours (340 kilometres)
Where is Garden Route Game Lodge?
Located between Still Bay and Mossel Bay on the Garden Route, close to Albertina. Take the N2 from Cape Town to Swellendam and drive through the Langeberg East Mountain Catchment Area towards Mossel Bay. Garden Route Game Lodge is 7 kilometres from Albertina.
How big is Garden Route Game Lodge?
3 000 hectares (30 square kilometres/ 11 square miles)
Accommodation at Garden Route Game Lodge
42 rooms, sleeping up to 126 adult guests
Garden Route Game Lodge offers guests a selection of luxury suites, lodge rooms and private chalets that are decorated in a rustic safari-chic style. Each unit is ensuite with an indoor and outdoor shower, has air-conditioning and a private balcony.
The private chalets at Garden Route Game Lodge are set apart from the main lodge and you get to them on a golf cart. The luxury suites and chalets at Garden Route Game Lodge either have a view of the beautiful Langeberg Mountains or the lush open valley.
Are children allowed at Garden Route Game Lodge?
Children of all ages are welcome. Look out for the children-stay-for-free special packages at Garden Route Game Lodge. Children 6 years and younger are not permitted on the open safari vehicles for game drives.
What is there to do at Garden Route Game Lodge?
The most popular thing to do at Garden Route Game Lodge are the sunrise and sunset game drives in an open safari vehicle but there’s also plenty to do back at the safari lodge.
Garden Route Game Lodge is home to 4 of the Big 5 which includes elephant, rhino, buffalo and lion as well as an array of antelope such as bontebok, red hartebeest, kudu, eland and springbok. Adults can pre-book a guided bush walk and children are invited to join the Kids on Safari programme.
Garden Route Game Lodge offers an interactive dining experience at its Serengeti Restaurant serving authentic African cuisine. The Bush Bar is the social hub of the safari lodge and the large wooden deck is the ideal place to unwind at the end of the day. You can also request private dining in the privacy of your chalet.
Enjoy a pamper session at Ayana Spa which is set in a bushveld in a beautiful setting. There are 2 swimming pools at Garden Route Safari Lodge, and one is heated. There’s a decent golf course in Albertinia and the closest beach is a 30-kilometre drive from the safari lodge.
GONDWANA GAME RESERVE
Gondwana Private Game Reserve is an 11 000-hectare Big 5 private reserve located in the Garden Route. It’s conveniently located to the popular towns of Mossel Bay and George as well as prestigious golf courses in the Garden Route such as Pinnacle Point, Pezula, Oubaai and Fancourt. It’s the perfect safari destination for a safari tour and golfing combo.
For a real Cape safari experience, you can stay at the new Tented Eco Camp at Gondwana Private Game Reserve and participate in activities that are vital for the conservation of wildlife in the region. For a few days you can experience being a game ranger and field guide and learn more about the vulnerable state of wildlife conservation in Africa.
How far is Gondwana Game Reserve from Cape Town?
4 to 4.5 hours (380 kilometres)
Where is Gondwana Game Reserve?
Gondwana Game Reserve is located in the Garden Route. It’s situated 25-kilometres inland from George. Take the N2 from Cape Town to Mossel Bay and turn off at the signposts to Gondwana Game Reserve before you reach Mossel Bay.
How big is Gondwana Game Reserve?
11 000 hectares (110 square kilometres/ 42 square miles)
Accommodation at Gondwana Game Reserve
Gondwana Game Reserve offers guests on holiday in the Garden Route a wide selection of luxury safari lodges. Accommodation at Gondwana ranges from private suites and villas to luxury tented camps.
Kwena Lodge offers luxury accommodation in 14 spacious suites that are designed to mimic traditional Khoi-Sand dwellings. Each suite has an ensuite bathroom, air-conditioning and a private deck with a panoramic view of the Outeniqua Mountains.
Bush Villas & Fynbos Villas
The Fynbos Villas and Bush Villas at Gondwana offer comfortable, elegantly decorated accommodation suitable for families and large groups. Each villa has a spacious open-plan lounge and dining area with 3 or 4 ensuite bedrooms. The villas are located in a private setting and are hired on an exclusive-use basis.
- Fynbos Villas are located adjacent to Kwena Lodge
- Bush Villas are located 10 kilometres from Kwena Lodge
Tented Eco Camp
Gondwana Game Reserve developed a one-of-a-kind conservation-tourism experience for individuals, families and large groups to offer a more authentic safari experience in the Cape. Visitors participate in wildlife management and field trips, learning important bush skills and more about wildlife conservation.
The camp facilities include 5 large, comfortable twin or King share tents set on raised platforms, each with a private ensuite bathroom and covered deck area. All meals are provided in the camp’s outdoor dining boma or in the main communal tent which
A private dedicated team of three (two expert field guides and chef) look after up to 10 guests for an incredibly intimate and exclusive experience.
Uliubisi House is Gondwana’s most exclusive private safari villa. It is booked on an exclusive-use basis and a field guide, chef and butler are available throughout your stay. The villa has 3 luxury guest suites and sleeps up to 6 adults or 4 adults and 4 children.
Are children allowed at Gondwana?
Children of all ages are welcome at Gondwana Game Reserve. The Tented Eco Camp does have an age restriction.
What is there to do at Gondwana Game Reserve?
Gondwana Game Reserve is a Big 5 safari destination in the Garden Route. The most popular thing to do is daily game drives in an open safari vehicle and pre-booked guided bush walks.
What is the Pioneer Trail at Gondwana Game Reserve?
Gondwana Game Reserve has launched a new 3-night walking trail that traverses the 11 000-hectare game reserve. The trail takes you to three remote tented fly camp and guests enjoy 2 full days hiking.
Gondwana’s Pioneer Trail is the ultimate slack-packing adventure where your belongings are moved daily between the three camps, allowing you to experience the dramatic fynbos landscape with only a light day pack.
Each exclusive camp is comprised of 4 tents with en-suite bathrooms, sleeping a maximum of 8 guests.
BOTLIERSKOP PRIVATE GAME RESERVE
Botlierskop Private Game Reserve is a small but enchanting private reserve that lies at the foot of the magical Outeniqua Mountains in the gorgeous Garden Route. It’s conveniently located to the main coastal towns and is a popular destination for an add-on Cape safari day tour while on holiday in the Garden Route. Day visitors are welcome at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve but bookings need to be made in advance.
The 42 000-hectare game reserve is located in a malaria-free coastal region and is home to 4 of the Big 5 which includes buffalo, rhino and lion. You’ll also find good populations of giraffe, Cape mountain zebra, eland and the rare black impala. Botlierskop Private Game Reserve is very popular for horseback safari tours and guided bush walks.
How far is Botlierskop Private Game Reserve from Cape Town?
4.5 hours (400 kilometres)
Where is Botlierskop Private Game Reserve?
Botlierskop Private Game Reserve lies mid-way between Mossel Bay and George on the scenic Garden Route coastline. The closest town to Botlierskop is Groot Brakriver. Take the N2 from Cape Town to Mossel Bay and branch inland just before you get to Groot Brakriver.
How big is Botlierskop Private Game Reserve?
4 200 hectares (42 square kilometres)
Accommodation at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve
Guests have a wide choice of accommodation for an overnight stay at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve.
The Tented Lodge
21 spacious and elegantly-decorated permanent safari tents that are placed on elevated wooden decks. The colonial-style tented camp offers modern facilities in glorious bushveld surrounds. Each tented suite has an ensuite bathroom. The luxury safari tents are connected to the main lodge by raised wooden walkways.
The Manor House
The newly-renovated Manor House was the original farmhouse and dates back to the mid-1800s. It offers guests luxury rooms with panoramic views of the game reserve. It’s located close to The Tented Lodge. Children must be 6 years and older to stay at The Manor House at Botlierskop Game Reserve.
The beautiful Bush Villas at Botlierskop Game Reserve offers luxury accommodation in a tranquil setting. Each bush villa boasts a panoramic view of the reserve and are suitable for self-catering holidays. There’s a fully-equipped kitchen, an open-plan lounge and dining room with satellite television and an outdoor boma. A deluxe feature is a private plunge pool.
The Bush Villas are serviced daily and if you don’t feel like cooking, you can dine at the Village Lodge which is open to all paying guests. Children of all ages are welcome at the Bush Villas but adult supervision is required because the property is unfenced.
The Village Lodge
The Village Lodge is a family-friendly lodge on Botlierskop Game Reserve that is more suitable for visitors with children. Located on the original Kleinvlei Farm, the lodge overlooks the majestic Outeniqua Mountains. The Village is a harmonious collection of new and vintage houses, some dating back to the mid-1800s. The lodge has been extensively refurbished and offers guests modern and great facilities.
A large herb garden provides fresh produce to the popular Bellevue Restaurant which is a heritage building. Bellevue Restaurant is open to all guests on holiday at Botlierskop Game Reserve as well as day visitors. Children of all ages are welcome at The Village Lodge.
Are children allowed at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve?
Children of all ages are welcome at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve, except for an overnight stay at The Manor House which has an age restriction of 6 years and older. Children 6 years and younger are not permitted on the open safari vehicles and are invited to join the children’s entertainment programme.
What is there to do at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve?
Daily game drives in the 4 200-hectare reserve is the most popular thing to do at Botlierskop Game Reserve but other activities on offer include guided bush walks, horseback safari trails and pampering at a luxury spa retreat on the property. There are swimming pools at the different lodges and a large kid’s entertainment area at The Village Lodge.
Does Botlierskop Game Reserve allow day visitors?
Yes, definitely. Botlierskop Game Reserve is hugely popular for day safaris because it is so conveniently located to George and Mossel Bay in the Garden Route. Visitors have a choice of a half-day or full-day safari tour at Botlierskop Game Reserve or you can simply arrive and enjoy lunch at Bellevue Restaurant.
Bookings for day tours to Botlierskop Game Reserve are essential and need to be made in advance. You can book a guided game drive, horseback safari or outride and guided bush walks.
The restaurant at the Visitor’s Day Centre is only open for breakfast and lunch. It can be pre-booked for evening functions. The leisure area at the Visitors Day Centre has a swimming pool for adults, pool with water slides and fountain for youngsters and a large play area.
There is also a newly-built shady picnic area at the dam where you can watch wild animals come down to drink. Visitors can pre-book a picnic basket which is packed with wholesome treats. Advance booking for the picnics is essential.
The Fijnebos Spa & Wellness Centre is hugely popular with overnight guests and day visitors. Pre-book a pamper session and combine it with lunch at restaurant Botlierskop Game Reserve. Guests staying at The Tented Lodge have free access to the spa’s heated pool and gym.
Guests who have pre-booked and paid for activities at Botlierskop enter free of charge. There is a nominal entry fee for visitors who are only coming to the game reserve for a meal.
BUFFELSDRIFT GAME LODGE
Buffelsdrift Game Lodge offers luxury tented accommodation in a beautiful private game reserve located close to Oudtshoorn. The wilderness area falls within the famous Garden Route, although it lies at the foothills of the famous Swartberg Pass which is the gateway to the Little Karoo.
Buffelsdrift Game Lodge is a delightful oasis in semi-arid surrounds. The permanent safari tents are fully equipped for a luxurious glamping experience and overlook a large waterhole where you can watch elephants and other game come down to drink. Each tented suite has an ensuite bathroom, an outdoor shower and its own private deck.
Guests dine at an excellent restaurant and spend relaxing hours at the main lodge with lovely facilities, including a divine open-plan lounge and bar area, sparkling pool and a spa treatment centre.
How far is Buffelsdrift Game Lodge from Cape Town?
5 hours (430 kilometres)
Where is Buffelsdrift Game Lodge?
Buffelsdrift Game Lodge is located 10 kilometres from Oudtshoorn at the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains in the Cango Valley. It lies on the boundary of the Garden Route and Little Karoo.
Take the N2 from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn passing through the scenic towns of the Cape Winelands. Take the road leading out of Oudtshoorn towards the Cango Caves and continue until you see the entrance to Buffelsdrift Game Lodge.
How big is Buffelsdrift Game Lodge?
3 000 hectares (30 square kilometres/ 11 square miles)
Accommodation at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge
Guests have a choice of 34 free-standing luxury permanent tents that either face the waterhole or the mountains as well as spacious family units. Each tented suite is ensuite, has air-conditioning and offers deluxe comforts for a memorable glamping experience.
Luxury features include a King-size or twin beds with quality linen, private deck and an outdoor shower, tea and coffee station and mini bar. Guests dine at the main lodge. There is free Wi-Fi throughout the lodge.
Are children allowed at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge?
Children of all ages are welcome at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge but need adult supervision because the tented suites overlook a large waterhole and the property is not fenced.
What is there to do at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge?
Things to do at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge include guided bush safaris in an open vehicle, elephant interaction and walk, lion experience and meerkat safaris, cheetah experience, stargazing and pamper sessions at the spa.
The Buffelsdrift private game reserve is home to 4 of the Big 5 which includes elephant, rhino and buffalo as well as strong populations of giraffe, eland, springbok and zebra.
ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK
Addo Elephant National Park was established to save the last remaining 11 elephants in the coastal region from extinction, and is now home to a large population of elephant (last count was 350). You’ll also find strong numbers of Cape buffalo and black rhino in the Park.
The national park has been expanded to incorporate the Sundays River and an offshore marine reserve which includes St Croix Island and Bird Island. Both islands are important breeding grounds for penguins and gannets. Today, Addo is the second-largest national park in South Africa and is home to the Big 7; elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo and leopard as well as the southern right whale and great white shark.
This popular safari destination in the Eastern Cape offers travellers a wonderful safari experience in a malaria-free area, and is a perfect alternative to the popular Big 5 safari destinations in the northern region of South Africa.
How far is Addo Elephant National Park from Cape Town?
8 hours (715 kilometres)
Where is Addo Elephant National Park?
Addo Elephant National Park is located in the Garden Route, an hour’s drive inland from Port Elizabeth.
How big is Addo Elephant National Park?
164 000 hectares (1 640 square kilometres/ 633 square miles)
Accommodation at Addo Elephant National Park
Visitors staying at Addo Elephant National Park have a choice of comfortable and affordable SANParks accommodation and luxury accommodation at private safari lodges.
SANParks accommodation at Addo Elephant Park
Addo Elephant Rest Camp
The popular main camp offers a choice of self-catering accommodation. The camp overlooks a waterhole which is floodlit at night and has a unique underground hide that allows you to get closer to the game at the waterhole.
Matyholweni Rest Camp
Located near the coastal village of Colchester at the Sundays River Mouth. It’s the gateway to Addo Elephant National Park and banks, shops, restaurants and a fuel station are available in the nearby village.
Nyathai Rest Camp
More exclusive self-catering accommodation in a rest camp nestled at the foot of the magical Zuurberg Mountains. Each unit is built on stilts and offers guests panoramic views of the Addo bushveld and a seasonal river that runs below the rest camp.
Narina Bush Camp
A secluded camp nestled in a magical forest at the foot of the Zuurberg Mountains and on the banks of the Wit River. The gravel road is tough on cars and it’s preferable to travel to Narina Bush Camp in a 4-wheel vehicle with high clearance.
Spekboom Tented Camp
A secluded tented camp in Addo Elephant National Park tucked away deep in the bushveld. The tented camp is fenced and there is a popular bird hide within the camp for game viewing and bird watching.
Two Langebos huts located in the magical Alexandria Forest which are extremely popular with birders and nature lovers. Umsintsi Cottage is a double-story unit for 2 people and overlooks the lush Woody Cape section of Addo Elephant National Park.
Luxury Lodges in Addo Elephant National Park
Gorah Elephant Camp
A luxury tented safari camp located in the heart of Addo Elephant National Park. Gorah Elephant Camp offers guess contemporary accommodation with ensuite bathrooms, cosy lounges and private decks with panoramic views of the vast savanna grasslands.
River Bend Lodge
Luxury safari lodge on a private concession in Addo Elephant National Park. River Bend Lodge offers guests 5-star accommodation, spa facilities and private game drives in an open safari vehicle.
Are children allowed at Addo Elephant National Park?
Children of all ages are allowed at accommodation run by SANParks. Check the child policy for the private safari lodges in Addo Elephant National Park.
What is there to do at Addo Elephant National Park?
Addo Elephant National Park is a Big 5 safari destination and the most popular thing to do is daily game drives in open safari vehicles. You can book a half-day or full-day safari tour on an open safari vehicle if you are visiting Addo for the day or you can drive your own vehicle around the Park.
The best place to see the Big 5 on a safari tour of Addo is at one of its many large waterholes. At Addo Elephant main camp, you’ll find a spectacular underground hide and viewing platforms that overlook a large water hole which is floodlit at night. You’ll have a panoramic view of the national park and a front row seat to the daily comings and goings of the elephants and other wildlife that come to drink.
NATIONAL PARKS IN THE CAPE
TABLE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
Located in the Western Cape ǀ Established in 1998
Table Mountain National Park stretches from north of Cape Town to Cape of Good Hope which is the southernmost tip of the Cape Peninsula. It includes the iconic flat-topped Table Mountain and Cape Point. Standing at the summit of Table Mountain, you have a sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town City Bowl and the historic Cape Town Harbour as well as Lions Head and Signal Hill.
Formerly known as the Cape Peninsula National Park, the vast natural landmark was proclaimed a national park in May 1998 to protect the natural resources of the Table Mountain Chain. The latter forms part of the UNESCO Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site and is regarded as one of the richest floral kingdoms in the world.
Closest town to Table Mountain National Park
How big is Table Mountain National Park?
221 square kilometres
Why visit Table Mountain National Park?
Table Mountain National Park lies in the heart of the Cape Floristic Region which supports the highest diversity of flora found anywhere in the world, including rare and endemic plant species. It was proclaimed a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site and is home to the iconic Table Mountain which is one of the Natural New 7 Wonders of the World.
The national park stretches across Cape Town and is renowned for its spectacular scenery, towering peninsula mountain backdrops and magical beaches. Cape Town itself is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa.
Table Mountain National Park is the perfect example of a ‘conservation area with no borders’; stretching from Signal Hill which overlooks Cape Town City Bowl and the famous Cape Town harbour to Cape Point at the southernmost tip of South Africa. The suburbs and quaint coastal villages of Cape Town fall within the national park.
The Cape Peninsula mountain range runs like a rocky spine down the centre of the national park, with the Atlantic Seaboard on one side and the lush wine-growing areas and coastal suburbs on the other. The main type of vegetation found on the Cape Peninsula is sandstone fynbos and Cape granite fynbos (fine bush) which is endangered and endemic to Cape Town, and occurs nowhere else in the world.
Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope are two iconic landmarks that fall within the national park. They’re the two most popular tourist destinations in Cape Town and basically book-end the beauty and scenic wonders of the rest of the national park.
There are three sections to Table Mountain National Park:
Table Mountain section
Covers Table Mountain proper, Signal Hill, Lion’s Head, Devil’s Peak, the Twelve Apostles and Orange Kloof. It’s bordered by Cape Town City Bowl and the suburbs such as Camps Bay, Clifton and Sea Point that make up the Atlantic Seaboard.
This section runs northwest-southeast across the rugged Peninsula from the Atlantic Seaboard to False Bay. It incorporates Constantiaberg, Steenberg Peak and the Kalk Bay mountains. Popular seaside suburbs in this section include Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek and Noordhoek as well as the wine-growing area of Contantia and Tokay.
Cape Point section
The Cape Point section is spectacular, stretching from Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope on the southernmost tip of Africa to the coastal towns of Scarborough and Simon’s Town.
SANParks accommodation in Table Mountain National Park
There is a limited selection of SANParks accommodation in Table Mountain National Park but you’ll find an endless choice of places to stay in Cape Town that range from budget-friendly guest houses to ultra-luxury hotels.
Hoerikwaggo Tented Camps
Basic accommodation in camps that accommodate a maximum of 12 people; fully-equipped for a self-catering holiday with communal kitchen and dining facilities. Hoerikwaggo Tented Camps are popular with hikers who are happy to ‘rough it’ in the mountains with no electricity and minimal provisions.
Smitswinkel Tented Camp
Situated opposite the entrance to Cape Point and short drive from the major attractions in the area, including Simon’s Town and Boulders Beach. It falls outside of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and visitors need to pay a fee to enter.
Slangkop Tented Camp
A marine-themed tented camp nestled in a forest of indigenous Milkwood trees on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s popular with hikers, families and surfers; with the best surf spots in Cape Town only a 150 metres from the camp.
Olifantsbos Guest House
A unique retreat in the heart of Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve on a secluded beachfront. It’s sleeps between 6-8 guests. An annex for an additional 6 people is available for larger groups.
Eland Family Cottage
A perfect retreat for family holidays in the heart of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. The cottage sleeps 6 people, is electrified and fully-equipped for a self-catering holiday.
Duiker Family Cottage
Situated in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve; sleeps 6 people and fully-equipped for a self-catering holiday in Table Mountain National Park.
Overnight accommodation on the slopes of Table Mountain for hikers; sleep up to 24 people and equipped with basic provisions for a self-catering stay.
The Overseers Cottage
Accommodation for Table Mountain hikers; sleeps up to 16 people and equipped for a self-catering overnight stay. Vehicle permits are not issued and guests are expected to hike to and from The Overseers Cottage.
WEST COAST NATIONAL PARK
Located in the Western Cape ǀ Established in 1985
The West Coast National Park lies 120 kilometres due north of Cape Town. It covers an area of 35 260 hectares (352 square kilometres) and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west. It runs from the town of Yzerfontein in the south up to Langebaan Lagoon in the north.
West Coast National Park was proclaimed in 1985 to protect the Langebaan Lagoon and the fauna and flora of the region. It’s world-renowned for its incredible bird life and for the dazzling display of spring flowers which occur in the months from August to September, particularly in the Postberg flower reserve.
The Park incorporates the islands of Saldana Bay that have been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area. Although the birdlife in the West Coast National Park is a big attraction, the major drawcard are the spectacular flower displays in Spring.
How big is West Coast National Park?
363 square kilometres
Why visit West Coast National Park
West Coast National Park is a spectacular stretch of protected coastline that is flanked by the icy Atlantic Ocean. It runs from the town of Yzerfontein in the south to the Langebaan Lagoon. It was proclaimed in 1985 to protect the valuable flora and fauna of this region. Langebaan Lagoon was proclaimed a marine reserve in 1973.
The national park has been identified by Birdlife International as an Important Bird Area; Saldanha Bay included. There are 250 recorded bird species in the Park but the main attraction is the huge numbers of migratory waders that descend on the coastal wetlands: up to 50 000 birds in a flock. The best time for birding in the West Coast National Park is from August to November when the migratory birds are present.
That’s also the best time to be in the national park for its spectacular flower show. The most popular area to visit for the spring wildflowers is the Postberg Nature Reserve which is literally blanked with a myriad of plant species.
West Coast National Park is not a Big 5 safari destination but it has a good selection of antelope such as eland, red hartebeest, bontebok, kudu, gemsbok, steenbok and the Cape mountain zebra. You’ll also see the bat-eared fox, caracal and the usual zebras and ostriches.
SANParks accommodation in West Coast National Park
West Coast National Park has a selection of accommodation, ranging from self-catering beach cottages to dormitory-style facilities suitable for large school groups. Some cottages and chalets are privately-owned but the owner has a concession to operate in the national park.
Self-catering cottage near the Abrahamskraal waterhole; sleeps up to 12 guests.
Van Breda Cottage
Self-catering cottage situated on Geelbek farm close to the Geelbek Environment Education Centre; sleeps 6 people and has electricity.
Small self-catering cottage for 2 people, situated close to the Geelbek Environment Education Centre; has electricity.
Jo Anne’s Beach Cottages
Two exclusive self-catering cottages located near the picturesque Churchaven and in walking distance to the Langebaan Lagoon; sleeps 6 people and has electricity.
Self-catering chalets built as part of a community-based project to promote sustainable tourism; previously Park staff accommodation that has been renovated using eco-friendly building methods.
Accommodation in West Coast National Park provided for large school groups, university students and community groups visiting the Geelbek Environment Education Centre. Dormitory-style accommodation; sleeping up to 62 people with shared ablution facilities and communal kitchen and dining facilities.
Kraalbaai luxury houseboats
Two fully-equipped houseboats permanently moored on the Langebaan Lagoon at Kraalbaai in the West Coast National Park. One is a double-story 22-sleeper houseboat and the other is 6-sleeper houseboat. No boating experience is necessary as the houseboats do not move out of the lagoon.
FAUNA AND FLORA OF THE CAPE PENINSULA
If you have a keen or even a passing interest in biology, you’ll find the fauna and flora of the Cape Peninsula fascinating.
The Cape Peninsula is located at the southwestern tip of the Cape Floristic Region in South Africa. Covering an area of 470 square kilometres, the rugged natural landmark is world-renowned as one of the most important flora regions in the world.
There are 2 285 vascular plant species that are indigenous to the Cape Peninsula. This is a remarkable statistic as it means that the Peninsula has the greatest concentration of plant species (per unit area) within the Cape Florist Region.
In addition, the Cape Peninsula supports a high number of habitats and ecological communities despite the fact that the long and steep gradients suffer from nutrient poverty. The predominant vegetation is fynbos (fine bush) which is fire-prone shrubland consisting of 12 broad categories of fynbos species.
The most common mammals seen in the Cape Peninsula are small antelope such as klipspringer, Cape grysbok, common duiker and grey rhebok. Cape Point is the best place to see large mammals such as eland, bontebok and the rare Cape mountain zebra.
While the diversity and density of plant species in the Cape Peninsula are remarkable, the animals in the Cape Peninsula are slightly less spectacular. This is largely due to the nutrient-deficient soils, extreme climate, lack of grasses and permanent water that limit the carrying capacity of animals. However, there are a few rare and endemic species that are worth mentioning:
Western leopard frog
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ lists the Western Leopard Toad as Endangered due to its already severely fragmented distribution and constant decline in the extent and quality of its habitat as well as the area which it occupies.
Van Zyl’s golden mole
Van Zyl's golden mole is a endemic to the Western Cape. It is listed as an endangered species due to habitat loss. Golden moles are an ancient group of mammals who live mostly below ground.
Table Mountain ghost frog
The Table Mountain ghost frog is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List because of its small and restricted natural range (less than 9 km2) and perceived threats from habitat modification. Even though the entire available habitat is within protected areas, its survival is not guaranteed.
The geometric tortoise is thought to be one of the most endangered species of tortoise on earth. It occurs only in the Western Cape, where over 90% of its habitat has been lost due to agricultural conversion of land.
The African penguin has been shifted from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Birdlife International has announced the African Penguins has been sliding towards extinction ever since industrial fishing started around the Cape.
Cape mountain zebra
Despite the population growth, the Cape Mountain Zebra is still currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN). A lack of genetic diversity currently threatens the long-term survival of the species.
IS IT SAFE TO GO ON A SAFARI TOUR IN CAPE TOWN?
It’s perfectly safe to go on a safari tour in the Cape as long as you take the usual precautions to stay out of harm’s way. This includes listening to your game ranger and following the safari rules when travelling in an open safari vehicle and encountering wild animals in the game reserves.
Other precautions include wearing a hat and applying sunscreen to protect yourself from sunburn and applying insect repellent to prevent being bitten by biting insects. It’s rare that you’ll encounter any dangerous snakes on a Cape safari tour but nonetheless, be careful when walking around your game lodge or on a guided bush walk.
CAPE TOWN OCEAN SAFARI
In Kruger Park, you can see the Big 5 (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard). In the Cape, you can see the Big 7. The two additional members are the great white shark and the Southern Right whale. You can throw in the humpback whale for good measure.
Great white sharks, Southern Right whales and the seasonal humpback whales are found in the deep waters of Algoa Bay and the two oceans that surround the southernmost tip of Africa: the Indian and Atlantic oceans. The whales visit the Cape shores on their annual migration between June and December.
The best place to see great white sharks and Southern Right whales is on a trip to the Eastern Cape. Book an ocean safari with a reputable operator and take a boat cruise out to two protected marine reserves: Bird Island and St Croix.
These two vital islands are valuable seabird sites and home to the endangered Cape gannet and African penguins. You’ll also spot the endangered roseate tern and the black oystercatcher.
The abundance of seabirds makes the islands the perfect hunting grounds for great white sharks and visiting whales. Sharks are found off the eastern coastline all-year round but the Southern Right whales and humpback whales are seasonal visitors. Every year, about 2 500 Southern Right whales make their way along South Africa’s eastern coastline to calve, swim and breeching in the warm Indian Ocean.
Southern Right whales are commonly seen off the False Bay coastline in Cape Town and in the seaside town of Hermanus. Whale season extends from June to October, with a higher concentration congregating off the Hermanus coastline in mid-September.
What are the Big 5?
We’ve mentioned the Big 5 quite a few times in this article so let’s explain what we are talking about. The term Big 5 was coined many years ago by big game hunters who regarded elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion and leopard to be the most dangerous animals to hunt on foot. Years later, the term Big 5 was adopted by marketers to describe the five most sought-after animals to see on a safari.
Gansbaai eco-friendly shark cage diving
Try something completely different and book an eco-friendly shark cage diving experience in Gansbaai. The town of Gansbaai is located on the east coast near Hermanus and is a 2.5 drive from Cape Town. Pair it up with a Cape Winelands tour and an overnight stay in the beautiful Boland valley.
What is an eco-friendly shark cage diving experience? This is a popular activity run by a reputable operator that not only provides clients with a once-in-a-lifetime experience but also makes a contribution to the environment by educating people on the plight of sharks in southern Africa and valuable conservation initiatives. The shark tour is overseen by an expert marine biologist.
The Gansbaai shark cage diving experience is a full-day excursion so set aside between 8 to 10 hours for this activity. While in Gansbaai, you can also visit a rehabilitation centre for sick and injured seabirds which includes the endangered African jackass penguin.
The shark cage diving tour includes a pickup at any hotel in Cape Town and transfer to the Great White House in Gansbaai. You can have breakfast or lunch at the guest house before the safety briefing.
Climb onboard a dedicated shark-diving vessel and journey out to Dyer Island. It’s a 20-minute boat road and your guide drops anchor in ‘shark alley’ which is a zone where the sharks are most active. Gear up, jump into the protected cage and enjoy an experience of a lifetime.
Shark cage diving is reliant on the weather conditions and shark sightings are not guaranteed. No diving experience is needed and all dive equipment is provided. There is no age restriction for the boat trip but children must be 7 years and older to dive.
The tour includes a visit to the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary. The dedicated shark diving boat can accommodate 2 wheelchairs per trip and the tour operator is experienced in handling clients with disabilities who’d like to experience shark cage diving.
Seal diving experience
If a marine safari grabs your fancy, another exciting excursion is the seal diving experience. You’re taken from Hout Bay Harbour to Duiker Island which is home to a massive colony of Cape fur seals. Hout Bay Harbour is a quaint coastal town that you visit on a Cape Peninsula day tour.
You are provided with wetsuits and snorkeling equipment and given a full briefing in a training session. When the diving group is ready, you enter the icy Atlantic Ocean and come face-to-face with the ocean’s friendliest creatures. A cup of hot chocolate and snacks are waiting for you when you get back on board the boat.
Cape fur seals are friendly and playful and you’ll thoroughly enjoy watching and interacting with them while snorkeling close to the boat. You spend about an hour in the shallow and clear waters and the whole seal diving excursion takes about 2.5 hours from start to finish.
Penguin watching at Boulders Beach
Staying with the ocean safari theme, another great day excursion in Cape Town is a trip to Boulders Beach on the Southern Peninsula to see one of the largest colonies of African penguins in the world. The protected penguin colony just happen to have made their home at one of the most beautiful beaches on the Cape Peninsula which is safe for swimming and protected from the Cape winds.
The African penguins arrived in False Bay in the early 1980s from Dyer Island which is located of the Gansbaai coastline. The colony grew rapidly because there was a lot of fish in the bay for them to feed on but commercial fishing, habitat destruction and marine pollution has caused a dramatic decline in the penguin population in False Bay.
It’s estimated that in 1910, there were about 1.5 million African penguins in the world. Today, the vulnerable seabird is classified as an endangered species. The penguin colony at Boulders is about 3 000 bird’s strong and growing.
The best place to view the penguins at Boulders is from the viewing platform at Foxy Beach. There are three wheelchair-friendly boardwalks that wind through the dense vegetation to get you close to the penguins. Otherwise, you can pay an entrance fee and spend the day on the beach. The quirky penguins are fearless and waddle around and swim in between the bathers.
The best time to visit the penguin colony at Boulders is in summer when the penguins are more active. Between September and October, the penguins spend more time in the sea feeding and there are fewer penguins on the beach. In January, the juvenile penguins are molting.
A nominal conservation fee is charged by SANParks to access the beach. The money raised ensures the beaches are kept clean, facilities are well maintained and conservation efforts continue.
Marine Life Kayak Tour From The V&A Waterfront
Another fun way to get up close and personal with the Cape’s marine life is a kayak tour from the V&A Waterfront which is located at the historic Cape Town Harbour. If you’re lucky, you’ll see dolphins, whales, sunfish, penguins and the cheeky resident Cape fur seals.
You set off on a stable canoe from the V&A Waterfront after a thorough briefing and paddle out of the harbour into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Out on the water, you have a magical view of Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill and Robben Island in the distance.
No experience is needed. Kayaks, paddles, safety equipment and life jackets are provided and an experienced guide accompanies you on the 2-hour excursion.
BOOK A BIG 5 CAPE SAFARI TOUR WITH MOAFRIKA TOURS
MoAfrika Tours is a leading tour operator based in Johannesburg, offering a diverse selection of day tours and long-stay tours to destinations in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique.
Your safety and well-being are our main priority. We are here to help any time, any day with booking extra activities, sorting out any problems, offering advice on making your trip extra special and just being there for you if you need to talk to someone.
We know touring, we know Africa and we’re looking forward to getting to know you.