As travel consultants, one of our skills is assessing how to match a client with the right property for them.  There are many factors one must consider, especially when it comes to including a safari component into an itinerary.  The first is budget and this is often our starting point.  Time is another factor which will have a big impact on the properties we will propose.  Other considerations are whether our client is traveling with a family, especially a very young one.  The final and possibly most important ingredient are expectations, a first-time visitor with a small budget and little time to spend may have very different needs and expectations from a return client.

The reality is that sometimes a Big Five Game experience at a premium reserve is simply not going to work.  We are often asked for game experiences that are closer to Cape Town which would not require an extra flight.  Fortunately, there are now several properties within the Western Cape (not more than 4 hours drive from Cape Town) which can work.  A big advantage to staying at a Western Cape game reserve is that it is malaria free and therefor suited for families with young kids. One must be aware that this isn’t the African Bushveld and if travellers have been on Safari in East Africa previously, we would suggest one of our premium safari destinations.

Gondwana is a 4-to-5-star property which offers game drives in a Free-roaming Big 5 environment on a 11 000 hectare private game reserve.  This is an important distinction to make as this means that predators like lion are seen in their natural state.  It offers a range of accommodation options from free standing lodge accommodation to private villas which are perfect for family groups.  They also offer a tented, hands-on conservation experience.  Their packages are flexible with full and half board options.

The fact Gondwana’s veld is made up of fynbos (a plant kingdom to which protea belong) is an absolute plus.  Their knowledgeable guides lead fascinating trails through this beautiful veld.  This is a very authentic Southern African wildlife experience, and we’d recommend their 3-night Pioneer Trail for anyone that is looking for an in-depth nature emersion.

The Sanbona Wildlife Reserve offers 58,000 hectares of undiluted wilderness.  While this property is a scenic 3-hour drive from Cape Town, it’s something we’d recommend to clients who are happy to take time to explore and is not suited to someone in a hurry to tick off the Big Five on their sightseeing list.

‘The size of the property is something to behold and to assist with their conservation programme some of the animals are tagged.  One of my most memorable game experiences is tracking a cheetah by foot on this huge reserve. ‘ Vicki Lavery.

This property boasts 3 Luxury Lodges and an adventurous Explorer Camp.

Boteliersklop is a 4,200-hectare family run game reserve.  Accommodation ranges from luxury tented suites to en-suite rooms in the Manor House and self-catering villas.  The main lodge is surprisingly luxurious and beautifully positioned on a hillside, overlooking a meandering river where game roams freely.

The reserve offers 4 of the Big Five, 5 (lion, elephant, buffalo and rhino) as well as cheetahs and a host of antelope, including rare black impala, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, hippo.  The fact that predators are kept separate from the rest of the reserve means they can safely offer activities like horseback safaris.

Botelierskop offers a number of activities including veterinary safaris. Veterinary procedures involve darting the animal with a specially formulated anaesthetic by our wildlife vet. Various procedures involving elephants and lions are scheduled. Funds are donated towards the AWCF to continue their conservation projects in Africa.

Another feature of this property is it’s Day Visitors Centre, which offers game viewing experiences in vehicles which accommodate between 12- and 20-seater vehicles.  Overnight guests however are transported in 9-seater game viewing vehicles.

The advantage that these Western Cape reserves have is that they accommodate young children, in some cases, kids over 2 years are taken on game drive, providing the family books the vehicle exclusively.  Aquila is a good example of a family friendly wildlife experience. Just 2 hours from Cape Town, this reserve offers 3- to 5- star accommodation including family rooms.

The 10 000-hectare conservancy is home to the Big 5 legends: elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard, and rhino.  Many of these animals have been rescued and Aquila does remarkable work with animal rehabilitation.  Aquila’s Day Visitors Centre transports guests in 20-seater vehicles, however the overnight and day guest facilities are quite separate and overnight guests can enjoy an evening of star-gazing around a big camp fire.

Inverdoorn is slightly further from Cape Town, 2,5 hours drive, it offers affordable get aways for couples wanting to see big five game.  Rooms sleep 2 people in twin or double beds.  The reserve is in an area known as the Karoo, which is a vast semi-desert area.  As with Aquila grazing is supplemented and lion and cheetah are kept in a separate area.  However, Inverdoorn does not accept Day Visitors and game drives are in comfortable 10- to 12- seater vehicles.

So even within the Western Cape, there is a range of properties to choose from, all offering wildlife experiences.  When we design an itinerary, we like to take all the pros and cons into consideration before proposing what might work best for everyone.