Any trip to South Africa is incomplete without a tour of Cape Town – the city of sun-kissed beaches and magnificent mountains. For the ultimate holiday in the country, take a tour that offers the cosmopolitan experience of Cape Town combined with an unbeatable African bush safari in the famous Kruger National Park or in one of the excellent game reserves or national parks around.
However, if flying to the country’s north-eastern end for a safari in Kruger is not feasible, you can still get the best of both worlds while in Cape Town. Although there is no comparison of the wilderness of the South African national parks to the more tamed safari destinations around Cape Town, the fact that a safari is possible just a few hours’ drive from the city is exciting and convenient. There are many opportunities to embark on the adventure of a lifetime with a safari near Cape Town.
Below we have listed the 5 best safaris near Cape Town in order of distance from the city. Some of these destinations also avail possibilities of sighting the Big 5 animals.
1. AQUILA PRIVATE GAME RESERVE
This 10,000-hectare reserve is known for its conservation efforts and excellent customer service. Aquila holds nothing back when it comes to its guests. There are three, half-day safaris available every day – early morning, afternoon, sunset, and options for full day tours and overnight packages. Sightings of the Big 5 are possible here, along with giraffes, hippos, antelope, and 170 bird species. Aquila’s main goal is to preserve and protect African wildlife. They have an on-site animal rescue center as well as leopard research facilities.
- Distance from Cape Town: 2 hours (176km) northeast of Cape Town in the historic town of Touws River. This is a great option for those looking for a day trip only.
- Accommodation available: 4-star lodge offers standard rooms, family suites, and luxury cottages that include their very own fireplace. A restaurant, spa, infinity pool, wet bar, cigar lounge, and children’s entertainment center are also included.
- Other activities: Horseback safari, quad bike safari, fly-in safari (arrive at the reserve via helicopter!)
2. INVERDOORN GAME RESERVE
As self-proclaimed “luxury” safari, Inverdoorn may not be the cheapest on the list, but it’s certainly one of the most catered and comfortable. The reserve sits on 10,000 hectares in the arid Klein Karoo region. The grounds teem with birds and wildlife, including the Big 5, giraffes, zebras, hippos, impalas, springboks, and more. Inversdoorn is one of the most popular safaris in South Africa due to the high level of service provided by the staff and proximity to Cape Town.
Inverdoorn goes to great lengths to protect and preserve the animals that call their reserve home. RhinoProtect, a pricey security and research program specifically designed for the reserve’s resident rhinos, goes above and beyond to keep the animals safe from poachers. The Cheetah Sanctuary is another highlight. Visitors can view the fastest animal on earth partaking in running exercises that ready them for their release into their natural environment on the reserve.
- Distance from Cape Town: 2 hours 30 minutes (200km) northeast of Cape Town in Breede River.
- Accommodation available: The 3-star Izibi Safari Lodge has stylish guest houses, up-scale chalets, and posh suites. Relaxation is the name of the game here with first-class culinary dining and poolside lounging.
- Other activities: 2-day one-night safaris, private safari, sunrise/sunset safaris, walk with giraffes, cheetah encounters, cheetah runs.
3. SANBONA WILDLIFE RESERVE
Sanbona is the biggest reserve on the list with 58,000 sprawling hectares. Situated at the foot of the Warmwaterberg Mountains, the impressive landscape and some unique and rare wildlife are what sets Sanbona apart from the others. Another unique selling point is the ancient rock art that can be viewed in the reserve. Dating back 3,500 years, the fascinating drawings depict the rituals and spiritual beliefs of the ancient tribes, the San and the Khoi-Khoi.
Safaris take place at sunrise and sunset and last for roughly 3 hours. Visitors can experience multiple landscapes and habitats as well as the chance to see the Big 5, iconic white lions, cheetahs, and rare riverine rabbit. Sanbona also offers boat safaris, creating a new and innovative way to tour the reserve.
- Distance from Cape Town: 3 hours 15 minutes (256km) east of Cape Town in the town of Montagu. Unfortunately, due to the sheer size of the reserve, the establishment doesn’t entertain day trips. Hence, spending the night is mandatory.
- Accommodation available: Environmentally-friendly 5-star accommodation in the form of luxury tented lodges with private spa baths. Or book an entire manor complete with private bar, pool, and his and her bathrooms.
- Other activities: Birdwatching, walking and hiking trails, rock art tours, and one of the best stargazing in South Africa. For those traveling with children, there’s a kids program that caters to little ones’ interests while educating them on the importance of conservation.
4. GARDEN ROUTE GAME LODGE
This reserve offers two safari tours daily, each lasting roughly 2–3 hours. One departs in the early morning and the other in the late afternoon, since these are the times the animals are the most active. On the tour, you are likely to spot four out of the Big 5; lions, rhinos, elephants, and buffalos. You can also see giraffes, zebras, various antelope species, and free-roaming cheetahs. Overnight guests are offered sunrise and sunset safaris along with a tour of the reptile center which houses 28 different snake species, Nile crocodiles, and tortoises.
- Distance from Cape Town: 3 hours 40 minutes (350km) east of Cape Town in the village of Albertinia. It is possible to do as a day town from Cape Town, but it’s probably more comfortable to stay the night.
- Accommodation available: Room options in the 3-star lodge range from standard rooms, to family and luxury suites, to honeymoon chalets. Full restaurant with terrace dining is on site.
- Other activities: Families traveling with kids will love the ‘Kids on Safari’ option which allows children to explore and learn about the reserve under the guidance and supervisor of a field ranger. Bird fanatics will enjoy watching over 50 species of rare and native birds throughout the reserve. There is also a spa and pool at the lodge that’s perfect for unwinding after a long day on safari.
Claiming to be the closest Big 5 safari to Cape Town, this reserve does a lot of business with day-tripping tourists. While it’s true the Big 5 do call this reserve home, even the reserve admits that spotting a leopard is a rare occurrence. Located at the foot of the Brandwacht Mountains, surrounded in vegetation, fauna, and flora, Fairy Glen is rugged, natural, and full of wildlife.You’ll feel days away from the big city even though the reserve is only roughly an hour away from Cape Town.
The reserve offers half day safaris (with or without transportation from Cape Town), as well as overnight safari options. The tours can be conducted by vehicle or horseback. A nature walk to the Brandwacht Dam is included in the overnight safaris with a chance to see 250 bird species.
- Distance from Cape Town: 1 hour 20 minutes (113km) from Cape Town in the town of Worchester. This is the closest day-trip option on our list.
- Accommodation available: Overnight safari guests have the option to stay in either the standard or luxury chalets. Bar and Braai (BBQ) facilities and an outdoor pool are included with the accommodation.
- Other activities: Hiking trails.
Before deciding on which safari near Cape Town to embark upon, consider your priorities. If you’re traveling with children, there are a few reserves that are more family-friendly than others. If traveling in comfort is a must, there are luxury options overflowing with South African hospitality. Or if it’s all about which animals you’re going to see, be it the Big 5 or a rare encounter with the White lion, there are safaris that can practically guarantee what you will spot these. Whichever safari you choose, we doubt you’ll be disappointed!