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December 3, 2015

Sub-Saharan Africa: When Aquila Beckons, Give In

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By Katie Reynolds

Photo by Freeimages.com/Mircea Preda Struteanu

This is my second visit to Aquila Private Game Reserve, and my fiancé’s first. I have purposefully not told him anything about our destination because I want to live the first-time experience vicariously through him. The two-hour drive flies by and by midday we are crunching along the dirt road and past a small paddock of horses. Our bags are whisked away and tall flutes of sparkling wine are thrust into our grateful paws. I’m told that we will be staying in lodge number 10, which has me fizzing more than my wine because Lodge 10 is the most divine structure ever to grace the local landscape. My fiancé is suitably awed as we make our way past the two swimming pools and the restaurant with the sublime food, and onwards to the lodge, where we settle on the deck and watch two elephants stroll by. 

The afternoon is spent lazing by the main pool and drinking G&Ts, while we remark that for all Aquila’s transcendent beauty, it serves a very practical function too. It is in fact a wonderful conferencing venue, with spacious meetings rooms and plentiful accommodation, thanks to the recent edition of a hotel block adjacent to the main building. If I were a delegate, much of my time would be spent gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows and day-dreaming about the morning game drive, but thankfully corporate meeting types don’t have the attention span of tadpoles, as I do.

Dinner comprises all food ever made, at first glance. I happily abandon my diet as I move from table to table, scooping heaps of fresh-off-the-braai lamb, pasta, salad and roast potatoes onto my plate. When the food is as good as this, it just won’t do to be frugal.

Dawn breaks on an already toasty day, and we haul our sleepy selves onto the game-drive vehicles and begin the two hour drive. Our mission is to find as many of the reserve’s many species of fauna as possible. We are soon treated to the sight of giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, elephant, plentiful buck and a warthog, before melting at the sight of a magnificent white rhino and her tiny baby. The lions were disdainful to say the least, but obliged our requests for photos by rolling over and yawning at us.

We ended the game drive with a trip to the Animal Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) where numerous animals, including predators, are recuperating from injuries or adjusting to life after being saved from appalling conditions. A trip to Aquila is not complete with visiting the ARC, as it serves to highlight the excellent conservation work that is so sorely needed globally.

We ended our trip to Aquila with a hearty breakfast, and listened to the excited chattering of the numerous families surrounding us, as well as the buzz of incentive travel groups, both local and foreign. Aquila has made a name for itself nationally and abroad, and for good reason. For work or play, it’s a winner on all fronts.


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