See Africa’s Big 5 on daytrip safaris from Cape Town

Private game reserves near the city of Cape Town provide a convenient, malaria-free environment in which to spot Africa’s Big Fve — lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard. Some of these reserves are so close to the city that you can even make a day of it and head home to Cape Town as night falls.

Sanbona Wildlife Reserve: Situated three hours from Cape Town in the Klein Karoo, this five-star game reserve is home to South Africa’s Big Five, as well as a variety of antelope, cheetah, hippo, giraffe and zebra. Of particular interest at this reserve is the endangered riverine rabbit — the 13th most endangered mammal in the world — and the rare white lion. Sanbona runs a rehabilitation programme that aims to reintroduce white lions into the wild. Take an old-school approach to your safari and book a night at the tented bush camp.

Aquila Private Game Reserve: This 10 00 hectare conservancy is located two hours drive from Cape Town in the valley between the Langeberg and Outeniqua Mountains. Also home to the Big Five, Aquila offers a range of safaris, including horseback and quad bike safaris, as well as other activities such as fishing and 4×4 trails. For those just passing through, there is an option to visit the reserve for the day.

Inverdoorn Game Reserve: If you are captivated by cheetahs, this reserve should be at the top of your list. Located in the Ceres Karoo (two-and-a-half hours from Cape Town), the 10 000-hectare reserve is home to one of the world’s best cheetah rescue and rehabilitation sanctuaries. If you’re staying at Inverdoorn Game Reserve, you’ll get the opportunity to interact with the resident tame cheetahs, Velvet and Iziba. Inverdoorn Game Reserve is also home to a variety of antelope, zebra, giraffe, buffalo and the Cape Barbary lion.  The reserve offers three-, four- and five-star accommodation.

Fairy Glen Private Game Reserve:  A slightly more budget-friendly option, Fairy Glen is only an hour’s drive from Cape Town. The reserve, which is named after a dragonfly found in the area, came into being when six privately-owned game reserves joined forces. In addition to the Big Five, the reserve also boasts wildebeest, eland, zebra, oryx and a variety of African bird species. While it’s certainly close enough for a day trip, you could also stay overnight in one of the chalets.

Buffelsfontein Game and Nature Reserve: Situated on the West Coast, less than an hour from Cape Town’s city centre, this game and nature reserve started out as a 1600-hectare cattle farm. It now boasts three of theBig Five — lion, rhino and buffalo — as well as cheetah, giraffe, zebra and a variety of antelope. If you get lucky, you might also see the Cape fox, African wildcat, aardvark and honey badger. Day trip safaris are available and include transport to and from the reserve, breakfast on arrival, game drives and lunch.

Take a day out the city to see rescued lions and other big cats

At the Drakenstein Lion Park in the Cape winelands, about an hour’s drive from Cape Town’s city centre, you can observe the king of the animal kingdom in his natural environment. You can also see Bengal tigers and an endearing troop of chimpanzees.

A pride of lions roaming free in the wild is a magnificent sight to behold, but not all lions are lucky enough to be born in protected game reserves. Some spend their lives in cruel circuses or cramped zoos, and others are bought and sold as playthings in illegal wild animal trading rings. For these animals fortunate enough to be rescued, there is the Drakenstein Lion Park in Paarl.

This 50-acre sanctuary was established in 1998 to provide lifetime care to large cats bred in captivity and, very often, violently mistreated. Home to more than 30 big cats, the sanctuary rescues lions in distress from all over the world. These lions cannot be rehabilitated back into the wild. Not surprisingly given its mandate, the sanctuary is not involved in any form of commercial breeding or trade.

The lions roam large natural enclosures that are connected by a series of walkways. You probably won’t get to see all of the cats — after all, it’s not a zoo — but you should get to see a good selection, particularly if you time your visit to coincide with one of the feeding slots that occur three times a week at 4pm. Although some of these lions were reared by hand, the sanctuary strives to give the cats as natural a life as possible and therefore does not offer any petting opportunities.

If spending a few hours — or even the day — with these regal creatures doesn’t seem like enough, you can also spend the night in the Ingonyama Tented Camp surrounded by the lions.

Although the park’s primary function is as a sanctuary for lions and other big cats, it is also home to a collection of other animals that it took in when the nearby Tygerberg Zoo closed down in 2012. Those most delightful among these can be found in the Chimp Haven.

The six chimps in the haven — who apparently enjoy watching DVDs when it is raining — all come from Tygerberg Zoo, but a few of them had less than desirable early years. Maryanna, who was born in 1969, spent time in an Angolan zoo under deplorable conditions; Mac was born in an American research laboratory; and Angus was confiscated from a West African fishing trawler! Come meet them.