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.

Stripy citizens: where to find the Cape mountain zebra

The Cape mountain zebra is back from the brink of extinction. See this stripy horse-like animal in Cape Town, or take a three-hour trip out to an award-winning wilderness retreat to see one of the largest privately owned Cape mountain zebra herds in the world.

Zebras used to roam over most of the Cape’s mountain ranges, but they were hunted close to extinction in the mid-1900s. Nowadays if you want to see the striped, horse-like creatures on your visit to Cape Town you’ll need to head to the Cape Point Nature Reserve, which is within the Table Mountain National Park. Or to De Hoop Nature Reserve, which is about a three -hour drive from Cape Town. You can also see them at the Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, an award-winning five-star game lodge and spa in the Cederberg mountains around three-hour’s drive from Cape Town. Bushmans Kloof is home to one of the largest privately- owned herds of Cape mountain zebra anywhere in the world.

As the name suggests, mountain zebras are good climbers with a sturdy set of hooves for navigating rocky terrain. The mountain zebra is the smallest of the three zebra species and eats mainly grass. One of the things that makes them different to their plain-dwelling cousins, like the zebras you’ll see in South Africa’s savannah regions, is that their stripes are closer together.

The jury is still out on why, exactly, zebras have stripes. Scientists think the stripes play a role in camouflaging them, or also possibly help zebras recognise each other, as each animal has a unique set of stripes, like a set of fingerprints.

Look out for Cape mountain zebras in the early mornings and around sunset, when they’re typically most active.