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“Okay hostel but overpriced tours” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge

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Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge
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5.0 of 5 Hostel   |   R74, Jagersrust 3354, South Africa   |  
Hotel amenities
New Zealand
Contributor
14 reviews 14 reviews
14 hotel reviews
Reviews in 14 cities Reviews in 14 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
“Okay hostel but overpriced tours”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed July 3, 2014

We stayed here mainly to do the amphitheatre hike, and because we had a rental car wanted to do it independently. However, the manager was emphatic that we couldn't take a 2WD to the car park and she also wouldn't offer any help such as directions or maps. This is because they want everyone to take an expensive tour. We ended up taking a tour, but found 2WD cars at the car park, although the road was rough! Also tour was unprofessional. late leaving, long stops and two hours late getting back. The actual accommodation was okay, though more expensive than other Drakensberg backpackers. We didn't eat at the restaurant as there was only a 3 course meal which didn't appear to be good value. Overall we wouldn't stay here again or recommend this place.

  • Stayed June 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
amphibackpackers, Public Relations Manager at Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge, responded to this review, November 2, 2014
Sorry that you had such a negative impression of the hostel. We do enjoy criticism as it helps us to see our flaws but it is quite a heavy criticism to tell us that the lodge "wants everyone to take their expensive tours."

Firstly because if we wanted everyone to take expensive tours why would we offer cheap shuttles all over the place? Why would we spend every day handing out piles of maps for self drivers?
The second problem we have with the comment is that the tours are EXPENSIVE???? Have you looked at any prices of day trips in SA? Our tour lasts 10 hours and R560

Our expenses:
The price for the trips is not just to cover lunch and petrol..... I wish :)....
It covers:
Vehicle repayments
Vehicle insurance
road permits
Personal Liability
Passenger Liability
cross border permits
car registration
Guide registration
First Aid Certification and training (per guide)
Guide's Equipment (ropes, first aid kits, clothing et)
Guides salaries and fees (per person)
Entrance Fees (per person)
Community Levies (per person)
tyres (have you seen the roads.... eeeaaah)
fuel (16 seaters DRINK petrol)
Lunch per person (on that note we have new lunch packets with home made baguettes)

We only make profit from the 6th person in the bus BUT we go out on many trips with ONLY three clients ..... so when it is quiet we use money saved from when it is busy. This means that Amphitheatre is able to do at least one trip each day for people without cars.

We don't advise CERTAIN hikes to be done without guides but DO ENCOURAGE MANY ALTERNATIVE HIKES for people to do alone.

There is a bottle neck of customers eating dinner with us which is why we offer a set dinner at night...... though saying that it is still always full :)

We have an amazing new menu which was put together by Earth Mother Organic in Durban. Check them out on TRIP ADVISOR

http://www.tripadvisor.co.za/Restaurant_Review-g312595-d1740718-Reviews-Earth_Mother_Organic-Durban_KwaZulu_Natal.html
Stayed June 2014, travelled as a couple
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157 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    2.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    3.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (22)
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English first
Contributor
17 reviews 17 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 23, 2014

We stayed in amphitheater backpackers for one week. My tip is to rent a car if you are an avid hiker and make some friends to help split the cost of petrol. If you have a car you can also check out close restaurants, cathedral peak and the gorge which they charge you to drop you off and pick you up at a certain time which can make you feel rushed.

PROS:
The facilities are awesome and the sunrises and sunsets are picturesque. We were in the dorm which were resonably priced and the beds were so comfortable!

CONS:
FOOD-
If you are dropped off by the baz bus and no one told you beforehand to pick up your own food you are indeed trapped into buying food at the restaurant.( the shop is not within walking distance while carrying groceries) While the breakfast and lunch menus have enough choices for people on a budget there is only one choice for dinner. A 3 course meal from a "5" star chef. The food was average for the cost and the portions were quite small. It is like a very good cafeteria meal. I have done a lot of eating out in South Africa and have had much better meals for that price or even cheaper. If they had a menu with normal dishes for people who wanted to opt out of the 3 course meal that would be nice.

TOUR PRICES:
The price for the hiking trips are around $55 for the Tuelga Falls trip which I found expensive. You get a sandwich which costs maybe $3 and then the price of petrol.
We told Adrian that we really wanted to do the Cathedral peak hike but you needed a minimum of 3 people and we were only 2. So he said he would ask groups as they came in if anyone was interested and he would find us a third member. As it turned out another girl had said she wanted to go and he never relayed back to us that we now had a group and could go. Luckily we made a friends with that girl and a guy with a car so we got a group together to go to cathedral peak. When we approached Adrian asking for a map of the hiking route he did all he could to deter us from going saying it was too difficult without a guide and we needed to do it in a tour. We went anyway and bought a map at the office near the bottom of the peak. It was a tough hike but for EXPERIENCED hikers who know how to read a map it was doable. The scrambling part of the climb was tough but you can do it if you follow the foot trials you can spot where to scramble. So we ended up saving a lot of money as we found friends with cars we ventured out and around our selves. There are some really great restaurants nearby (driving distance, not walkable)

DORM:
We stayed in the silos which were converted to dorms and found that when it rained very hard the roof leaked. Not sure if they have fixed that or not.

  • Stayed April 2014
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
amphibackpackers, General Manager at Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge, responded to this review, November 2, 2014
These clients stayed at the lodge for one week and thank you so much for saying that "the facilities are awesome" as we have spent so much time and energy over the years trying to think of every need that customers might want fulfilled. The sunrises and sunsets are picturesque as you say, but we sadly cannot take credit for that :)

I am glad that you found the dorm reasonably priced as are all the budget rooms and thank you for reporting that the beds were so comfortable! Again we have invested in good sprung mattresses which we continually replace .

We do charge for shuttles as petrol costs!!! Sorry that we have to do these shuttles at designated times BUT we don't have enough vehicles and drivers to do more per day as we have shuttles to and from the park, shuttles to and from Bergville, shuttles to and from Harrismith AND our regular tours to take care of. At least we do try and help those without cars though.

The idea that we are "trapping Bazbus people into buying food from us" is rather a shocking suggestion as we have invested so much in large and well equipped self-catering kitchens. If you are travelling by Bazbus and are averse to buying meals SURELY the onus is on you to enquire before arrival as to whether there is a shop on site? The beauty of the lodge is that shopping centres ARE NOT close by, although there is a resort with a small shop 7 km away.

We have an amazing new menu which was put together by Earth Mother Organic in Durban. Check them out on TRIP ADVISOR

http://www.tripadvisor.co.za/Restaurant_Review-g312595-d1740718-Reviews-Earth_Mother_Organic-Durban_KwaZulu_Natal.html

The price for the trips is not just to cover lunch and petrol..... I wish :)....
It covers:
Vehicle repayments
Vehicle insurance
road permits
Personal Liability
Passenger Liability
cross border permits
car registration
Guide registration
First Aid Certification and training (per guide)
Guide's Equipment (ropes, first aid kits, clothing et)
Guides salaries and fees (per person)
Entrance Fees (per person)
Community Levies (per person)
tyres (have you seen the roads.... eeeaaah)
fuel (16 seaters DRINK petrol)
Lunch per person (on that note we have new lunch packets with home made baguettes)

We only make profit from the 6th person in the bus BUT we go out on many trips with ONLY three clients ..... so when it is quiet we use money saved from when it is busy. This means that Amphitheatre is able to do at least one trip each day for people without cars.

Amphitheatre tries to encourage those with their own vehicles to go on their own trips. We even have maps that we have designed informing people where to go in the park AND places of interest in the surrounding are BUT as guides WE DO WARN AGAINST THE MORE DANGEROUS HIKES. Regarding the Cathedral Peak Summit hike, it is extremely difficult and we do strongly advise against doing it without a guide and his FIRST AID equipment and knowledge as well as his SAFETY ROPES. After reading this particular Trip Advisor Review a group of clients arrived at the lodge and told us that "according to Trip Advisor" we were overly cautious with our advice...... they tried to do the hike and one of the group then slipped and rolled 20 meters requiring a long and complicated mountain rescue. Members of the group returned to the hostel the next day (YUP they slept on the mountain) and they complained that we should have "deterred them from going by insisting it was too difficult without a guide".... hmmm we just cannot win can we :(

Yes the thatched roof has been re-thatched :)

Thank you for staying as long as you did and hope you guys come back again :)
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Johannesburg
Senior Contributor
22 reviews 22 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 22, 2014

I stayed at the backpackers for the first (and last) time as the usual campsite was fully booked. The campsite has beautiful grounds and a gorgeous view of the Ampitheatre. However, the campsite doesn't have individual fire spots so you are forced to go an wait for a fire to cook. The kitchen had overflowing bins and not enough crockery and cutlery. The bathrooms were average and not regularly cleaned. The campsite was extremely noisy and there was loud music all the way through the night up until 5am. This was bizarre and disturbing because their were also young kids staying in the campsite. Yes its a backpackers for young travelers, but past a certain hour (midnight), it should be controlled especially when families are also staying in the campsite. We also encountered problems with our 'tabs' when checking-out. We were strongly told we 'must' have tab numbers, even though we said we wouldn't be purchasing anything and if we did we'd pay cash there and then. Our tab numbers were used by other people and all 4 of our party had purchases that we did not ask for (whiskies, and food). The mandatory tab system is obviously flawed and should be reviewed. I see I am not the only one with these views about the backpackers. I am also anticipating the wonderful replies of the owners who seem to have an answer for everything.

  • Stayed April 2014, traveled with friends
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
amphibackpackers, General Manager at Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge, responded to this review, November 2, 2014
The reason that you found the campsite fully booked is because it was a long weekend. This meant that it was EXTREMELY busy..... not just at Amphitheatre but the whole berg. I can assure you that all other campsites and hotels in the area become very loud and noisy over these periods.
Thank you for noticing that "The campsite has beautiful grounds and a gorgeous view of the Ampitheatre" we have invested a lot of time and energy on the lodge and it is always great when someone appreciates this. The reason that the campsite does not have individual fire spots is because of the INCREDIBLE fire risk that this poses over the dry winter months. The area becomes like a tinderbox. Instead we have built braai areas near the pool and around the self catering rooms. We also have massive self catering kitchens with everything that you might need to cook for yourselves. It is interesting that the client complains about "not enough crockery and cutlery" as most public campsites DON'T PROVIDE ANY CROCKERY AND CUTLERY at all. The weekend in question had many self-caterers and indeed we might very well have run a little short BUT if you go to reception and ask for more you will be given more. The kitchen might have had overflowing bins for a brief period because we were overflowing with customers BUT the bins are emptied by a team every morning and every night. I am not sure what is meant by the bathrooms being "average/" BUT they certainly are regularly cleaned. The campsite was extremely noisy and there was one particular noisy group that we spoke to on numerous occasions and then asked to leave the following day. The site is controlled by a night guard (TWO over busy periods.)

We open accounts under people's room numbers, although people can AND DO pay cash FOR EVERYTHING. This assists people who do not HAVE CASH and is standard practice in all levels of the hospitality industry. Clearly when things get busy, mistakes can occur but clients are always given an invoice to review and any mistakes are quickly rectified.

It is a pity that you had a negative camping experience over that long weekend BUT I can more than guarantee if you returned on a normal day of the year you would enjoy how tranquil this place usually is. Long weekends are always very busy because customers return to our place year after year as most of them have positive experiences.
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Montreal, Canada
Top Contributor
97 reviews 97 reviews
37 hotel reviews
Reviews in 42 cities Reviews in 42 cities
46 helpful votes 46 helpful votes
1 of 5 stars Reviewed June 5, 2014 via mobile

Loud music yelling screaming from people in local area in bar until 0430 night security guard would not or could it do anything people beside us were also upset. We were literally driven out and ended up in Winterton in a lovely B and B for only R100 extra like ten bucks

MAnagement does not seem to have control over these people and with no thought to the comfort of their guests. Room small and dark ,pool and hot tub looked decent enough. Food smelled good but left before we could eat. Going 24 hours without sleep due to local party animals on the bar was not a holiday

  • Stayed April 2014
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 1 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
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smokingdragon, Manager at Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge, responded to this review, June 6, 2014
Amphitheatre is aware of the evening mentioned. Unfortunately there were some extremely rowdy guests who insisted playing their car stereos till late at night in the parking lot. They were unpleasant and very difficult customers.

Saying that this is an extremely isolated event and is by no means the norm at the lodge. At the end of the day, difficult guests are a place's nightmare. Everything they do seems to reflect on the establishment and then when they are sober the following day and one tries to reprimand them one is acutely aware that the customer is always right.

Again we can only apologize for these people's bad behavior!
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London, United Kingdom
Senior Contributor
34 reviews 34 reviews
30 hotel reviews
Reviews in 29 cities Reviews in 29 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 24, 2014

This was my first Backpackers on my trip to Africa and it set quite a high standard for those that followed.

The dorm rooms are a little cramped and like most dorm rooms could use extra power sockets - for all the phones and cameras that need charging - but the beds were comfortable and the room was ensuite.

The facilities were very good, in fact I am not sure I have ever been in a Backpackers with such good facilities.

The food, yes is perhaps a little more expensive than some other Backpackers you may visit in South Africa but come on guys it is restaurant quality, you are definitely getting value for money.

I also met some cool people here so all in all I would recommend.

Stayed February 2014, traveled solo
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
amphibackpackers, General Manager at Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge, responded to this review, May 27, 2014
We are very proud to be setting the standard for backpackers in Africa. Thank you for appreciating our comfy sprung mattresses and the fantastic comments about the food and other facilities. The dorms can get cramped as the hostel is very popular so they are often very full, there are private rooms for two people to share at only R10 a person more (R150 per person.) Next time you visit book those rooms and you have your own space entirely. In terms of the sockets for electrical appliances. It is a pity that you didn't ask at reception as we have recently wired in a bank of sockets both upstairs and downstairs with multiple holes to accommodate a myriad of different countries appliances, we also have a massive box brimming over with different adaptors to use in the rooms. Otherwise we really hope that you come and visit us another time.
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Pretoria, South Africa
Contributor
11 reviews 11 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 22, 2014 via mobile

I spent 2 nights at Amphitheatre and had a brilliant stay. The accommodation, food and service certainly was great value for money as was the day tour to Tugela Falls.

More than just a Backpackers, this place is a mini resort offering loads of things to do from self guided hiking trails, jacuzzi, table tennis, small bouldering cave, guided day trips, mountain bikes and more.

On arrival I was a little overwhelmed at the size of the place and that there didn't seem to be many people around. As a solo traveller I quite enjoy the opportunity to meet other travellers and wasn't disappointed as they all returned from their day of hiking early evening. I found it a great place to meet other travellers, but when they weren't around it was nice to chat to the staff who very entertaining and helpful, thanks Connor & Simon.

The day trip was excellent value, well run and a must do. While it's a bit of a tough hike in places the scenery is breath taking and as long as you are prepared for all weather (I wasn't) it's a perfect day out. That being said, the guide (and manager) went to great lengths to make sure I was ok, lending me a day pack and buff so thanks a million Adrian!

Hopefully I will be back again one day soon.. Otherwise see you in Namibia sometime!

Stayed May 2014, traveled solo
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amphibackpackers, Owner at Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge, responded to this review, May 27, 2014
Wow what a great review. So glad you guys had fun! Conor and Simon look forward to your return!!!
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Brussels, Belgium
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 16, 2014

very well manage and systematic..the food is great. This place is more than just a backpacker. It's in between the hotel / hostel and backpacker. Situated with nice morning view and large landscape for treking and hiking. The hiking tour is awesome but a bit disappointed with the Lesotho day trip. I would say this place has everything you ever asked for.

  • Stayed May 2014, traveled solo
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
amphibackpackers, Front Office Manager at Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge, responded to this review, May 27, 2014
So glad that you enjoyed your stay and especially our views and food! Your heading says "a bit expensive for a backpackers" unfortunately you don't detail what prices you found to be expensive in particular so it is difficult for me to comment, but in terms of tours and accommodation our prices are well within mainstream backpacker prices. For instance our dorms are R140 per person. Great that you enjoyed the different hikes we offer. I see that you preferred the more challenging hikes to the hike into Lesotho. I suppose different things appeal to different people. Many prefer Lesotho over the other trips, as they find the Lesotho trip to have anthropological value as well. Thank you for your review and especially the comment that "this place has everything you ever asked for."
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Additional Information about Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge

Address: R74, Jagersrust 3354, South Africa
Location: South Africa > KwaZulu-Natal > Jagersrust
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Kitchenette Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 4 Specialty Lodging in Jagersrust
Hotel Class:5 star — Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge 5*
Number of rooms: 34
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The venue is really amazing. The lodge is found on a stunning 300 hectares of land near the foot of the Amphitheatre (Royal Natal National Park) and Cathedral Peak. The Mpande River weaves through the lands. There are buck, small mammals and a fantastic array of wild birds near the 2 dams and a picture postcard view from the lawn, a 360 degree panorama that takes in the entire Northern range from the Amphitheatre all the way to Cathkin Peak. The lodge is a base from which you can explore different sections and all the highlights of the Drakensberg Park each day. Built from stone, thatch and wood, the place is like an artist's sculpture with stained glass, metal and wooden carvings, mosaics and beautiful indigenous rockeries. ... more   less 

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