Our first ever safari brought us to Arathusa after reading many previous positive reports on this private lodge in the Sabi Sands. Overall, we were not disappointed though getting there was a challenge because no-one told us of the possibility of flying on a small 6 seater plane from Nelspruit Kruger Mpulanga to an airstrip less than 500 metres from the lodge (appprox 150 euros for each person each way) and taking only 30 minutes. Instead we had a private transfer by car, which took us two and a half hours – the last hour and a half being on un-metalled roads that shook us to bits as the vehicle was not made for these dusty, bumpy roads. The benefit, however, was that we saw the real rural South Africa with superb scenery, tiny villages and towns along the route. Flying over this would not have given such a fascinating insight into the culture or lifestyles of the local people.
We were welcomed at Arathusa by managers, Michelle and Brendan, who kindly offered to take us out to the afternoon safari, the departure of which we had missed because of our long cross country trek. We chose to take more time to settle in and find our feet after our two flights from Cape Town, via Jo’berg, to Nelspruit airport. Michelle kindly organized for us to have a light meal soon after our arrival. Our own individual lodge (one of ten) was very comfortable, well furnished and air-conditioned. With separate dressing area, kitchenette, bathroom, shower and toilet there was plenty of space to make one-self more than comfortable. Reports elsewhere of lots of ‘bugs’ in the room do not match our experience and our lodge (No.1) was right on the edge of the whole lodge settlement where you might expect to find more creepy crawlies. You were provided with personal insect repellent spray, insect killer for the room and a torch for after dark. Though we religiously followed medical advice and took Malarone we did not experience any mosquitoes or had any bug problems generally. Ryan, our ranger, a native South African, never takes any medication and relies solely on repellant spray.
The whole lodge settlement looks over an artificial water hole but one that is increasingly becoming naturalized and to which many types of birds and animals are frequently attracted. We often saw elephant, giraffe, buffalo, impala, kudu, monkeys, wildebeest and many birds visiting the water hole at various times of the day. Ultimately, the quality of a safari is dependent on the quality of the tracker and ranger. Ryan, our ranger was superb. He was very ably supported by our tracker, Morris, who managed to literally sniff out superb finds such as a baby cheetah with mother and a small herd of elephants tucked away in a wooded gully. To get close-up and personal with the wildlife makes for an excellent safari and Ryan, with his brilliant driving skills, managed to get us really close to many species of wildlife in the area – indeed we never realized that a Toyota open Land Cruiser could climb seemingly vertical obstacles. We will always remember being within 2 metres of a male adult leopard chilling out on the top of a termite hill. With two drives per day (0645 and 1630) we had great opportunities to see the big five and much more – Ryan’s local knowledge was remarkable so we learned a great deal about both flora and fauna. The drives were also social events and everyone from our group – Spain, France, UK and Holland got on really well and the refreshment breaks were great opportunities to get to know each other – beware of Morris’ attempts for you to taste chocolate drops which are actually impala poo!
Breakfast and lunch were taken over looking the water hole and the evening dinner in the boma -, a circular dining area in the open air with a log fire and candles to add to the atmosphere. A new boma is under construction that will allow you to eat under the stars and observe activity right by the water’s edge from a platform on stilts. Max, the chef, prepared good three course dinners and lunch and breakfast were more than ample. Though prices in the bar and mini-bar were not high in comparison to UK prices, they were relatively high when compared with the equivalent purchase at the airports and café/bars eg mini-bottles of wine (dinkys) were more than twice the price than the equivalent sold at Jo’berg airport. Changing to all-inclusive we think would be better for everyone. We would have also liked, on occasion, for some of the staff to join us for a meal as this would have added further to the personal touch of the lodge.
- Also Known As:
- Arathusa Safari Hotel Sabi Sand Game Reserve
- Hotel Arathusa Safari
- Arathusa Safari Lodge South Africa/Sabi Sand Game Reserve