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“Part of a great 16 days holiday in South Africa and Mauritius” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Arathusa Safari Lodge

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Arathusa Safari Lodge
4.0 of 5 Hotel   |   Kruger National Park, South Africa   |  
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Hotel amenities
Les Arques, France
Top Contributor
53 reviews 53 reviews
29 hotel reviews
Reviews in 29 cities Reviews in 29 cities
84 helpful votes 84 helpful votes
“Part of a great 16 days holiday in South Africa and Mauritius”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 17, 2008

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.

  • Liked — Spacious, well laid out and everything you need for that close to nature experience
  • Disliked — Drinks relatively expensive
  • Stayed March 2008, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (124)
Date | Rating
  • Danish first
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Norwegian first
  • Spanish first
  • Swedish first
  • Any
English first
Brighton, UK
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
8 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 16, 2008

We stayed in Arathusa for 3 nights as a part of our honeymoon.

My first bit of advise is to fly in to the safari (there's a link on their website). This not only saved us hours of driving but was a great experience in itself.

We were welcomed, shown around and out on a safari drive within about 20 minutes. 2 hours later we had already ticked off 2 of the Big 5!!

The guide and tracker were great on the drives and seemed to be an endless font of knowledge. When we returned back to the lodge in the evening we were treated to superb food every night in an amazing setting. The highlight was the special treatment we received on the last night. We arrived back from the drive to find they had run a bath and filled the room with candles, sprinkled flower petals everywhere and organised a surprise candlelit dinner for 2. Truly outstanding service!

  • Liked — The Big 5
  • Stayed March 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London
Top Contributor
58 reviews 58 reviews
31 hotel reviews
Reviews in 36 cities Reviews in 36 cities
36 helpful votes 36 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 31, 2008

This was a fantastic lodge. The accommodation was in small round thatched cottages and dinner every night was around a traditional boma. Food was also very good, though the wine wasn't as cheap as it was everywhere else we stayed in South Africa. The best thing though was the abundance of wildlife and the excellent ranger and tracker that took us out each morning and evening. We saw the big 5 within 24hrs of arriving and the animals kept on coming. Undoubtedly one of the major highlights of our tour of South Africa.

  • Liked — Location and attentive staf
  • Disliked — Not quite as luxurious as their website suggested
  • Stayed March 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Southampton
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 23, 2008

Wow this place was the highlight of our trip to South Africa, we spent three nights there and we managed to see the big 5 twice. The rangers and trackers were brilliant nothing was too much for them to explain and they are completely devoted to what they do. Sabi Sands is outside of Kruger but we didn't feel we were any worse off as the animals presented themselves almost immediately. With a water hole infront of the lodges you could not ask for a better location, after the game drives we could sit and watch the animals visit us all day long. The lodges themselves were very luxourious, immaculate and extremely comfortable. The food was plentiful but the choice was limited, all meals are taken together as a group but it's a great opportunity to meet the other guests. It's a very personal service and you got to know all the staff quickly. Ryan and Morris were a joy to go out on the game drives with and would always do their best to get you a good view. We were very lucky to see a pack of wild dogs which caused much excitement with the rangers. After our first morning game drive when we arrived back at the lodge we saw hippos, buffalo, impala, baboons, elephants and warthogs all in one go at the water hole and this was all before 10am, does it get any better!! You have 2 game drives a day and each one was a new experience. We followed a leopard for 45 minutes and sat and watched 7 lions eat a buffalo kill then chilled by the pool for the afternoon.

  • Liked — Game viewing opportunities
  • Disliked — Fixed times for meals
  • Stayed February 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Washington, DC
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 17, 2008

We returned a week or so ago from South Africa. The trip was amazing... the highlights being the stay at Arathusa and Cape Town.

The rooms at Arathusa were excellent... private (per couple) air-conditioned bungalows were very nice. I spent most of my time mid-day sitting on the porch of the bungalow (which overlooks a lake) reading and watching the wild game come to the water (hippos, impala, baboons, monkeys, kudu, tropical birds... etc.)

Game drives were in the relatively cool mornings and somewhat warmer evenings (about 3 hours each with a drink break in the evening). The first night out, we not only saw all of the big 5, but also a leopard in a tree swatting birds, a roaring lion 10-15 feet away, and had drinks under the most impressive night sky I've seen.

The staff were very personable and the food was great as well.

It's not really a place for kids, but definitely worth it for anyone else.

  • Liked — View and relaxation
  • Disliked — Some bugs... but hey, you're in the middle of the African open woodlands.
  • Stayed March 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 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.
Pittsburgh, PA
Senior Contributor
25 reviews 25 reviews
24 hotel reviews
Reviews in 21 cities Reviews in 21 cities
26 helpful votes 26 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 14, 2008

My friends and I stayed at Arathusa for two nights in early March. It was a wonderful experience. Because it is located on a private game reserve which is much smaller than Kruger National Park, we were able to see the Big 5 and a number of other animals within 3 game drives. This was lucky, as we didn't have much time to send there since travel delays cut our trip short. We are all 'wired' and it was nice to spend 2 days away from internet, phone and television. Given our lack of attention span, we all felt that 2 days was enough time before heading back to the city. While many people spent the money to fly in, my friends and I opted to fly into Nelspruit and drive two and a half hours to the lodge. Renting a car was the cheapest option, and it was a breeze getting the car and heading on our way. It was a lovely drive. It was a bit confusing getting out of the town and onto the right roads, but only took about 15 minutes and a helpful local to help figure it out. Roads are safe and well marked, we didn't feel uncomfortable at all during the drive. The lodging at Arathusa consists of beautiful huts...with a full bathroom, shower, and outdoor shower. I thought the room was well appointed, clean and comfortable. There are some bugs, but you can't really avoid that in the African bush. The hotel provides bug spray and bug killer. My boyfriend and I used the spray, but tried to avoid the bug killer and survived just fine. The rangers and trackers are friendly and helpful, and we gave ours a nice, big tip at the end for putting up with three loud Americans. The other travellers at the lodge are from all over the world and are very friendly. Because meals are communal, you have an opportunity to chat with them and learn about people from other countries. I enjoyed that. The food was good...not great...but good. The pool was a bit murky, but looks beautiful and there are hippos in the lake by the huts, so that is very cool. All in all, I was happy with Arathusa. It was on the cheaper end of the spectrum for Sabi Sands, but I found it quite luxurious.

  • Liked — The value, the staff and the animals
  • Disliked — Nothing
  • Stayed March 2008, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 1 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
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West Yorkshire
Senior Contributor
29 reviews 29 reviews
27 hotel reviews
Reviews in 27 cities Reviews in 27 cities
129 helpful votes 129 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 2, 2008

We stopped in Arathusa for 4 nights as the conclusion to our South African holiday last year.

Although many fellow guests had driven to the camp we chose to fly in what turned out to be a two seater aircraft which gave a great sense of the splendid isolation of the camp. Those who had driven all described a somewhat grueling experience.

Upon landing on the dirt airstrip you're met by your ranger guide and you instinctively feel like you've arrived in 'Africa proper'.

Our guide was Andre who was reasonably serious about his duties throughout our stay but whose experience, knowledge and persisitence in seeking out the wildlife viewing opportunities were second to none.

Upon arrival at the camp we were met by Michelle who, with her partner Brendan, manage the camp. Both were amiable and frendly throughout our stay, always happy to chat and keen to ensure that your stay is achieving expectations.

The limited numbers of rooms mean that you're never fighting for service, space or attention which is one of the unique selling points of Arathusa.

The rooms are simple but terrifically situated, looking out across the lake where a succession of wildlife drink, feed and wash. Don't be surprised either to share the camp with visiting elephants, antelopes and other assorted beast which is all part of the fun.

Whilst the beds are comfy and the rooms spacious we felt that the concrete floors would have benefited from some tiling to finish them off albeit you don't visit Arathusa for an urban hotel experience.

Game drives are early morning and early evening with relaxation time in between which can be spent on the sunbeds on the lawns or on the super comfy sofa's in the shaded area by the bar.

Couple this with breakfast and lunch on the platform overlooking the lake with more than attentive staff and the days are everything that an African bush experience should be

Once allocated to a ranger you stay with him and therefore the group for the duration of your stay and so it helps if that group gets along which ours thankfully did. That said most guests only stop for a limited number of nights and so the make up of groups constantly changes.

Drives include a stop for a drink, snack and leg stretch at remote areas which are a great chance to get to know your fellow guests.

We've stopped before in Bongani Mountain Lodge in Kruger and in our experience the abundance of wildlife in Arathusa far outweighed that of Bongani. Big 5 sightings seemed almost guaranteed during our stay which contrasts with Bongani where we didn't manage to spot a big cat. Leopards are the speciality at Arathusa with close proximity viewings again second to none.

Evening meals are held in the boma around a blazing fire which sets the day off. A splendid touch is George the chef's daily explanation of what he's prepared before its served.

The only thing that Arathusa lacked during our stay was a back up generator, and whilst the contingency oil lamps provided for a quite romantic scene in the darkness of the bush, the swimming pool soon turned a rather unappealing shade of green when the pumps stop for any period of time. This can be a drag when you want nothing more than to cool off in the midday heat.

All in all though friendly staff, good food and stunning wildlife viewing combine to provide Arathusa's guests with a unique African experience which we can only recommend as per the other contributors comments.

Great memories!

  • Liked — A taste of real Africa
  • Disliked — Loss of the pool after power cuts
  • Stayed September 2007, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Arathusa Safari Lodge

Address: Kruger National Park, South Africa
Phone Number:
Location: South Africa > Kruger National Park > Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Amenities:
Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 2 hotels in Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:4 star — Arathusa Safari Lodge 4*
Also Known As:
Arathusa Safari Hotel Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Hotel Arathusa Safari
Arathusa Safari Lodge South Africa/Sabi Sand Game Reserve

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