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“So bad we couldn't stay the night”

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Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge
Reviewed December 17, 2012

We had a rental car so we are not the ideal customer of ABL, they more prefer the Baz Bus customer who doesn't have the option to leave until the next bus comes to town. Their system works on a tab system, you arrive pay a deposit that assigns you a bill #, than everything is on the tab so you are free to spend money (good Las Vegas system). They will cater to all your needs of hiking, transportation, and drinking. So what drove us over the edge?

One rotten tomato, the 37-45 year old creepy guy that checked us in and during his pre-planned introduction spill to us and the recently arrived Baz Bus'ers multiple times reiterated how important it was for the girls to get into their bikini's as quickly as possible and lounge around the septic pool for his viewing pleasure as "that would really make my day".

Seeing how their system works with the tab system and only options to do anything (unless you have your own car) is through them and their overpriced charges our gut reactions told us to run!

We ended up in Kestell that night.

  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank Dustin_at_WeGoRTW
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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246 - 252 of 350 reviews

Reviewed December 11, 2012

The amphitheatre is a very nasty place to stay. It is overpriced, has very dark and unclean rooms. There were red stains in the sheet and they sprayed for bedbugs. The staff was really unfriendly and very unpolite. At arrival we had to listen to the boring story of the trips, which we didn't want to book at all. You could smell the alcohol from the bald guy behind the reception. In the bar is a hot tub, wich is filled with yellow water.... You're better of at a different hostel or guesthouse!!!!!!

  • Stayed: December 2012, traveled with family
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3  Thank RenatePoldner
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 2, 2012

The hostel is located in a beautiful area and the hostel itself is on top of the market. I have stayed here two times, first one 2009 and i returned in 2012. The second visit was a bit of a dissapointment. The hostel charges you a lot for the diner while there are practicly no other options to have diner in the area. 100 rand for a pieco of meat with some butternut is no value for money. They push their sales for the daytrips to an annoying level. People of amphitheatre: Get back to being hospitable instead of making shitloads of money. This is a message to the management, the staff working there is very friendly and helpful

  • Stayed: November 2012, traveled solo
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2  Thank Roald O
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 25, 2012

Indeed poor service and very much sales orientated hostel. This really ruined my impression of this hostel. The hostel itself is nice, but got totally disguisted by their attitude. Bring enough cash! You cannot pay with any cards here!!

When we arrived we got a very long detailed sales talk about the trips they offered. We planned to do some hiking on our own and not interested to do any of their overpriced tours. We asked about the possibilities to do hiking on your own, and the sales person gave us some maps, which also gave driving directions on how to get there, he was very short on telling us anything about things to do by yourself and did not give any information. If you do not buy, it seems they are not very interested in spending much time on you. No service.

The tours they offered are overpriced. Travellers who are not travelling by car are somewhat relaiable on these tours to see the Drakensberg (as this place lies in the middle of nowhere and you are helpless if you dont have a car), they make handy use of this and that is probably why they can charge what they charge. The same for the meals. If you cant drive to the supermarket you will have to buy their overpriced meals. They communual kitchens are very dirty. The stoves were so sticky with greace, it looked like they had not been cleaned in years. Perhaps they want you to buy their meals. If you see the amount of people booking the tours, you assume they are making very good money.

The hostel itself is nice, especially the main building. We stayed in a double room, which was ok. Except for the bathroom which was very scruffy. See photo's.
We stayed 3 nights.

In the end we decided to do one of their tours to Lesotho, as the roads are poor and we did not want to risk it with our rental vehicle. In the morning the salesperson tried to remember everybody to sign up for the meal, telling what was on the menu that day and obviously wanted to sell some more! The trip was a good experience and the guide was very good.

At the end of our stay we asked the reception guy if he could phone a hostel for us for our next stay. So far all hostels we stayed do this with no exception. But in this hostel you are directed with a fake smile to the payphone. We could have booked online otherwise, but the WIFI had been broken for the last 2 weeks. When we checked out the next day, we were not asked if we enjoyed our stay but got a comment like: "Pay at the bar, my till is still closed".... Nice! Would not reccomend this hostel.

  • Stayed: November 2012, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank The-travelfraggles
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 4, 2012

I stayed four nights and had a wonderful time. The accommodation is functional and reasonable priced, the bar area very entertaining and great to meet fellow travellers and the guide for the tours of both Tugela Falls and Cathedral Peak (Simphiwe) very good! A major disappointment however was that the Lodge was less than helpful to assist with a shuttle to get back to the next big town (Harrismith). While the pick up worked out, the drop off was refused and I had to rely on a trucker to give me a lift so that I just made it to catch my bus to Johannesburg.

  • Stayed: October 2012
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Thank Olesch
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 6, 2012 via mobile

This place is just awesome with regards to view, look and feel. Someone with a healthy dose of creativity did the decor in this place! Who ever thought of a climbing wall in a bar deserves a prize, makes for great laughs. If one has to be critical they need to ensure that all showers have hot water at all times.

  • Stayed: September 2012
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Thank Bittenbytravel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 29, 2012

pros: the place is beautiful and creative, great lawn outside, nice bar and lounge. the more expensive rooms are nice.
cons: dorms are insanely cramped and crowded, and twin/ doubles with shared bathroom are not good- tiny room, bathroom is quite far and outside (and its cold there at night!), and in one twin, there was a bunkbed instead of normal bed, with stained and torn sheets and the matress was so worn that the springs really cut into the back. - it fits in to the general feeling that they want people top pay more, or else they wont get good service.
most hiking routs are very far- at least an hour driving.
they are very pushy with their tours, and try to discourage you from going alone (and saving a lot of money) we went on the lesotho tour with them (big group- 20 people, so not very intimate and no patiance for the slower ones), and decided to go tour the ampetheater alone the next day- the woman running the place said not to go , there will be a storm, but they took a tour out themself. we asked their guide once for a direction "to make sure" - and then he had the nerve to ask our father (who didnt come) to pay him for a full day tour, when we came with our own car and didnt even walk with them.
the rest of the staff is also quite keen on having you spend as much as possible on their venues- it just doesnt feel nice- you dont feel like a guest, more like a wallet.
also- they try to discourage you from going to other places in the drackansberg aside from there. they dissed sani pass's lesotho ture (we did both of them, and sani pass's was actually better) and tell you not to go there- that's plain out non collegeal- these places are miles apart- one can go to both .. we went to sani pass before and heard people coming from amphetheater,who were warned by the staff not to go to sani pass, and it didnt make sense... then we came ourselves and heard how they diss them - really for no reason.
soooo- although the place itself is truly amazing, are expeirence was a bit ruined by the non-friendly, profit-driven feeling we got from the people who run it.

Room Tip: get an on suite, and dont ask for room service, as we came back to a room full of smoke smell..
  • Stayed: September 2012, traveled with family
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1  Thank miryam g
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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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
Price Range: $32 - $45 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
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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