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“A bit disappointing”

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Arathusa Safari Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Oslo, Norway
Level Contributor
33 reviews
19 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
“A bit disappointing”
Reviewed 26 October 2013

Having read all the reviews and seeing all the pictures I had really high expectations for this place, and if Arathusa had been the first lodge I'd visited in South Africa I wouldn't have anything to compare with and thus probably liked a lot more.

When we arrived we met the really friendly and bubbly chef who informed us about the food as I have gluten allergies, he made a great first impression of the place. We then met the lady in reception who honestly made us feel like we were disturbing her day, she quickly informed us about the lodge and showed us to our chalet.

I reserved a standard room as we really wanted to have a view of the lovely water hole at Arathusa. We were placed in the chalet(Jackalberry) connected with the spa which ment we paid standard fees but had a semi luxury chalet with a plunge pool, seating area and jacuzzi. Sadly it also meant that our view was somewhat blocked by a tree. But a really nice room.

The lodge itself is quite big and really beautiful with an amazing view from the main area.

On our first game drive we were showed to "our" car and met our ranger, Roy and our tracker, Derek. They were both really nice, and took the task of finding animals really seriously. But once we found an animal there was no more interest, or so it seemed. Sitting on the back row you often found yourself behind a bush or not being able to see anything before we rushed off to look for the next animal. It all seemed a bit rushed and there was no time to enjoy a sighting or making sure that everyone saw something before we left. None of the people in our car was the "cross the big five off our list"types and we all wanted to see giraffes as well as leopards and enjoyed actually watching the animals. Roy was really funny, but seemed to have a hard time answering some of the questions the americans in our car had about some of the animals.

I was really disappointed a couple of times. 1) We left a hyena den with cubs after a few minutes to have coffee instead. 2) My row was placed behind a bush on an amazing leopard siting with the leopard up a tree, even though there was a lot of place in front of the car. 3) A hyena came walking towards us with a lion in the distance, but instead of waiting and seeing what would happen it was time for coffee again. Arrgh!

The good thing about these game drives was that both Roy and Derek were really friendly. Roy asked us if we wanted to look for lions instead of having coffee which we did, and we even skipped the sundowner when there was rain to look for animals instead.

The food was ok, sometimes really good but often a bit boring. Plus for always having good options for gluten and other allergies. I enjoyed the kudu burger, ostrich sandwich, pear and goat cheese salad, and bobootie. Desserts wasn't their strong suit, but that doesn't really matter that much. They should probably do more of the informal braai and family style meals and less of the trying to be a fancy restaurant style.

A huge problem for us was that our chalet had bedbugs, I got around 20 bites in three nights and my husband got almost 30. Only when sleeping fully clothed on top of the bedlinens we got less bites.

So all in all Arathusa is a really pretty place, but it has the potential to be so much better with very little effort. We've been so many better places in the area so we won't be back, but it's an ok choice for first timers.

  • Stayed October 2013, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
9 Thank FotoCath
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
Sanibel Island, Florida
Level Contributor
136 reviews
27 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 69 helpful votes
Reviewed 23 October 2013

This was the third camp we visited for the safari portion of our trip. Arathusa houses a smaller group of guests, more intimate. The dining areas were lovely, one faced the water hole where hippos lazed the day away. We were booked into the luxury accommodations which consisted of a well planned square area, giving one the feel of a comfortable country cottage. There was a large patio with an outdoor shower and a private swimming pool. The standard rooms looked to be very adequate and were situated facing the watering hole. That was a much better setting than we had so I do suggest seriously giving consideration to the standard rooms. Those guests had frequent sightings of animals that we missed.
Breakfast and lunch were served graciously and were tasty. Dinners were more elaborate with the chef introducing his nightly specialty. Antilope, wart hog and kudu were served up to appreciative diners. I think I was the only one who stuck to fish or chicken, finding it too hard to consume the same animals we were loving in the bush. The kitchen is very receptive to all requests for special dietary needs or desires.
Our guide, Jacques, was covering for another on leave. Unfortunately, we did not have the good fortune to see many of the Big Five. I am uncertain if that was due to the guide, the weather or not being in the right place at the right time.
All in all we had a good time because we love safari drives and game parks. Would we return to Arathusa? I do not think so. As another reviewer noted, the food was good but not great. The rooms were well designed but our safe and AC kept breaking down and no one rushed to fix anything.

Room Tip: We suggest the standard rooms. They face the water hole.
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  • Stayed October 2013, travelled solo
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    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
5 Thank Vanessa D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Manila
Level Contributor
27 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
Reviewed 13 October 2013

When our driver was about to take us back to Nelspruit he asked us, "Are you ready to leave Arathusa?" All I could say was "Noooo!" Loved the whole experience! Yes I paid a pretty penny for what I got but the price was totally worth it! Beautiful place, professional service, unparalleled experience!
Rooms were very comfortable though ours was a bit dark in places. I think some of the bulbs had gone out but I didn't notice till the last day. Despite some of the animal noises you hear at night (we had a herd of elephants outside our room once!), it's very peaceful and I slept like a baby! We (room 2) had a good view of the watering hole though I think the rooms on the other side got to see more hippos).

I enjoyed some meals more than others but food was always great and there was always lots of it. Meals were a social experience and while I sat with my group as often as I could, I found that the other guests were very friendly and I was happy to sit next to different people every meal. I got a kick out of the chefs' introductions to the meals--Malcolm's introductions were extremely entertaining. Anti-malaria meds and hyper-acidity from my looooong flight messed with my digestion a bit so it was a shame I could not eat to my heart's content. I had to limit myself to small portions. Malcolm was very helpful and prepared a nice platter of fruit for me when I told him I was having tummy issues. He even offered to make me a nice treat--whatever I chose--but with all the great food the kitchen staff was coming up with, I didn't need much more. My one complaint--perhaps not enough time to digest all the food! Coffee/tea and rusks at 5, a sumptuous breakfast at 8 after the morning drive, lunch at 2, high tea at 330 (right before leaving at 4PM for the afternoon drive...had there been more time to digest all that goodness, I definitely would have indulged more :-D), tea break at sundown, dinner right after the PM safari...oh my!!! I liked how meals were special, breakfast in the bush, lunch by the water, bonfire dinners. Wow! Ok, clearly I love to eat :-D Some people complained that the drinking water has a funny taste and yes, it does take some getting used to. I had some bottled water in my bag (had an extra one from the plane and got another one from the driver for the long drive from Nelspruit) and I drank those on my first day and I drank the leftover bottled water from my game drives. By day 2, I was used to the taste of the water that was served. You CAN always order a bottle of still water or maybe some juice or wine but drinks are a bit pricey. Anyway, there are lemon slices in the water so that sort of helped mask the flavor of the water.

The game drives and bush walk--wonderful! Rode out with Sean and Rifos and they're an amazing team! The dynamic duo! Rifos is not Sean's regular tracker but I was glad the two of them were in charge of our group! They took good care of us. I guess they figured 4 Asian girls and 2 mature ladies would get cold so we got some very nice warm ponchos for the early morning drive, we didn't even have to ask for the ponchos. Then one of the ladies in the group requested ponchos for the evening and since then, Rifos and Sean had them ready for us any time it got cold! They also knew small details like who liked coffee or Rooibos tea or regular tea. We saw got to see the Big 5, 3 of the little 5 and a whole lot of other animals and plants! Sean was very passionate about his job and presented all the information in such an interesting way. Rifos--man, that guy could track down anything! The safari was such an exciting, humbling, eye-opening, amazing, (insert positive adjective here) experience! Oh, and there I go using another ! !!! I really can't stop using that punctuation mark, huh? The hot/cold towel and refreshing/warm drink after each drive were much appreciated!

We went on 6 bush drives and for I think the first 2 there were just 6 in our vehicle. For the next 2 drives, there were 8 of us in the vehicle. Only our last 2 drives felt crowded with 10 people packed into the vehicle. By that time, I didn't mind not getting a very good view as had see a lot of the bush so I let the new comers take the choice seats. However, I am sure it can be frustrating to always be 10 in a vehicle and to always get the middle seat. Common courtesy, people should offer to take turns sitting in the middle or the guide and suggest a rotation schedule.

The other guests I got to talk to were lovely people! Wonderful conversations, new friends :-D I really felt like I was in good hands, even when the herd of elephants was right outside our room, we were told it was not safe and we were escorted to safety.

Some tips for travelers:
- Tap water is hard so if you can get your hands on soap/shampoo/detergent (should you feel the need to handwash your delicates) that's been developed for use with hard water, then bring them.
- It would be rude to bring a cooler of drinks in just to avoid paying for expensive drinks at the lodge but it might be ok to bring in ONE opened bottle of some beverage in. We stopped for gas and bought something to drink before arriving.
- Didn't go to the spa even though it was recommended because prices for spa services are much better back home. If you're ok with the prices, go and check out the spa.
- Wifi strongest in the reception area, none in rooms but you shouldn't be wired to the internet! Enjoy the beauty of nature! Though I was glad for the internet so that I could send a message back home from time to time as my phone reception was spotty at best.

Will go back! And maybe then, I will ask the chef for a little special treat :-D

Room Tip: Don't fork out the extra cash to get the exclusive villas, the regular huts are great and they...
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  • Stayed October 2013, travelled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
5 Thank engmaps
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Scottsdale
Level Contributor
63 reviews
39 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 39 helpful votes
Reviewed 7 October 2013

I feel like I stayed at a different place than most of the other reviewers. First the good things. The exterior grounds, watering hole and dining area were beautiful. The game drives were great except that we had 10 people in our vehicle. The ranger Shawn, was knowledgeable and very personable. The food was actually very good. We also had a great massage in the spa which has just one treatment room with two tables. That was OK since my friend was on the other table! Now for the not so good – the rooms. You can tell that the rooms used to be very nice but the maintenance has not been kept up. There were 4 of us in two different rooms so it’s not like we got the only room that needed help. The rooms were not especially clean and every surface, walls, floors, furniture, linens had wear and tear. The baseboards had big holes from termites, the bed linens were stained and yellow, the headboard was not attached to anything, the curtains were falling down, etc. For the price they charged I expected the rooms to be better.

  • Stayed September 2013, travelled with friends
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
4 Thank goldfield
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
scotland
Level Contributor
6 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 October 2013

Arethusa game lodge is without doubt one of the best safari camps in Greater Kruger. The setting - on the side of a small lake, with several hippos is just wonderful. The accommodation, food, attentive staff, could not have been bettered. The wildlife included the big five, and lots, lots more. We are already planning our return to this lodge.

  • Stayed September 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank ScotlandMacscotland
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Georgia
Level Contributor
40 reviews
37 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 37 helpful votes
Reviewed 22 September 2013

Read the other reviews of this lodge and believe only the good. I won't comment on the game drives; a lot of that depends on luck augmented by the skill of the guide and tracker. Our guide and tracker were excellent and very professional and we did see the Big 5. As for the lodge, the food was excellent. The room was spacious and comfortable. I read that the luxury rooms are inconvenient and so didn't get one. Glad we didn't, they are inconvenient. Most of the other rooms are on the watering hole and so animal viewing is a full time experience.

Room Tip: Get a standard room on the watering hole.
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  • Stayed August 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank sdtravels87
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
17 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
Reviewed 22 September 2013

After spending endless hours researching our trip and trying to decide where to stay, we couldn't have been happier to have picked to stay at the Arathusa Safaria Lodge. The lodge was on such a beautiful setting with animals constantly coming to the lake in front. The staff was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. Having stayed in the luxury rooms we found the extra money spent went a long ways in giving us an intimate room that made us feel super special. The kitchen did an incredible job and the food was always delicious. My girlfriend was spoiled with her gluten free meals and was treated better than she would have been in a five star restaurant in a major U.S. city. But the best part of the trip was what we had paid all of the money to experience. The game drives were phenomenal. Having spent over 30 hrs on a plane to get there, we hand a pride of lions walking right next to us within the first 45mins of our first drive. The entire 6 drives we were in constant awe. Brandon and Roy did an incredible job and we could not have been happier with the two of them. Already planning a return trip to do it all again.

Room Tip: Splurge fir the luxury rooms, you will not regret it!
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  • Stayed March 2013, travelled with family
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Nick J
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

Property: Arathusa Safari Lodge
Address: Kruger National Park, South Africa
Region: South Africa > Kruger National Park > Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Hotel Class:4 star — Arathusa Safari Lodge 4*
Number of rooms: 13
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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