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Arathusa Safari Lodge
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All reviewswatering holefacing roomgame driveswater holesabi sandsoutdoor showerluxury roomwild dogsother guestsresident hippocape buffalooverlooking the waterelephants drinkingherd of elephantssouth africamosquito netinfinity pool
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Reviewed 5 July 2014

This was our second visit to Arathusa and it was as amazing as the first trip there. The lodge is beautifully done out and the rooms are very comfortable with everything you could want. Food was superb with a great variety which cater for everyone.
The staff are incredible and cannot do enough for you. From Maralise in Reception to Malcolm the chef nothing was too much trouble.
Our guide and tracker Roy and Chris were superb and really went beyond their duties to find us what we were looking for.
Most amazing place for a really relaxing break and we will definitely be back again for a 3rd time.

Room Tip: All great as they look over the big dam.
  • Stayed: June 2014, travelled with friends
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1  Thank cherylpincus
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 June 2014

Our experience here was the best of any vacation we have had, anywhere in the world. Chef prepared outstanding meals, our cabin was first rate, and our game drives, which of course are the main event, were action-packed, educational, and totally exceptional. Roy and Chris are the very best. Consider yourself lucky if you can score a ride in their vehicle!

Room Tip: Cabins at the watering hole are lovely and exciting.
  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled with friends
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1  Thank Grace P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 June 2014

We visited Arathusa at the start of June 2014 for 4 nights. It’s an excellent place to stay with large, comfortable and clean rooms. The setting next to the lake/waterhole is absolutely perfect, many animals come to drink, a herd of hippos also live in the lake and they are fun to watch and listen to.

The food was amazing – tasty and plenty of it. We also had the choice of some different meats we hasn’t eaten before – ostrich burgers, kudu, nyala and impala. One evening we returned from the drive to be taken to a clearing in the middle of the bush all set up for dinner, with tables, lamps and fires burning – a fabulous experience as with the lack of ambient light, the stars were phenomenal.

Our amazing ranger D and his fabulous tracker Derrick – ‘the Double Ds’ were able to find us every animal we said we’d like to see. The enthusiasm of the ‘ginger and coffee coloured ninjas’ is infectious. We had the same group of guests in our jeep for the 4 days we stayed and luckily we all got on really well and so there were lots of laughs between all of us as well as the amazing animal experiences. The Double DDs have a particular interest in leopards so we saw a lot of leopards which was really great. We got to see the Big Five over and over again, sometimes on the same game drive along with a variety of beautiful birds, various different antelope, zebra, giraffe, hyenas, wildebeest, warthogs, jackals, mongoose and of course the squirrels! Derrick was even able to spot chameleons in a bush, 100 yards from the road, at night - that guy has bionic vision! We visited the hyena den and saw their pups dozing in the entrance way to the den, watched a confrontation between the Stix pride of lions and two leopards (the leopards thankfully made it up separate trees until the lions were bored!) and watched two zebra chase a leopard down the road when it got too close. You get seriously up close and personal with the wildlife, and it is such a joy to see them in their natural habitats and so unconcerned by the safari jeeps. The lodges take great care not to have more than a maximum of 3 jeeps at a sighting at any time (everyone takes their turn) which means that you always get a fantastic view and the animals are not crowded out by the tourists!

Another definite plus of Arathusa is that the owner has agreements with most of the surrounding lodges to be able to drive over their land (and vice versa), which means you have a much larger area of bush to be able to travel within and therefore increases your chances of great sightings and also the ability to get a lot closer to the animals.

If you go in the south african winter, take layers for the game drives as it gets a little chilly when it’s dark, either in the mornings or evenings but warms up beautifully once the sun comes up. There are of course blankets in the jeeps provided by the lodges as well.

Room Tip: If you want to be away from it all (and escorted to your room as there are animals roaming) have a luxury room. If you want an amazing view of the waterhole so you can watch from your patio, have a standard room.
  • Stayed: June 2014, travelled with friends
    • Value
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    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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3  Thank Lisa M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 June 2014

Where do I start? The excellent rooms? The delicious food? The excellent game drives and ranger/trackers? The chefs? The massages? Front desk staff? I’ll start from the beginning.

My husband and I chose to fly to Nelspruit (from Cape Town) instead of into Hoedspruit based on the flight schedule for the day we wanted to travel. We then chose to pay for a Federal Air charter flight from Nelspruit to the airstrip at Arathusa instead of taking the 3 – 3 ½ car “experience.” While it was more costly to take the charter - -it was very much worth it to us. My husband and I over packed. I knew to pack light, and honestly I tried. But it didn’t happen. Luggage is restricted on the charter flight, so I reserved a land transfer from Arathusa for my luggage as well. It all worked seamlessly. We landed in Nelspruit, collected our luggage and immediately found Fed Air and Arathusa reps waiting for us. Handed off our luggage, and off we went for the charter flight.

The flight was about 25 minutes, and we were on the ground. Ranger Sean was waiting for us in the open Land Cruiser and whisked us off to check in. Upon arrival we were given wonderful smelling wet towels to wash our hands/face as well as a cool drink. The lobby was just gorgeous, and I really could just have sat for a while and enjoyed being here. However, we were just in time for lunch!! Not a surprise, as this was planned. The main factor behind choosing the charter flight was so that we could experience lunch and the afternoon game drive on our first day. Had we taken the land transfer, we would have missed both. We were escorted to the lovely outdoor lunch area overlooking the waterhole. We hadn’t even sat down and a herd of elephants (including babies!) came in for a drink. We also saw hippos and waterbuck as well.

The chef came out to announce our options for lunch. He was very animated and charming. My husband and I both chose the beef sandwich and chips which turned out to be very tasty and filling. We had time to go back to the room for a quick change (gather our coats, gloves, etc. as it did get cold at night), then back to the common area for high tea with desserts. I am not a dessert eater really, so I didn’t partake in high tea. But I heard others rave about how delicious it was.

I could go on and on about our trip – play by play, but I want to break this review down into categories which were important to me when I was selecting a lodge. I worked very closely with Jacqui from Lodge Trackers for almost 2 years trying to decipher through the information from the (what seemed to be) hundreds of options in the Greater Kruger Area. I couldn’t have been more pleased with my selection, and I know it was the perfect option for me. I highly recommend this resort for many reasons.

Food:
I am a picky eater. I do not like many sauces, no salad dressings, and most toppings that the average person eats. It makes it challenging to travel to other places when I am not sure if I can explain my choosy palate to the chef. Jacqui, my Safari Specialist, worked closely with Arathusa on my special dietary needs and ensured they understood. Upon arrival, they even spoke with me specifically about food preparation. I also saw they had special food marked for diabetics on site, and I believe I heard they even offered gluten free if needed (and they know in advance). Being able to accommodate my food needs was a huge factor. Arathusa not only showed interested and capability, but they executed it almost without fault. Sure there was one time when they forgot to leave a sauce off. But they had a huge crowd that night, and all I had to do was ask for a dish with no sauce. I received immediate apologies and a quick replacement. To me, that is perfection because everyone makes mistakes. It is how you handle and rectify those mistakes that count. The quality of the food was also very good. We found our meat cooked to perfection, a nice offering of vegetables and tasty side dishes. There was always more than you could eat. And even when they offered you a choice of a dish – and you chose A, if you wanted to sample choice B just to see what it was like, you could get a sample. We had a female chef 2 of our 4 nights, and the male chef the other 2. All meals were divine, but the male chef was a bit more animated and festive with the group. We also had dinner in a different location every night. That was fun and exciting. I will give a recommendation to Arathusa, however. On our last night, one of the guests from India tapped his glass with a spoon and asked if we would all care to introduce ourselves. He said he had gotten to know a few people, but didn’t know most of us. We sat in a semi-circle around a fire for dinner that night next to the water hole, perfectly inviting for such conversation. It was absolutely wonderful. We got to know our fellow travelers, where they were from, a tidbit about them. It was really enjoyable. I believe perhaps someone should lead this effort in the future during dinner (perhaps not every dinner, but maybe every 3 nights or something as the guest register changes). It was a really nice touch and a lot of fun for us to interact with others.

Accommodation:
I chose the luxury suite that required you to be escorted to/from in the dark. I knew these rooms didn’t overlook the waterhole. They are further away, and I knew that up front as well, and actually chose them for that reason. I liked the idea of being out in the bush. I liked the idea of being escorted and thinking we could run across animals. We actually did encounter a hyena and a waterbuck on one of our walks to the room. And there were signs of lions and elephant on our sidewalk, as well. I knew I’d have breakfast in front of the waterhole, as well as lunch. My downtime, I had no intention of being in my room anyway. My choice was to be in the common area utilizing wifi that was offered –which overlooked the waterhole. So the only time I planned on being in my room was to sleep, so my room choice was perfect for what I wanted. I also enjoyed the walk. The food was so delicious and plentiful, I NEEDED to walk. The room was lovely. The bed was comfortable. I especially loved the outdoor shower. It felt very naughty to be showering outside at 1pm, when it was very warm out. I loved it! There were plenty of outlets, and they offered adapters. I brought my own adapters, but I heard other guests found them very useful. There was a generous size tub in the corner of two windows with a gorgeous view. The bed was very comfortable. The indoor shower was large and had great water pressure. The sitting area was nice, as well as the bar and mini fridge. I really did get what the pictures on the website offered. I couldn’t have asked for more. It was top notch for sure, including a safe to store your valuables. Our room was always clean when we returned from our morning safari, and it was always turned down at night after dinner. We stayed in BushWillow. The indoor shower did leak a bit at the bottom toward the vanity. Just put down a towel and no worries. Don’t sit a suitcase there or anything you don’t want wet. Not a big deal.


Bar/Common Area:
They offer wifi (for a small fee) in the bar/common area as well as in the main reception area. Wifi is not in your room, but I personally liked that. It kept me from being a hermit, and I got to enjoy the scenery, have a drink, and enjoy other guests as I wished. There are plenty of spots you can go to for privacy as well if you so desire. They do have a computer you can use for free in the lobby. For about $10USD, I had wifi all 4 nights/days of my stay. I enjoyed relaxing in the common area (there is a pool if it was warm enough). You could watch the animals at the water hole, enjoy a cold beverage from the bar while catching up on emails, facebooking, skyping…or whatever. The common area was very lovely and comfortable. It also had these warm fire places which were nice to hang around after dinner, chatting with other guests and/or your ranger while enjoying an after dinner drink (or two, or three). We especially enjoyed buying the rangers a cold drink after a long, productive day of game viewing.

Game Drive:
My expectations were blown to pieces. I knew I’d see plenty of game, up close and personal. I liked Arathusa’s Facebook page well in advance of booking. The pictures from the rangers do not lie, and they are not “super” zoomed. But I honestly couldn’t imagine how good it actually would be. It far surpassed my expectations. The lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalos, elephants….all of them are so casual with the land cruisers, you literally can drive right up to them. They aren’t threatened by the vehicle. While they are still wild animals and not tamed (no standing or getting out, keep all body parts inside the vehicle, and no ridiculous ideas about petting them haha!) ---it’s so amazing for them to be so relaxed with us. It really is experiencing wildlife in their own habitat. We had Sean (ranger) and Rifus (tracker), and they were magnificent! We did see the Big 5 within our first 2 game drives. We probably saw them all/each on 3 separate occasions throughout our 4 night stay. We also saw zebra, giraffe, waterbuck, steenbok, mongoose, hyena, jackal, birds of all sorts, warthogs, hippos, some giant lizard, chameleons, wildebeest…geesh, not sure what we didn’t see. Sean has a great since of humor…and oh, yeah….we saw IMPALA!!!! If you have the privilege of getting Sean (or requesting him)…you will certainly understand what that means. Haha. Rifus has an incredible eye for game (and chameleons!), as does Sean. They are a great team, and I loved every second (well, maybe the rhino made me a bit nervous, I can’t lie). But it was truly an experience, and I am so fortunate to have seen the game we saw, and capture a small part of that for my memory bank.

Spa:
My husband and I each had 2 treatments. I love deep tissue massage. I have tried other massages, and they just don’t do for me what deep tissue does. My first treatment, I chose deep tissue. It was really good. I thought she did a good job and the value was also good. The second massage, she wanted me to try something different. I was hesitant, as I have tried other massages at home and didn’t care for the other styles. But at her recommendation, I did agree to a hot stone massage. While it was ok, it wasn’t my thing. My husband on the other hand enjoyed his hot stone massage. But he is more of a Swedish massage person. So, my recommendation is to know what type/style of massage you like, and go with it. If you try a style you aren’t used to, you may confuse the style you don’t care for with the quality of service. I felt the service and quality was good. I just didn’t care for the hot stone personally. I feel it is important to make that distinction. Know what you like. And if you want more pressure, ask for it. If you want less pressure, ask for it. Therapists can’t read your mind, so they need you to interact with them if you need something adjusted to your personal taste.

Staff:
If you are still reading this review, please know that the staff is on the same level as all the other excellent qualities of this lodge. Courteous. Friendly. Helpful. Efficient. Accommodating. I don’t know how else to explain how incredibly wonderful everyone is. There were so many people I met that I don’t recall their names. There were 3 very nice ladies who took care of us at each meal, who were fantastic! And I do remember Blessing, the lady who took care of us at the bar. What a gem she is! Everyone we talked to had a smile and was pleasant…not just to guests, but to each other which I find very important. We had made arrangements one day to spend out on a panoramic tour and hot air balloon ride. I hadn’t even thought about it, and Marilize had already reached out to make confirmations for us, only to find the balloon couldn’t fly the next day due to wind. She worked with us and the company on alternate dates (which we ultimately declined simply because we didn’t want to lose any additional time at the lodge since it was quite fantastic). And she worked on re-arranging our tour to a different time since the flight wasn’t going to happen. It was seamless for me as I didn’t have to think about it. It was all handled for me, but they were sure to ask me what I wanted---then took care of it. I found that most helpful (and clever since I am very hands on).

I did a lot of research on ensuring we found the perfect lodge. I did want wifi capability, some luxury as I didn’t want a tent, and I needed a place that allowed me to be picky on food (without it being a hassle). I also wanted excellent game viewing, excellent staff, and comfortable surroundings. I found all of that and more at Arathusa. I am so happy Jacqui from Lodge Trackers suggested this for us. It truly was perfect.

Room Tip: I loved the luxury rooms even though they didn't overlook the water hole. I loved the space and outdoor shower. You can view the water hole at breakfast, lunch and anytime in the common area.
  • Stayed: June 2014, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
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13  Thank Bridkoe2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 15 June 2014

The accommodation at this lodge was amazing! The game drives out of this world!! Thanks to our ranger Roy and tracker Chris we managed to see the big 5 three drives in a row! The drives were also extremely informative. Lots of fun was had by everyone. I would go back at the drop of a hat if I could. The staff were also very accommodating and food was wonderful especially after the drives when you really notch up a hunger! I always thought this would be an fantastic trip but it way surpassed my expectations!

Room Tip: I feel the best rooms are near the main area as there is a wonderful view of the lake and you do not need to be accompanied to your lodging when it is dark.
  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank mtaplin44880
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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