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Reviewed 29 June 2018

Spent a month in South Africa staying at four safari locations, and I'm afraid Arathusa is marked a little on the lower end. The game drives were FANtastic - guides were great, enthusiastic, made it all terribly fun. This is pretty much the luck of the draw, because you don't have a choice. As soon as you arrive, you are assigned to a truck and that's that. Worked well for us in all locations.

The hotel ... well ... it's a lovely property. Even though there's no water in the watering hole, we didn't lack for animals that showed up. We saw kudu, impala, elephants, warthogs, a hyena - all ambling through and taking their time to graze. And the daily group of monkeys. But for all the grumbling I overheard about the dry water hole, I think management should redo the photos on the web page to reflect the fact it's not there. People feel deceived, even though I thought it was very clear there was no water due to the drought. If that's the new reality, then it must be faced.

We stayed in a large front facing room. It was nicely done, bed was terrific, nice outdoor shower. What I didn't like about it was the lighting. Unless you sit in bed, your only light is one horribly bright CFL bulb in a large pendant light over the couch. No cozy reading here. It would be really nice to have some softer auxiliary lighting in the room. It would also seem preferable to have a separation between the bedroom and the bathroom, even if it was decorative.

The biggest problem was the dining set-up. You're given a table based on your guide, and we seemed to be at the table that was always served last. The food has to be brought a pretty good distance from the kitchen, and it just seems inefficient. The food was good, ample portions, nice variety, but our table would end up so last, that high tea was already started and by the time we got there for dessert/cake, it was all gone. Which takes me to another point: for the love of God, put out more cake! One platter of dessert or cake for all these people is not enough. We're paying enough for another cake.

None of us liked being asked at lunch what we wanted for sundowner. I don't know how I'm going to feel in a few hours - will I want a Coke, or will I want a G&T? Why do I have to choose right now? No other place asked us at lunch, and they somehow managed. The bar was not well manned, and when there was a bartender, he would serve you and go right back to his phone. We felt like we were a bother wanting another drink.

All in all, a great game drive and guides, nice accommodations, but service was lacking. Or is it the set-up? Whatever it is, management needs to get more involved. Would we stay here again? No - there are other places from which to choose.

  • Stayed: May 2018, travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
3  Thank Margaret B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 June 2018 via mobile

We travelled with a party of six in four rooms. We had booked 18 months in advance, all watering hole rooms, but due to an error on our travel agents part, we ended up with two facing the dry watering hole and two bush facing. I’ll go into detail about the difference between those rooms later, but first overall:

Our ranger and tracker, Sebastion and Rifos, were outstanding: clearly passionate about the animals, highly knowledgeable, and careful with ensuring everyone in the Jeep had great up-close views of the animals. Sebastion would drive w/in a few feet of the animals, then after a while, would rearrange the Jeep so those on the other side also got the “front row views.” They absolutely made the trip for us.

We liked the food —I’d call it very good vs amazing—but that’s not why we booked this trip.

My other comments would just be redundant with all the other posts, so the rest of this report will be info to help people choose a Bush or Water Hole facing room.

Watering hole: as noted, it’s been dry for years with the drought. But it’s still a pretty, wide open view and was a hangout for lots of animals including baboons, wart hogs, impalas and such. You’re much closer to the main area, so quick access to the “Bush Wi-Fi” (i.e. Really slow). Rooms were lovely, but not super private. And if you’re sharing the room with a nonromantic partner, would be awkward as the shower is completely open as soon as you are in the room. The toilet is private, but the rest of the bathroom is open.

Bush-facing room: very long walk (probably 1/4 mile) which meant after dark—for morning drive pick up and after dinner—you need to be escorted by the staff. There are a couple times I would have stayed up later in the main area, but didn’t want to keep staff up late since I knew they had to be on early the next morning.

We would hear hyenas at night, and a pride of lions wandered through camp during our stay, so the rule about being escorted after dark is absolutely necessary. The room is HUGE. And has all the privacy you could want. Plus a huge deck with a private plunge pool. (The lodge’s main pool is nice, but the private plunge pool never seemed that clean since the elephants make good use of it)

The Bush-facing room also has a glass walled shower that’s open to the rest of the room, but if you keep the lights off in the shower, there’s areas where the other person can be hanging out and afford the showering person some privacy. (I give this detail as my 27 yo niece and her 15-year old male cousin were sharing a room, so I was sensitive to avoid anything awkward.)

I had seen the pics of the elephants drinking from the plunge pool, but of course that’s never guaranteed. However, a couple minutes after we first entered my niece and nephews room, three elephants came and drank for a while, and on my final night, the whole herd came and drank from my pool—I counted 8 trunks in there at once! So cool.

Happy to answer any questions.

Stayed: June 2018, travelled with family
3  Thank shawn W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 June 2018

Absolutely incredible experience. Stayed at Arathusa in a bush facing room for three nights, which included six game drives (3 hours each, water and blankets provided) and two bush walks. The grounds were beautiful and well maintained, the staff was so kind and attentive, and the meals were delicious with lots of options. We were even treated to a few fun surprises from the staff during our stay. Our ranger Sabastion and tracker Rifos were amazing - so knowledgeable, passionate, and friendly. They ensured we saw the big five plus some including a cheetah with her cubs, which was extra special. Memories to last a lifetime - I can't wait to go back. You can stop your search for the perfect reserve right now because you've found it!

Room Tip: Bush facing rooms have private plunge pools that elephants sometimes visit. Main watering hole is currently dry.
  • Stayed: June 2018, travelled with friends
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Service
2  Thank LeahH1590
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 June 2018 via mobile

I recently had the pleasure of staying at Arathusa and it completely blew me away. Shawn and the staff are so welcoming and friendly you feel like you’re staying at a friend’s house.

Sabastion our ranger was so knowledgeable and passionate it made every game drive so enjoyable and Rifos our tracker has such amazing skills finding the animals. They went out of their way to make sure we saw them all which was lovely. It was nice seeing them get excited at the sightings too.

Each meal was delicious and the room was very spacious and beautifully decorated.

I’ve been wanting to do a safari for such a long time I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my expectations but it most definitely went above and beyond.

I’d love to come back and do it all again!!

Stayed: June 2018, travelled with friends
2  Thank DBro78
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 June 2018 via mobile

Sightings: Every game drive was fruitful, thanks to the ranger and tracker. Saw a good variety of animals, including lions, rhinos, buffaloes, elephants, leopards, cheetahs and giraffes.

Food: Good variety that differs from day to day, including a BBQ dinner and 3-course dinner. We were always well-fed. Coffee was often diluted though.

Accommodation: Spacious and clean. Luxurious place considering we were in a safari environment.

Service: For the price we paid, we expected better service. The kitchen/meal/bar/cleaning staff was great, but not sure about the rest. When we went on our first game drive, we felt quite lost as no one gave us an intro/explained to us what was going on. Pls do remember that some people are doing safaris for the first time. Also, when we wanted to do a bush walk, we were rejected because the ranger had already “started on something for 10 minutes”. Not sure why that something couldn’t wait. In the end, we felt awkward to ask for a bush walk again. Quite a disappointment. When we left the premises, our luggages were left just next to our car and no one helped load it up. The goodbyes we got also made it feel like an awkward departure. Staff didn’t seem too cheerful, maybe they were just too tired?

Overall, it started well, but ended awkwardly. The good thing is we really saw a lot of animals and enjoyed the sightings.

Stayed: May 2018, travelled as a couple
1  Thank daabatman
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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