I’m surprised by how many people still believe that going on an African safari means you’ll be sleeping in tents in the bush and roughing it. That’s not the case at all and my recent stay at Arathusa Safari Lodge in the Sabi Sand Reserve area of Kruger National Park is proof. It’s a small, boutique all-inclusive lodge that combines the best of its natural surroundings with luxury comforts, not to mention the ultra-friendly staff who are there to make sure every guest has a magical experience.
Arathusa has 12 separate villas, with bright modern interiors filled with natural light. The open concept rooms include beds draped in mosquito netting (more as a decorative than functional element), a sitting area, coffee bar and mini fridge, and a full bathroom with lovely soaker tubs. A small outdoor patio is the perfect place to unwind at the end of the day with a glass of South African wine. Guests are encouraged to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life as there are no TVs or in-room wifi (wifi is available in the common areas of the resort).
Eight of the rooms border a watering hole that invites local wildlife in daily. You never have to leave your room to watch a large herd of elephants splashing or catch a glimpse of the resident rhino. Four of the villas are a bit more remote and require an escort as you move about because animals do roam the area freely.
The lodge’s common spaces including a few small group sitting areas, a wine room stocked with South African wines, and an always-inviting bar. Since the lodge hosts just 24 guests, you’ll get to know other travelers as you gather to share stories of your daily game drive.
Dining is communal, al fresco at the edge of the watering hole. You’ll sit with the others in your drive group, up to 9 people, and often your guide will join you to answer any questions or talk more about the animals. The food was abundant and outstanding, and they’ll certainly cater to any specific dietary needs.
To get the most out of your experience on safari, there’s a daily schedule that includes an early morning game drive and a late afternoon game drive, each lasting three to four hours. It sounds like a long day but believe me, tracking and spotting the animals is an adrenalin-rush and you’ll be captivated most of the time – and busy snapping photos. You’ll travel on a safari vehicle with a guide and spotter, and others in your group of up to nine people. You’ll stop for coffee and light breakfast on the morning drives and happy hour on the afternoon drives. We spotted three of the Big 5 on our first afternoon out.
There’s a small spa onsite where you can get a range of personalized treatments. A late morning massage is the perfect antidote to those early morning wake-up calls and an early evening foot massage is a great way to unwind your day.
The staff at the resort is really amazing. Most live in the local village and are incredibly hospitable. They are genuinely there to ensure that all guests have the best possible experience and will tend to your every whim whether you want to learn more about the local area or simply want a nightcap as you retire to your room. There’s a small gift shop onsite with locally-made arts and crafts and necessities.
Arathusa is a two to three hour drive from the Hoedspruit airport but most guests fly directly into the lodge’s small airstrip. It’s truly one of the best locations to enjoy a South African safari.
The relaxing spa at Arathusa
Bright, spacious guestrooms at Arathusa Lodge
Sitting area where guests gather
The outdoor pool area overlooking the watering hole
The elephants visit the watering hole daily
You’ll see lions on your daily game drive