Staying at Arathusa Safari Lodge and Nottens Bush Camp, South Africa

Lisa Macnab

18 Aug 2015

Arathusa Safari Lodge

We visited Arathusa Safari Lodge at the start of June 2014 for 4 nights. It’s a fantastic 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 pod 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 hadn’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.

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!

The Double Ds 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! 

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.

Notten's Bush Camp

We visited Notten's Bush Camp at the end of May 2014 for 3 nights. It’s a truly excellent place to stay with large, comfortable and clean rooms. We loved the fact that there were no electric lights in the rooms as when you returned from the afternoon/evening drive the oil lamps (complete with hurricane glasses) were already lit, making the room cosy and very welcoming. If you needed extra light, there were plenty of large candles in the rooms. There is an extension lead in each room, so there is no problem with charging anything electrical. 

The food was amazing - tasty and plenty of it. Eating evening meals (the South African braai) down in the boma was great, then sitting by the roaring fire afterwards, drinking a glass or two of their excellent wine was a magical experience. One evening we were even treated to a visit by a genet who was prowling along the top of the wall of the boma. 

Our ranger Joseph and his trackers AB and Rydon were able to find us every animal we said we’d like to see, including the elusive cheetah (actually 2 different cheetahs on two separate days!).

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 by the tourists! 

We got to see the Big Five over and over again, various different antelope, zebra, giraffe, hyenas and a variety of beautiful birds - it got to the point where we joked about finding us a polar bear! 

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 and hot water bottles provided by the lodges as well. Dale, David and their fabulously attentive staff make you feel as if you are a distant cousin coming to stay rather than a paying guest.  

Absolutely wonderful!

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