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LOCAL TIME: 10:55 am | Sunday, 16 June
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The wildly peaceful, beautiful & fun Areena Riverside Resort

When dreaming of going on holiday we all have an ideal of what that might be.  Luckily, my ideal happens to be situated just a short drive from East London on the Wild Coast Jikeleza Route.

Areena Riverside Private Resort is one of our coasts biggest local, national and international tourist attractions, and if you are wondering why, then you have clearly  been missing out.


Situated just 23km’s from the East London city centre, this remarkable resort is the perfect destination for the ultimate getaway.  Catering for every type of visitor, Areena offers beautifully appointed 4 star luxury suites, cottages, rondavels, chalets and some of the best caravan sites and camping facilities this side of anywhere.  Great for families, this ‘one-stop shop’ is also perfect for couples, retirees, corporate groups as well as camping tour groups, and it is this mix that adds to the relaxed vibe that is Areena.

So what is it that makes Areena so great you might very well ask?  The answer would have to be … pretty much everything!

It has not been in SA’s Top 10 Resorts for the past 12 years for no reason!

To start… the setting is stunning.  Situated on the banks of the Kwelera River, this very well maintained (but relaxed) private resort is a semi-tropical, tree covered haven, with rolling lawns, outdoor entertainment facilities and abundant wildlife that wonders around with free abandon.  It is (in a nutshell) an outdoor enthusiasts dream.


First, lets talk kids.  What kids you may ask… because at Areena, they seem to disappear.  Where to you may ask again?  Well it appears they group together with all the other kids and run in ‘kiddie packs’ keeping themselves busy all day.  From the calls of ‘Marco Polo’ in the swimming pool to the steady ping pong thwaps as bats hit balls, to the yells of glee on the trampolines, to the shouts in the kiddies play area, they are behaving as kids again finding interesting outdoor things to do (and there is plenty).  What is clear is that mom and dad get to have that much needed break!  No video games or electronic devices in sight… instead you will see bicycles, skate boards and fishing rods… with the only real danger being… sunburn (so don’t forget that sunblock).


Now for the big kids (including adults), there is plenty of fun to be had.  The river offers up endless options. For anglers, there is plenty of fishing… from the river banks, off the jetties or from aboard your boat.  There are also canoes or sea kayak’s for hire and you can take a short leisurely paddle or if you are up to it, you can paddle the 5km to the beach and sea.  For the not so energetic river enthusiasts, the resort also has a 30 person double decker river cruiser aptly named the Kareena, and offers river & half river cruises from the jetty outside the restaurant.  There is a slipway and number of jetties so you can bring your own ‘river craft’, moor it on a jetty and enjoy this water playground to your hearts content.


For the adventure enthusiasts, Areena offers a wide range of fun and exciting activities.  For those who are not afraid of heights and are looking for a good time, the fun, thrilling and adrenaline pumping 2 hour AmaZing Zing Zipline Tour is a must.  If that is not enough adrenaline for you, how about jumping off a cliff?  What I really mean to say is abseiling down a cliff that overlooks the beautiful Kwelera River and Areena Resort?  For the adventure enthusiast… what’s not to like?


Another must is a quad bike safari!  Not only will you get to pit your driving skills against some moderately rough terrain, you will get to view the wildlife and the extended resort and countryside from some of the best vantages available.  If you are really lucky, you will get the chance to meet and have photographs with the star of Areena (Abby), a fully grown male giraffe, hand reared and friendly to humans.  Abby has recently become a dad so there is also a little Abbie running around in the giraffe herd.  If you want your ‘wheeled’ adventure a bit more sedate, go on a segway safari tour, or try out Areena’s newest toys… their cute and zippy electric scooters.  The adventure guides are excellent and happy to show you the ropes.


If you are competitive, grab your family and friends and have some fun playing tennis or table tennis… or head to the outdoor Areena Adventure Park where you can do paintball, an obstacle course, archery, pellet gun target shooting or bow hunting.  There really is something for everyone.


For the not so adventurous, there is also plenty to do.  Grab your towel and your book and soak up the rays on a lounger alongside the beautiful pool.  Take a leisurely swim and if so inclined, play a lazy game of chess on the large outdoor chess board.  If you are looking to give yourself a little treat, head to the Areena Wellness Centre and enjoy a massage or reflexology at the spa and maybe even a new hairstyle at the Hair Studio.  There is nothing more relaxing than a massage… mmmm.

At sunset, many campfires are lit throughout the resort as everyone starts preparing for the evening.  As darkness descends, the air is filled with a multitude of delicious aromas synonymous with the South African braai… and the warm glow from the campfires, tents, cottages, rondavels and timber chalets creates a magical village feeling.  The quiet murmurs of people enjoying sundowners around the campfire are all that breaks the silence once the kids are asleep (oh… except for the peacocks… and ducks… and birds… and geese…)!  😉


For those who need a night off from cooking or who are wanting to socialise and watch the big game, head to the Areena Quays Restaurant and Bar on the banks of the river.  This family friendly restaurant is open Wed – Fri (11h00 – 20h00), Sat (09h00 – 21h00) and Sun (09h00 – 11h00 for breakfast / 12h30 – 14h00 for Buffet Lunch).  If the kiddies want to play while the big kids visit the bar, the kiddies playground is just a few meters away.  They also serve child friendly meals so you won’t get any arguments there.


With so much to offer it is not surprising that Areena Private Resort is a popular Wedding Venue.  The venue offers bridal couples a beautiful setting in which to take their vows, have their reception and take beautiful wedding photographs.  It also offers the bridal couple and guests accommodation, avoiding the need to drive home after an evening of celebrations.


The many different adventure activities have also made Areena the perfect destination for corporate conferencing and team building activities.  Far enough from the city to be considered a getaway, but close enough to ensure transport is not a problem, Areena is undoubtedly the one-stop shop corporates look for when planning their annual corporate getaways.

For me personally, the Areena Riverside Private Resort offers all the magical charm of my childhood holidays, in a stunning setting with upmarket accommodation and facilities… and an endless array of fun and exciting activities.  What more could one really ask for?  An extra week or two… that’s what!

Article:  Sandy Loppnow
Photographs:  Sandy Loppnow & Areena

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