waterhole at sunset

Arathusa’s Waterhole: A safari of its own

Visitors to Arathusa Safari Lodge will no doubt agree that our signature feature is the vast waterhole that lies directly in front of the lodge, flanked by an open plain. This massive body of water attracts numerous animal species, and it’s for this reason that guests are treated to rich animal sightings directly from the comfort of the lodge.

The waterhole is fed by the Phungwe seasonal river/drainage line – this rain-fed river flows during annual summer rainfall periods. After an unprecedented drought between September 2016 and December 2019, which saw the waterhole drying up completely, the dam has thankfully received above average rainfall over the last 18 months and is now once again a thriving body of water.

The typical level of water in the dam is naturally weather dependant. The norm is for the dam to reach 100% volume during the rainy/summer season, which is between October and March. The level of the dam then recedes to about 60% of its capacity over the winter months between April and September. Approximately 600mm of rainfall came in between November 2020 and April 2021, with 300mm between 24 December and 24 January alone! When it rained, it poured…

Here are some of the reasons why the Arathusa waterhole is our most popular Lodge feature…

  1. It is a water source for animals passing by, and is a convenient area for predators to ambush their prey. Winter months can yield more activity, due to all the pools and puddles scattered through the reserve drying up.
  2. It is home to our resident hippo pod, whose grunts, splashes and aquatic tousles are part of an ordinary day at Aruthusa.
  3. The view is simply beautiful, whether from the private patios of Water Facing Suites, from the spa, or from the infinity pool with a cool beverage.
  4. This is arguably one of the most stunning settings on the planet to enjoy a meal. Guests have been fortunate enough to have the Big5 ‘join’ them during breakfast, lunch and private dinners on the lawn, along with wild dog, giraffe, hyena and many others.

Just some of the animal activity our guests enjoy…

The dam wall is a passage for territorial animals, like leopards. The legendary Hukumuri used to navigate the dam wall to the Bush Facing Suites, marking territory and searching for a meal along the way. In Hukumuri’s absence, the Tortoise Pan male has started patrolling this passage, and laying claim to his territory.

The Evoka male lions make use of the dam wall, particularly in the early hours of the morning when moving from east to west, or vice versa. Their proud roars are often heard before drives depart as they call out and mark their territory vocally.

Elephants are some of the most entertaining creatures to watch as they swim in the dam to cool off over the summer months, or take a splash during the warmer winter days. Herds of up to 100 elephants have congregated around (and in) the water, providing hours of viewing pleasure for our guests and staff.

elephants playing in waterhole

Bird watching is spectacular. In the evening, the night jar and the thick-knee can be viewed feeding on the “wing”, taking advantage of the spotlight’s allure for nocturnal insects, while the little Grebe (dabchick) can be found paddling around, catching any insects as they fall into the water.

Our resident crocodile arrived with January’s rainfall. He has been elusive, spending most of his time in the north eastern corner of the dam. Guests may see him sunning himself at the water’s edge, and are ever impressed at his size (he is approximately 3 metres long). In one incredible sighting, he took down a male waterbuck, only to lose his kill carcass to the Evoka male lions, who walked into the dam shallows and stole the remains.

Regardless of the time you may choose to visit, you can rest assured that your safari at Arathusa is an all-day affair, and every seat in this house is the best one!

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