Kariega River Lodge

Kariega River Lodge: Our full report

10 thatched chalets
Best for 12+
All year

Having opened in September 2006, River Lodge is the latest addition to the Kariega portfolio. In a beautiful location in the south of Kariega Game Reserve, it's on the banks of the Bushmans River and so can offer water-based activities as well as game drives and walking safaris. It has a contemporary feel to it and is the most luxurious accommodation in Kariega.

After entering the reserve by it southern gate, it’s a short drive by 4WD to Kariega River Lodge. On arrival, the lodge felt quite Mediterranean to us, with lots of wild olive trees and beautifully blooming schotia afra trees lining the entrance road. The schotia afra were full of beans, which can be roasted to give a beverage approximating coffee.

The main areas at Kariega River Lodge are set under a thatched, high-vaulted roof and comprise a lounge, a dining room, a little library, a large bar area, a curio shop and a swimming pool.

Just beside the entrance, there the curio shop, which also holds River Lodge’s safes, since the rooms aren’t equipped with safes.

The dining area at Kariega River Lodge is partially inside and partially outside. It is nicely decorated, with wickerwork on stone and wooden floors with some sisal matting, cow skin rugs, iron wire chandeliers, and plump cushions around a big fireplace. Large picture windows and sliding doors lead out onto a wooden deck perched over the Bushmans River, where you can enjoy lovely views reaching until the hills beyond the river. Meals can be taken on this deck or inside.

To one side of River Lodge’s deck is a little swimming pool beside the river, which is 1.8m deep all the way long. Beside it you can soak up the sun on one of the loungers or relax under an element of shade.

Upstairs, on the mezzanine level, is a small library with comfortable leather armchairs and a selection of wildlife books to read. There’s also a satellite TV and computer with internet access for guests’ use. On the same level but outside is a small deck with two chairs and a group of couches that can be converted into a private dining area.

Gravel paths lead from the main areas to Kariega River Lodge’s 10 spacious suites, which differ slightly in location and equipment:

  • The Suites 1 to 4 are located in one building. We especially liked the comfy sofas and chairs and a couple of large leather ottomans here, as well as the large fireplace, which forms the focal point of the room. Set on the ground level, the suites 1 and 2 look out into the vegetation, whereas the suites 3 and 4 above offer lovely views over Kariega Reserve’s fenced game areas. When we had a look around these we saw two young giraffes and an ostrich in the distance.
  • Suite 8, 9 and 10 are all separate; each has its own plunge pool and all are situated on the riverbank.
  • While Suite 7, the Zebra Suite, also has views of the river, it doesn’t offer a private pool.
Every suite has got a brown concrete floor, cream walls, a big mirror with a wooden surround and a nice, large double bed or twins, with high-quality linen and a lamp by the side. They are all air-conditioned and each one has a fan on the high-thatched ceiling. You can have a hot or cold drink from a fairly deep minibar, your tea and coffee station or your kettle. There’s also a telephone, and adaptors are supplied by the lodge.

The tiled, en-suite bathroom is fitted with a big, almost egg-shaped stand-alone bath, twin decorated wash basins, a separate toilet and a separate little shower. A pleasant feature of its interior design are the exposed copper pipes of the bath tub and the shower, as well as the copper hook and handle. Only the heated white towel rack here feels slightly incongruous.

The windows both in the bedroom and bathroom are on quite a high level at River Lodge in Kariega. You can enjoy the view over the surroundings from your private outdoor patio.

Activities at River Lodge include game drives in open 4WD vehicles, walking safaris and optional daily boat trips through the picturesque village of Kenton-on-sea to the river mouth, where you might like to have a lovely beach picnic.

In January 2017, we became aware that the guides leading walking safaris at Kariega are not equipped with firearms except when looking for white rhino. In general, we have concerns about walking safaris being conducted in areas where there are high densities of big, dangerous game. Hence we recommend that our travellers don’t go on walking safaris here unless a guide who is both suitably qualified and suitably armed accompanies them.

Canoes and kayaks are available for a leisurely paddle down the river and it’s also possible to do some excellent fishing and crabbing here – with two fishing rods being provided by the lodge. We’re told that there are no crocodiles resident in this section of the river.

It’s worth commenting that when boating along we passed agricultural land, quite a few private homes and plenty of fences – as well as Kariega’s game areas – which detracted from any ‘wilderness experience’ which we might have had here.

Our view

Kariega’s River Lodge is a lovely, thatched lodge perched beside a gentle river, which separates it from most of the reserve. We didn’t stay for long here, but it was very hospitable and looked like a lovely place to relax – especially if you like canoeing or kayaking. That said, in common with many reserves in the Cape, there are too many man-made things around for this to seem like anything close to a ‘wilderness’ destination.


Location: Kariega Game Reserve, South Africa

Ideal length of stay: A stay of about two to three nights should work well for some game-viewing in Kariega Reserve.

Directions: About 50km on the N2 towards Grahamstown from Port Elizabeth, take the Port Alfred turnoff onto the R72. Continue on this road towards Kenton-on-Sea and Port Alfred. The turnoff to River Lodge is signposted 5km beyond Alexandria.

Accessible by: Self-drive

Key personnel

Owner: Kariega Reserve is privately owned and family-run.

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Drinks included: Selected beverages are included.


Attitude towards children: Kariega River Lodge accepts children aged 11 years or older.

Property’s age restrictions: Minimum age 11 years.


Power supply: Mains Electricity

Communications: There is a computer for guests’ use in the mezzanine of Kariega River Lodge’s main area, which has internet access. Additionally, you can access WiFi with a in the main areas and all chalets here. (WiFi is activated with a security code from room.)

TV & radio: There is a TV in Kariega River Lodge’s library, on the mezzanine level of the main building.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: No

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Fire safety: There is a fire extinguisher next to each chalet at Kariega’s River Lodge.


Money: The curio shop in the main building has the safes. There are no room safes.

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