Areena Resort
Accommodation,  DESTINATIONS,  Eastern Cape,  The Wild Coast

Our weekend stay and ziplining fun at Areena Resort

Situated only 23km East of East London, Areena Riverside Resort in the Wild Coast region of the Eastern Cape is an idyllic destination for a holiday or corporate event. The resort lies on the tranquil banks of the Kwelera River, and offers everything from camping sites, self-catering accommodation, an adventure village, hiking trails, a spa, wildlife, conference facilities, and an on-site restaurant. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing my personal experience staying at Areena and what to expect here.

Arriving at Areena Resort

Every time I drive up to Areena’s entrance, I get really excited. It feels like I’m entering a special place, somewhere where I can escape from the busyness of life.

Areena Riverside Resort Entrance

It’s pretty amazing how, right after you enter the gate, you can see a bunch of animals chilling out near the reception area. One time, we got a real surprise when Abby, the giraffe raised by hand at Areena, showed up. Abby came over to our car with a gentle and curious attitude, and it was such a cool feeling to see this friendly giant up close.

Abby, Areena's hand-reared giraffe

The reception is in a cozy little building close to the parking area. Inside, there’s a shop where you can grab snacks and things you might need. It’s also a nice place to unwind, chill on the sofas, and check out some interesting info about the resort.

The reception at Areena Riverside Resort

Outside the reception area, you’ll spot animals like deer, rabbits, and various birds. They’re used to people and are lovely to see. You can wander along the paths and walkways in the main reception area and get pretty close to them, too.

The swimming pool at Areena Riverside Resort

After checking in at 2 pm, we headed straight to the resort’s cool swimming pool. It’s surrounded by a pretty garden with trees hanging over comfy chairs and benches. There’s even a big chess board for some fun! We spent most of the afternoon splashing around in the pool, enjoying South Africa’s hot, summer sun.

the swimming pool at Areena

An evening braai at Areena’s accomodation

The resort has a nice restaurant where you can get amazing meals, but we decided to have a barbecue (braai) instead. The weather was perfect in the evening, and there’s just something special about gathering around a wood fire during loadshedding. Loadshedding is a common occurrence in South Africa, where electricity is cut off to reduce strain on the power grid. Tonight, though, it felt like a blessing not to hear the noise of a backup generator. Instead, we got to enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature and gaze at the stars while we ate.

So, what is a braai?

Most people have heard of the term barbeque, but a braai is a word unique to South Africans. The word โ€˜braaiโ€™ is Afrikaans, originating from the Dutch word โ€˜bradenโ€™ which means โ€˜to roastโ€™. More than just a name, a braai is at the forefront of South African culture. It transcends all cultures, and is a special way to spend time with old and new friends, family and loved ones.

A traditional braai uses wood, while modern-day braais use charcoal instead, often simply for convenience. Using gas to cook is considered cheating in South Africa! The host of the braai is usually in charge of choosing the wood and tending the fire. While the host or the โ€˜Braaimasterโ€™ cooks the meat, friends and family gather around the fire with a drink, chatting and socializing.

The braai at Areena

That night, we drank wine from the Boschendal Wine Estate, a wine farm we visited during our trip to Cape Town in the previous month.

Unfortunately, the wood was a little wet and didn’t quite take, so off I went to find more supplies to get our fire going! Luckily, the local supermarket, Spar, was just up the road! On my way back in to the resort, I almost ran in to an Ostrich on the road! Snapped a quick picture of him and headed back to the patiently waiting Braaimaster.

ostrich at Areena

In no time, our fire was blazing again and it was happy smiles all round. After all, nothing beats a good wood fire on a quiet, peaceful evening in Africa.

After cooking our steaks to perfection, it was time enjoy the results of our hard work! Accompanied with more wine, we finished off our meal and called it a night.

The Areena Riverside Resort Spa

At the Areena Spa and wellness center you can spoil yourself with either a pampering session or an invigorating treatment. The Spa offers many services, including waxing, nail care, facials, massages and body scrubs. Bookings at the spa are essential. We spent a blissful morning at the spa, indulging in a relaxing full body massage. For a full spa menu, click here.

At the Areena Spa and wellness center, you can spoil yourself with either a pampering session or an invigorating treatment. They offer services like waxing, nail care, facials, massages, and body scrubs. It’s essential to book your appointments ahead of time. We had a relaxing morning at the spa, treating ourselves to a full body massage. Check out the full spa menu here.

Areena Riverside Resort Ziplining

Areena offers a huge range of adventure activities, which includes archery, quad biking, paintball and ziplining, to name a few. Without the luxury of time, we had to choose just one adventure activity for the day. We went with the ziplining course and were very happy with our decision!

With the sun high in the sky and our spirits energized for the day, it was time for our ziplining adventure. The course has 10 ziplines, with the longest being 153m and the highest at 70m.We arrived at the zipline center near Areena’s reception and hopped onto a big safari vehicle. After a short drive of about 10 minutes, we reached the starting point for our ziplining adventure. On the way, we were lucky to spot some bucks and even a giraffe. The guides there explained everything really well, and they were with us every step of the way, making sure it was super safe.

Not only is it thrilling, the ziplines also let you have great views of the valley and hills below.

In summary, our stay at Areena Riverside Resort was truly wonderful. From the moment we arrived at the entrance, we felt like we were stepping into a peaceful oasis away from our busy lives.

Other activities at Areena Riverside Resort

Adventure Activities

Although it’s not always possible to fit everything in on one weekend, if you’re fortunate enough to visit Areena more than once, there are plenty of things to keep you busy. Activities include a river cruise, quad bike safaris, abseiling, obstacle course, segway tours, paintball, archery and pellet gun shooting.

A giraffe interaction

Most likely the highlight for any traveller to Areena is an interaction with the reserve’s 14 year old giraffe, Abby. Often mistaken for a female, Abby is in fact a boy. The name Abby is a shortened version of Abnormal Baby Boy. The staff at Areena were used to taking care of smaller babies, so the young giraffe was considered somewhat ‘abnormal’ due to his large size. Sadly, Abby’s mother was killed by poachers and so the Areena workers lovingly and patiently hand-reared Abby in to the beautiful adult he is today. His close interaction and ease with human presence has resulted in him being the star attraction at Areena. Guests travel from far and wide to get up close and personal with Abby.

Visitors can book a 1 hour interaction with Abby for about R700 ($35) per person. The price significantly drops if you are a larger group.

Hiking at Areena

If you stay overnight, you can do short hikes on your own, but make sure to wear an Areena reflective vest. They also offer longer guided walks, around 5 to 8 km. These walks include a stop at the abseil Kranz site with a great view of the Kwelera river and valley. And guess what? Sometimes, Abby the giraffe might be your trail buddy!

hiking at Areena reserve

The Areena Quays restaurant

The Areena Quays restaurant serves A La Carte Menu during the week, with different specials daily. On Sundays they have their famous Sunday Lunch Buffet which is not to be missed. In addition, they are a fully licenced establishment and stock beer from the popular and nearby Emerald Vale Brewery.

Where to Stay at Areena Riverside Resort

Areena offers a wide range of accomodation options, which includes riverside timber chalets, en-suite self-catering units, rondavels and cottages. For more budget friendly and outdoor options, there are also spectacular camping sites lying along the banks of the Kwelera river.

We stayed in one of the en-suite, self-catering rooms, which is perfect for two.

Each unit is equipped with both a front and back balcony. The kitchen has everything you might need to cook, as well as a small coffee and tea station.

Although the back patio looked out on the parking lot, it was great having somewhere to enjoy our morning coffee in the fresh air.

Our unit also had a grill and braai area on the front balcony. For just a small additional charge, you can purchase firewood at reception which is rather convenient.

Other places near Areena Riverside Resort

There are so many amazing little places near Areena Resort, along the Wild Coast Jikeleza Route.

Our first stop was for breakfast at a gorgeous laid back venue called ‘Tea in the Trees’. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast, made with farm-fresh ingredients. While waiting for your food, you can take a stroll through the little market stalls next to the restaurant.

More than just a restaurant, the venue is also available for hire, whether your are celebrating a birthday, a wedding or simply a gathering with friends. There is also a lovely little trail, starting near the main building, which meanders through pristine coastal forest.

After breakfast, we headed for Glen Eden Beach. With spectacularly clear water and a long stretch of superb beach sand, the beach is absolutely gorgeous!

Looking for more?

Check out the blog post below to discover some of the best things to do near Areena.

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