We appreciated the River Lodge’s limited number of guests; riverfront dining deck with animal viewing; spacious and pretty suite; attractive glass enclosed bathroom with a view; and African grass scented organic toiletries.

Overall Impression A few months before we visited the property, the aptly named River Lodge in the Exeter Private Game Reserve joined the ranks of Conservation Corporation Africa (CC Africa), a well known African property management company. Although the child friendly property was still completing its incorporation into the new management company’s way of doing things, we heard about upcoming modifications and saw part of the Lodge transformation.

The Exeter reserve was named, as was the custom in the 1930s, for an English town, Exeter. During the game drives and with the aid of our game viewing team we enjoyed outstanding Big Five game viewing during our two day visit. We also saw a rare snake, cheetah with a kill, and a genet.

We also saw game easily from the lodge. From the comfort of our suites and dining deck we saw animals walking the river banks on multiple occasions. Just gazing across the grass toward the Sand River we saw buffalo herds, a monitor lizard, bushbuck and herds of elephants walking and running along the river bank.

The view from our suites was notable. The stand alone building was angled for maximum advantage of its river fronting location offering relaxing bush and river views. The abundance of animals meant we, frequently and almost without effort, saw animals grazing, walking, even running nearby. The best vantage points were from the suite’s deck and glass enclosed bathroom. Thanks to the numerous glass walls and windows there were ample game viewing opportunities from almost any spot including the indoor and outdoor showers and bathtub.

We liked Exeter’s riverfront location which resulted in Lodge side striking vistas and excellent Big Five game viewing from the Lodge and during game drives. We appreciated the River Lodge’s limited number of guests; riverfront dining deck with animal viewing; spacious and pretty suite; attractive glass enclosed bathroom with a view; and African grass scented organic toiletries.

Class Of Accommodation Luxury bush lodge

General Manager The lodge manager was Louise Callaghan and the general manager of Exeter was Nikki Herbst.

Handicapped Access Guests had to negotiate stairs and steep inclines around the property. The property welcomed wheelchair bound guests although it had no handicapped specific features.

Internet Access Although there was a computer with dial-up access to the Internet available for guest use in the conference room, there was no connectivity during our visit.

Length Of Stay Two nights

Location In the Exeter Private Game Reserve within the 65,000 square hectare Sabi Sand Game Reserve adjacent to the western border of Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Managed Conservation Corporation Africa (CCA)

Owned Steven Saad

Size There were eight suites with private plunge pools fronting the Sand River and bush. Located within the 4,000 hectare Exeter Private Game Reserve, game viewing vehicles had traversing rights for up to 10,000 hectares.

Year Established-Renovated Exeter was originally established by Loring Rattray in 1937. The most recent renovation was in 2006. At that time, all upholstery in the guest areas and bedrooms was re-done. Managers also introduced new crockery, cutlery and glassware.

Lobby And Common Areas Exeter River Lodge was designed by Nick Plewman Architect and the interiors were re-done by Chris Browne, Conservation Corporation Africa’s creative director. The design, meant to emulate a Contemporary Classic lowveld bush home, included earthy neutral tones. Black and white animal photos graced the walls across the property and suites.

Bathroom The bathroom was to the left of the entrance. The most striking features of the spacious and open style bathroom were the glass walls and bush view. The bathroom housed twin sinks, bathtub and separate shower with double shower heads (single water temperature control), water closet, alluring outdoor shower tucked in the corner. There was an excellent view of the plunge pool and deck, the Sand River and bush beyond from almost every area of the bathroom including the showers and bathtub.

Room Our spacious and pretty rooms (1 and 5) had polished concrete flooring and color matched walls, thatched ceilings, and reed like area rugs. Each room was 6 meters x 12 meters for a total of 72 square meters with a deck of 4 meters x 12 meters. It was decorated in bush colors with black and white framed animal photos on the walls. A foyer wood table accommodated several African items. There was a luggage rack in the corner of the foyer. Behind the foyer to the right was a sitting room. To control the room temperature it was possible to open the doors and windows, leaving the mosquito screens closed. Also, there was remote control air conditioning, a ceiling fan and under floor heating.

The sitting area, which had one large window looking onto the Sand River and another large window which could be opened to allow fresh air, faced the bed. It had a love seat, two armchairs, two smaller seats, a table and lamp and a minibar vanity area with a large mirror. There was coffee and tea service, a small refrigerator with bottled water, sodas, beer, wine and milk. There were also two jars with dried fruit, a 375 ml bottle of cabernet, 50 ml bottles of gin, vodka, cane, brandywine, and whisky.

In the middle of the room facing sliding glass doors with mosquito screens were two twin beds with companion night tables and lamps. There was a phone on one of the night tables and a long stool at the foot of the bed. In one corner there was a closet with hanging space, shelves, and a lock safe.

Beyond the sliding glass doors was a magnificent view of the Sand River. There was also a wood deck with a waterfall style infinity plunge pool, an outdoor shower, two lounge chairs and two armchairs.

Food Breakfast consisted of a cold buffet of fruit, cereal, yogurt, breads, cheese and ham; and made to order eggs with grilled side dishes such as mushroom, tomatoes, bacon and sausage. Lunch was set at our table on a platter. During our stay, the chef served cuscus, tossed salad, and grilled kudu (venison) skewers for lunch. Dinner was a la carte and served at the table by our assigned butler.

Amenities Scented house brand toiletries including shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, body scrub and African grass soap. These were apparently so popular they were available for purchase in the souvenir shop. There was a blow dryer, cotton robe, slippers, and bottled water.

Facilities Property pool, dining area, bar, reception, souvenir shop, and conference and Internet room.

Pool In addition to the private plunge pool in our suites, there was a Lodge pool open between sunrise and sunset.

Game Viewing Game viewing was on a topless 4 X 4 Land Rover. Lucky, our temporary tracker, and later Isaac sat in a forward jump seat and Christopher Renshaw, our young and friendly ranger, drove. Up to nine guests could ride in the vehicle although the most we had during our stay was seven, including a slightly frightened young girl whose parents stayed in the camp while she went game viewing on her own. A maximum of two vehicles were allowed per sightings; more vehicles were permitted for rare sightings.

Because there was no fence around the property and wild animals frequently walked across the property, guests were required to have a staff escort after dark. On our first night, a herd of elephants crossed through the lodge. Although we didn’t hear them go by, in the morning, we saw and smelled their fresh spoor and dung near the reception area.

Our game viewing vehicle had an amenity bush stop kit. Inside the zippered bag there was toilet paper, moist towels, cleansing gel, and a spade.

During our visit we saw or heard the following animals: Buffalo, bushbuck, chacma baboon, dwarf mongoose, elephant, hippo, giant platted lizard, impala, leopard tortoise and a baby leopard tortoise, rhino, sidestriped jackal, scrub hare, slender mongoose, tree frog, waterbuck, whitetailed mongoose with four pups, wildebeest, and zebra. We also spent quality time with a serval while it was hunting; saw a male cheetah with an impala kill, two female lions, a female leopard and her cub and a male leopard with a kill.

Birds: Grass owl, grey heron, African white-backed vulture, Wahlber’s Eagle, brown snake eagle, black kite, common buzzard, helmeted guineafowl, black-bellied korhaan, emerald-spotted and Cape turtle doves, brown-hooded kingfisher, little bee-eater, green woodhoopoe, Bennett’s woodpecker, arrow-marked babbler, chin-spotted batis, rattling cisticola, magpie shrike, fork-tailed drongo, and Cape glossy and Burchell’s starlings.

Activities Game viewing, sunbathing, and massages.

Curio Shop There was branded clothing including t-shirts, souvenirs, scarves, and African jewelry at the reception side self service souvenir shop.

Other The property was a member of Relais & Chateax. The following massages were available by appointment: Aromatherapy, Swedish, Indian Head Massage and Foot Massage. Cell phone use was restricted to guestrooms. Unfortunately there was no cell signal at our suite.

At night, countless insects gathered on and around the room door attracted by the night light. This made getting into the room with a minimum number of uninvited multi-legged guests difficult.

Cleanliness Very good

Date Of Last Visit November 2006

ReviewersArticle and photographs taken by Elena del Valle

Service Ronny was assigned to took after us for the duration of our stay. He looked after us at meal times. Rooms were serviced twice daily, in the morning and evening.

Would You Stay Again? Yes


Contact Information

  • Address:
    • Exeter Private Game Reserve
    • CC Africa, Private Bag X27
    • Benmore 2010
    • South Africa
  • Phone:
    • +27 11 809 4300
  • Fax:
    • +27 11 809 4400
  • Website:
  • Email: