Successful resort sets high standards

Road trippin'

Successful resort sets high standards

Areena has a caravan site and self-catering rondavels and bungalows situated on the banks of a beautiful river. Neatly surrounded by trees and attractive shrubs. Everything is beautifully neat and tidy.
By Peter Martin

“Hard work!” That was the answer to the question: “What makes Areena Riverside Resort so successful?” The answer came from owner Ed Rathbone, who celebrates the special milestone tis year of running the business for 30 years.

“I started with just R500,” he said. “It all happened because I was lost at sea.”

It seems Rathbone, intent on making a living as a diver in the Caribbean, joined the crew of a yacht, met with a storm; the yacht’s mast was lost, and he found himself some 1 300km floating in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with his life in grave danger.

“Fortunately we were found and towed to Walvis Bay where my father met me,” Rathbone said.

Glad to be alive he returned home and took over the farmland belonging to his father, developing it into the resort it has become.

“We thought that first year we’d have 30 caravans but nobody turned up.”

Rathbone, admits that although times were tough, they were, in his own words, “great times.”

The “hard work” has certainly paid off. Today he can look around the resort with pride. There is a caravan site and self-catering rondavels and bungalows, all neatly surrounded by trees and attractive shrubs. Everything is beautifully neat and tidy.

Areena Riverside Resort boasts sea, river and mountain views, and regulars return year after year, many of them amazed at what Rathbone and his family have accomplished during the period they were away.

His wife and daughters have done their fair share as well, while his son runs the well-known restaurant with great success.

Areena is a nature reserve with various wild animals including zebra, wildebeest, giraffes, eland, blesbokke, impala, and exotic peacocks and arrogant ostriches that roam around freely.

It appears to be a lazy, relaxing place to spend a holiday or even a weekend.

It appeals to all types – those who just want to relax but also energetic people who are keen to try out the adventure village which includes the use of quadbikes, archery, paintball, abseiling, an obstacle course and an amazing  10-stage zip-line.

There’s a river cruise, hiking, fishing and a host of other activities to keep the whole family occupied at all times. A  wedding centre caters for happy nuptials and there is also a conference area where corporate businesses can hold their meetings and unwind in idyllic surroundings.

Recently Meyers Motors launched a range of bakkies and some 60 drivers and members of their staff used the resort to promote the new vehicles.

The resort has also attracted a number of TV and movie crews and the BMW Eco Challenge and the Bull of Africa programmes were filmed there. More recently an episode of the popular Ultimate BraaiMaster was filmed there.

“For the Eco Challenge we had 1 200 drivers staying over and with the TV crews we were feeding about 1 500 people each day,” Rathbone said. “I must say the Braai show was most professionally done.”

“The Eastern Cape is, to me, the most beautiful of all our provinces,” Rathbone ventures. “It’s the most dynamic, it has diverse vegetation and over 250 species of bird life.”

Aby, the pet giraffe, has become almost as well-known as the Rathbones and stories of the friendly, orphaned giraffe are sent around the world by the many foreign visitors who spend time at the resort.

For the future a total of 66 luxury-style “green” homes is scheduled to be built, complete with solar panels and other energy-saving devices and these will be on sale to people particularly interested in conserving energy, which is proving more important as each day goes by.

Being only a few minutes the other side of Crossways, Areena Riverside Resort is a 20-minute drive to the city. For further information check out the website on or contact the Rathbones on 043-734 3055. 

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