News & Reviews Africa Kenya Arijiju vs Kubili House

Kubili House and Arijiju are ultra-luxurious, exclusive use, 5-bedroom homes set in wildlife parks within South Africa and Kenya respectively.  You might think that two properties, thousands of miles apart in different countries, would not warrant a comparison review.  You would be wrong.  Or you’re right and I’ve just wasted hours of my life.

Getting there

Let’s start with an easy one.  With one you fly into the most populous city in the country, then take a private plane followed by a 20-30 minute drive to the property.  In the other case, you….oh, right, it’s the same.  If you don’t fancy chartering your own plane then you can fly into Hoedspruit, get driven to the Thornybush entrance, swapped to a safari vehicle and then driven to Kubili House.  It sounds like a ransom drop.  For Arijiju, their nearest proletariat airstrip is nearly 2 hours away, but you will be in a safari vehicle and do get to drive past Pride Rock, where Simba was born.

Both properties have one of the GMs meet you at the airstrip and accompany you to the property.  It’s then followed by the normal yaddy-ya of a walkaround and introduction to everyone.  However, Arijiju basically put a sweet shop in my room, then ensured I couldn’t be more than 10 meters from an excessive amount of junk food, which will surely be worthy of a lawsuit when I meet my demise aged 40.

Winner: Arijiju

Setting

Arijiju is designed to fit in seamlessly with the surroundings, so the only reason you’d know it’s there is because you’re already there, or you’re really into human trafficking and know where the easy targets are.  The views aren’t mind-blowing, in the same way that other hillside properties like Singita Sasakwa or Angama Mara are.  The upside to Arijiju is the architecture is so impressive it creates the ambience, whereas Kubili House is sat on the edge of a wildlife-infested dam, that offers a better view, ambience and they even throw in a complimentary better-than-Arijiju sunrise view.

Winner: Kubili

Conservancy / Sightings

Arijiju shares the Borona conservancy with only a few other exclusive use properties.  I never saw another vehicle during our stay and I can assure you I was doing 24/7 surveillance, after all I hear it’s rated #1 on TripAdvisor for trafficking, However, I never saw much of anything, other than every rhino on earth, but being on such private land offers the opportunity to do as you please.

Kubili House is on the Thornybush conservancy, which it shares with a significant number of other lodges, meaning it can get crowded, but then the wildlife is far more abundant and there’s more guides out looking for the wildlife.

Arijiju is a glorious property that happens to offer a safari experience, it’s an ideal home to finish your holiday, rather than going for a safari experience, whereas Kubili House is a safari lodge, because the animal sightings are a key feature of it.  Ironically, whilst I’ve had amazing viewings whilst on the Thornybush conservancy, I did not whilst at Kubili.  At Arijiju the elephants come and drink from the pool, almost daily, and it’s a magical experience.  In my wildlife rankings, only a gorilla showing up and helping me complete my Wordle could push that into third place.  Number one is always going to be something, anything, killing a wildebeest.  Those stupid, stupid animals.

Winner: Tie

Design

Someone inspired someone along the lines here.  I don’t want to accuse who, so I just suggest the owners solve it in the best way possible: trial by combat.  Whoever wins can claim that it’s just a coincidence that even the door handles are similar, or that the brickwork happens to look like it was carved from the same rock.  All the same, there can only be one winner.  Except where I keep giving everything a Tie.

As something that is as subjective as it comes.  These are both gorgeous properties, with so many exquisite design elements that you could write a book about it entitled “If I Did It”.  “It” being the design, obviously.  I love the open expanse of Kubili, where you enter and have full visibility across the water and the open planned areas in front of you, but Arijiju has a more luxurious feel, with the interiors and architecture on another level.

Winner: Arijiju

Room

Whilst the interiors at Arijiju definitely feel more luxurious, with better materials, more elegant design and feeling more homely, the rooms at Kubili House are more spacious, especially with Villa #2, Villa #2 and the Kubili Suite having their own pools and large, private terraces.  The bathrooms in Kubili are almost comically large – if you took a selfie in there you’d look like a Hobbit.  Once again – there’s a similar design in some areas, but what Kubili House offers is the ability to really spend all day in your room without needing to leave and see anyone else.  Which was weirdly brilliant for me, even though I was there by myself.

Winner: Kubili

Food

Both properties have a spread for breakfast followed by a daily special; both have one of the GMs come and discuss what is for lunch, followed by dinner.  There are no menus.  It’s like they both attended the same conference on turning a private home into a resort.  You’re not going for fine dining or a buffet at either place, but the chefs are both excellent and you’re definitely not going to go hungry, but at Kubili the quality was that bit higher which meant seconds were not a choice, it was a calling.

Winner: Kubili House

Service

Not just a promise…a guarantee.

If you’re not blown away, you don’t pay.

Those words are on the Kubili House website. This could be the most profitable review I’ll ever write.  Yet alas, the bastards get to keep my money, as the entire experience was brilliant…..and because inflation is now so high that if they handed it back it’d just be some dirt.

Your safari experience is made by your guide, you spend over 10 hours a day with them and if you get on well then everything else fits into that narrative.  In an exclusive-use property, it’s the GMs – even more so at Arijiju, as one of the GMs is the guide.  Tina and Wayne are in charge of Kubili, Rich and Della at Arijiju, both extremely hands-on and ensuring a wonderful stay.  They’re then backed up by a well-established team that know exactly what they’re doing, as a large majority have been in place since the opening.

Winner: Tie

I don’t like this woman’s hair. Where’s my refund?

Facilities

No of Rooms: 5 en suite luxury bedroom, 4 swimming pools, spa, steam room, 3 x fully equipped camping Land Rovers

NOT ENOUGH, Kubili!  Give me more!  Then Arijiju spoke and said “let there be light, as well as a cinema room, squash and tennis court, library, rooftop stargazing, spa, gym and hot tub”.  The facilities match a luxury boutique resort in Europe, not a property in the middle of nowhere that accommodates 10 people.  It’s one of the most impressive properties I’ve ever seen.

Arijiju has a huge amount of outside space, notably the rooftop and pool, but where it shines is the interior, with multiple living rooms, snugs and dining areas.  It means the weather is not a barrier to enjoyment, whereas Kubili is not somewhere I’d want to be stuck during a Day After Tomorrow winter freeze as there is only a single, open planned living/dining room that is fully enclosed.

Winner: Arijiju

Spa

Kubili House hires a freelancer to come on-premise during guests’ stays, whereas Arijiju has two full-time, brilliant and skilled spa therapists.  Kubili’s spa is right in front of their pool, which would make for a great picture when someone does a cannonball right in front of your face.  Inside there’s a steam room and treatment bed, whereas Arijiju has two dedicated treatment rooms set at the end of the property, as well as a plunge pool and hammam.

Winner: Arijiju

Conclusion

There are a lot of similarities between Arijiju and Kubili House.  However, is Kubili House as impressive as Arijiju?  No.  It has so many facilities it’s hard to compete.  Ah, but is it cheaper? Definitely not.  Arijiju put their rates up this year, but they’re still significantly cheaper than Kubili.  Obviously, these prices are obscenely expensive if you go as a couple, but as a group, exclusive use properties end up significantly cheaper than taking individual rooms.  You are far better off booking one of these than Singita or similar.

You’re not going to go wrong with either property, but overall whilst Kubili House is phenomenal, it’s not quite Arijiju.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 23rd Jun '22

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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