Known for its stunning landscapes, diverse ecosystems and luxury safari lodges, Phinda Private Game Reserve is a must see when visiting South Africa. Located in KwaZulu-Natal, the 56,800 acre reserve is a collage of open grasslands, rocky hillsides, subtropical woodlands and a rare sand forest. Africa’s Big Five roam freely and in abundance, making safaris an adventure-seeker’s delight. Phinda is the finished product of the travel tour company, &Beyond, working hand-in- hand with the local community to restore and preserve mishandled farmland. The outcome is eco-conscious tourism with a hint of opulence.
Among the many choices of safari lodges, Phinda Forest Lodge ranks highest in location, cuisine and accommodations and was recently voted number three (among other safari lodges on the reserve) on Travel + Leisure’s top 100 hotels in the world. The 16 minimalist suites are situated in the heart of a rare sand forest, offering guests an intimate encounter with wildlife. Floor to ceiling glass windows reveal a mythical world of bird life, antelope, vervet monkeys and exotic flora. Zulu-Zen décor creates a peaceful respite for relaxation after a long day of cruising about the rugged terrain. Each villa has an outdoor viewing deck with minibar and furniture crafted from fallen timber, and lavish stone bathrooms with dual sinks, a large stand-up shower and egg-shell soaking tub.
Safaris, food and most beverages are included in the cost of the nightly stay. Guest are cordially awoken at 5:00 AM, welcomed to a delicious breakfast prepared with fresh ingredients from local farms, then escorted on a three-hour game drive. Afternoons may be spent lying by the pool while absorbing the serene vista of grazers on the savanna, exploring the pristine beaches of the Indian Ocean, or visiting nearby Zulu villages to see firsthand how these communities have benefited socially and economically from the &Beyond Foundation.
Night drives begin at 4:00 PM, after the preserved British custom of midday tea. Approximately four hours are spent traversing the reserve in search of lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, cheetah, elephant and other African species. Rangers are well-educated on biodiversity and provide an entertaining, enjoyable experience. Each evening drive includes stopping for a sun-downer to muse over the mesmerizing sunset, and a chance to mingle with other visitors from all over the world. Guests are often surprised with an enchanting boma dinner, within the bush, under a sea of pulsating stars.
Upon departure the staff packs a lovely boxed lunch to soothe any hunger cravings during the long voyage home. Visitors can fly from Johannesburg or Cape Town international airports to Phinda Game Reserve where transportation from the airstrip is provided to and from the lodge. The best time of year to visit is in winter as the rates are slashed in half and the game viewing, weather and flight conditions remain good.