​Expert Reviews – Phinda GR

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Melissa Shales   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: Multiple times

Melissa is an award winning travel writer for Fodors, Frommers and Insight, including guides to Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

17 people found this review helpful.

Phinda – practically perfect private preserve
Overall rating

&Beyond used to be called the CC Africa and before that, the Conservation Corporation. In that guise, they were amongst the very first pioneers of Africa’s great tourism success story, marrying restoration of derelict land, the conservation of wildlife and a strong community involvement with the highest standards of wildly upmarket luxury tourism. It is a model that has been copied across the continent. Phinda wasn’t the first (that was Londolozi) but it is my personal favourite amongst their South African properties, covering 23,000 ha (56,800 acres) of northern KwaZulu-Natal, not far from the World Heritage Site of Isimangaliso/Greater St Lucia Wetland Park.
The park is more than big enough to support a thriving population of wildlife including all the Big Five and 415 species of bird. With expert rangers eager to please, you have an excellent chance of finding rarer species such as cheetah, leopard and black rhino. And if you would like to, you can spend a day learning to be a tracker, go canoeing on the Mzinene River, or head down to the coast to go scuba diving on the reef, one of the only parks in South Africa where this is possible.

There are six lodges on the property from dizzily precarious Mountain Lodge to the Rock Lodge, where I stayed, strung out along the cliff edge with panoramic views. But my favourite by a long way was the ethereal Forest Lodge, with its stilted glass cabins scattered like Chinese lanterns through the trees in the sand forest.
I’ve been lucky enough to stay in many extraordinarily luxurious safari lodges over the years including a number of &Beyond properties in several countries across Africa. What has always impressed about them is that their staff are particularly nice. There seems to be a corporate culture which breeds confident pride and great service and it makes for a wonderful experience. Long may it continue.

Kim Wildman   –  
Australia AU
Visited: Multiple times

Kim is a travel writer who authored and updated over 15 guidebooks, including Lonely Planet's South Africa and Bradt's Tanzania guides.

6 people found this review helpful.

Big cat country
Overall rating

KwaZulu-Natal’s top spot for game viewing is without a doubt Phinda Private Game Reserve. For a relatively small park it harbours a huge diversity of wildlife and sightings are virtually guaranteed. It’s also one of the best places to see Africa’s big cats. Lion and leopard are plentiful and thanks to the careful reintroduction of cheetah into the area after 50 years of absence, you can now watch these magnificent cats play and hunt in the wild. During my last trip I had an incredible up-close night encounter with a leopard and the next day spied a cheetah hiding with her cubs in the long grass. What an amazing experience! But it’s not just the cats that make Phinda so special. Herds of elephants, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, giraffe and zebra roam the reserve along with thousands of antelope, black and white rhinos and hippos.

Stephen Cunliffe   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: July and September

Stephen is a travel writer and avid conservationist whose work appears in prestigious magazines such as Africa Geographic and Travel Africa.

4 people found this review helpful.

Wildlife Wonderland
Overall rating

The exclusive 23,000 hectare Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal is the setting for one of South Africa’s finest wildlife-viewing experiences. What the reserve lacks in terms of true wilderness appeal is more than compensated for by its reliable and diverse wildlife sightings and quality nature-guiding experience.

Home to all of the Big Five (as well as the endangered black rhino and cheetah), quality wildlife viewing is all but guaranteed at Phinda, while the professional &Beyond guides enhance the interpretive safari experience with their vast bush knowledge and enthusiasm for the natural environment.

Comprising woodland, grassland, wetland and forest, interspersed with mountain ranges, river courses, marshes and pans, Phinda is a small but scenically diverse wildlife sanctuary and birding hot spot (415 bird species have been recorded to date) that offers a genuinely luxurious bush escape to safari goers looking to notch up some quality wildlife encounters without having to sacrifice on any of their creature comforts.

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.5/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star 3
  • 4 star 3
  • 3 star 0
  • 2 star 0
  • 1 star 0
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