User Reviews – Phinda GR
I loved Phinda for its beauty and variety of experiences
My dad and I visited Phinda Game Reserve on a safari to South Africa a few years ago. It had been recommended to us as a nice alternative to the private game reserves outside of Kruger. We had spent a week in Timbavati and Sabi Sands and wanted to safari in a different part of South Africa. Phinda is an excellent place to do that. We stayed at two properties in Phinda: Vlei Lodge and Rock Lodge in order to get a feel for different parts of the reserve. The lodges and rooms are first rate. Great views of the surrounding wilderness, plunge pools and big bathrooms, outdoor showers and mini bars---I can't think of anything they missed.
But I'm more about the wildlife than the accomodations and we had been told that Phinda is the best place in South Africa to see cheetah and had some great sightings in the few days we were there. A mother and cubs, and then two brothers hunting (we didn't see a chase). Other guests were intent upon photographing cheetahs hunting and I'm not certain if they were successful, but it's definitely a good place to observe cheetah.
Rhinos both white and black are also a feature of Phinda and we saw both while we were there. We watched a black rhino mother and calf casually feeding for a half hour or so. We also saw several white rhino including mother and calf as well.
Other highlights included elephant and lions and giraffe. Night drives are possible as well. There's really a great variety of activities and we took advantage of them. We went fishing in the Indian Ocean out of Sodwanna Bay and caught tuna and saw humpback whales. We took the Flight of the Fish Eagle to get a lay of the land and it was absolutely stunning! We left out of the airstrip in Phinda and flew over the sand forest, the estuarine areas and lakes and then over the dunes and out over the ocean. This was a spectacular flight. We spotted numerous whales (humpbacks) and even a whale shark. We loved the perspective from the air!
We also visited a zulu village for a little local culture. I thought it was a beautiful place with a lot of unique things to see and do. The only negative comment and it really shouldn't be taken negatively is that, to me, it had a little of that "managed" feel. I've been to Africa multiple times and there is a slight difference between one of the national parks and a privately managed game reserve. I would highly recommend it as a supplement to your South African safari and there are definitely some unique things to see and do here!
If you'd like to see some of the videos I took while at Phinda---search Phinda and Gunter32804 on Youtube and it will give you a flavor of the place. Hope this is helpful!
Experience level: first safari
Simply an amazing experience.
There are a lot of different places to choose from for these types of trip in South Africa, But from what my wife and I researched, and later talked with other guests, Phinda was by far, a great choice to make! Everyone will have their own experiences of course. Cost wise, we found Phinda to be surprisingly affordable considering the level of the service, dinning and accommodations on top of the game viewing experience.
The trip from NY was long and transferring from JBerg to Durban went smoothly enough, and we booked to fly in on the single prop Cessna from Durban to Phinda to be the start of the adventure.
We went 1st week of September weather was dry the entire time; chilly in the morning but hot by lunch time. We stayed 3 days at Rock Lodge in the southern end, with a more mountainous terrain, and 4 nights in the northern sand forest and savannah of Vlei lodge. Rock lodge was excellent, intimate with only a small amount of guests at any time and the food and service were outstanding. The room with its outdoor shower and private plunge pool was excellent, even a bit too much considering you are out on game drives from 6 am to 11 am (With coffee breaks in the bush) and then again from 3pm till night ( stopping to watch the sunset with drinks) With lunches, dinners etc. you don't spend a lot of time in your room, but it's really nice to come back to. Matt & John were our guides at Rock and it was amazing to see their knowledge and tracking efforts get rewarded with great game views like lions at night, herds of Elephants, cheetahs with cubs. Guides and staff were very friendly, professional, courteous and went above and beyond to accommodate. Vlei lodge was no exception either. At Vlei, Douglas was the general manager there and he was phenomenal! (Honestly our booking agent Christine was top notch too, taking care off us even before our trip). Regular visitations to the rooms' plunge pools by thirsty animals made for great game viewing right outside the front door. Happiness, the chef made every meal delicious. My wife requires a Gluten-free diet and staff at both lodges took exceptional care of her dietary needs. Phinda is a closed-in preserve, but with a lot of room and a lot of animals it was never an issue and seven days seeing the north and south and all of the animals was just enough. In one evening drive we saw all of the big 5. This was our first safari type vacation and Phinda makes it a excellent first time experience. They are also close to the ocean, with arrangements through them we took a morning to mix it up and get in the water at Sodwana Bay to swim with Whale sharks. We've nothing but love for Phinda and &beyond parent company and I also applaud their conservation efforts and community involvement.
50-65 years of age | Experience level: first safari
Evening at Phinda
We did a late afternoon/evening visit to Phinda while on a cruise that spent 2 nights in Richards Bay.
We arrived at Phinda about 3 PM and went directy to the drive. We saw lots of giraffes, zebras and impala in addition to the cheetahs, water buffalo, elephants and nyala.
Without a doubt the highlight of the drive was when we came across two cheetahs eating a freshly killed impala. Our vehicle got to within a few feet of the cheetah and we stayed for half an hour watching them each, pull at the carcass, look nervously about and then return to eating. We could hear them breaking bones and smell the carcass. It was an unbelievable experience that according to our guide and others we met later a true rarity – many people go on numerous safaris and never see big cats eating a fresh kill.
When we left the cats we saw a very sad scene that reminded us of the wildness of the real animal kingdom. We came across a dead baby giraffe with its umbilical cord still attached. Our guide looked at it closely but could not determine what had killed it. There were no bite marks but he theorized it could have been a snake bite or just some birth problem. Another possibility was that it could just have fallen over. A little known fact, at least to us, was that if a giraffe falls over it cannot get up. They sleep on their knees.
When my wife asked what they would do with the giraffe the guide said they would leave it here and it would be eaten by the only two animals that would eat an animal they did not kill – vultures and hyenas.
Following our drive we went to the Mountain Lodge which was used for part of the filming of Out of Africa in 2008. We had an excellent buffet dinner that actually included grilled Impala which was very tender and at least I thought was good enough for seconds.
Following dinner we were treated to a slightly touristy Zulu dance presentation and headed back to the ship arriving at approximately 10:30.
We loved our experience at Phinda!!
Email wamcclung | 65+ years of age | Experience level: first safari
Unreconstructed urbanite gives the bush a chance
I travel to photograph city things: architecture, sculpture, graffitti . . . but on a cruise from Mauritius to Cape Town in January 2009 I thought that if I was ever going to see wildlife beyond the cats of Rome or the poodles of Park Avenue, now was the moment. It was beautiful and I enjoyed the 2-day, overnight experience. I have no basis, however, for comparing Phinda with other game preserves; one other guest complained loud and long that some park she had visited in Zimbabwe had a lot more critters - she seemed especially vexed by the dearth of giraffes at Phinda. I got out of it what I expected--a novice's introduction. The guides were rugged and handsome and the impromptu afternoon tea on a hilltop was a real touch of colonial nostalgia. What few photos I took are viewable at http://www.flickr.com/photos/virginiagent/sets/72157612306934389/, in the set labelled "A Beast in View," a line of verse from Dryden.
35-50 years of age | Experience level: 2-5 safaris
Luxury Accommodation and Terrific Wildlife
We stayed at Phinda Vlei for three nights in Oct 2007. The accommodations were very luxurious and very comfortable. We were very happy with the game drives taken and enjoyed abundant wildlife sightings. Although a private reserve, it is still large enough with varied terrain to avoid redundancy when staying multiple nights. We'd certainly recommend it.
A special place where the best of African nature is coupled with luxury and personal hospitality
My wife and I were born in Zimbabwe/South Africa and have been fortunate enough to have had exposure to African wildlife and scenery from a very early age. We now live overseas and every year when we return we fit in a short break and Phinda has been our recurring preference. Each time we have stayed in the Forest Lodge camp, as our experiences have been nothing short of spectacular, and whils the temptation is to try something different, I also subscrive to when you find the best in class there is no need to change.
There are a number of things that make up a good wildlife experience and Phinda more than meets all of these criteria:
- the scenery is diverse, the multitudes of ecosystems at Phinda make it somewhat unique with the Sand Forests, the Grass plains, the rocky hills and the dense scrub in the north.
- The guides are superb, knowledgeable and engaging and I am continually staggered by the diversity of their knowledge and understanding of the animals, plants, behavioural patterns and local traditions. EVERY time we go, we learn something different...every time...I love that!
- The accomodations and the touch of personalisation and luxury of the camp. As I said, we live overseas now and have travelled a fair deal, what Phinda offers is a touch of class. The glass bungalows in the forest, the restuarant and bar areas, the infinity pool are all phenomemal
- The "unique" experiences. The evening bush dinners and mid game drive stops for drinks are fantastic. We also did the "Flight of the Fish Eagle" which took us north of the reserve and across to Sodwana Bay and back down the coastline whilst spotting whale sharks, turtles, hammerhead sharts and dolphins....superb
- The animals!!! By far the most impressive part of any trip. A lot of people write off the fact that a small piece of land has the big 5 all on hand, but at Phinda you certainly don't feel like it is a confined space. For visitors with a short amount of time it is fantastic that within a few game drives you can see what you hoped, and in our case we even got lucky with a daytime leopard sighting
One last comment.... I think one of the success factors of Phinda is that the pre-agreed rate and the lack of cash exchanging hands at dinners or on game-drives or at the bar ADD massively to the whole experience. The staff and guides seem to have a unwavering focus on making your stay as memorable and spectacular as possible. I think the absence of paying for things continually support this and guests can tip everyone at the end on departure.
Overall I can not speak highly enough of what Phinda offers. It is a special place, a chance to de-stress and take in the sounds, sights and smell of nature in it's finest. I have referred many people who have without exception had a fantastic time. It's a real gem!
20-35 years of age | Experience level: first safari
As perfect a safari as I could imagine
This was an absolute highlight of my visit to South Africa. The variety of wildlife was simply unreal as we saw every animal that I could possibly think of. It's a beautiful location with a combination of open expanses, hills and forests, plenty of dirt roads to get you into the middle of the reserve and rarely was another safari vehicle seen during the 3 days we were there.
The accommodation is five star and involves private villas in the middle of the reserve, each village as luxurious as can be. Transportation involved excellent condition, super comfortable safari vehicles and our guide and animal tracker were knowledgeable, friendly and just brilliant people to spend time with.
Email Erick Cuellar | 35-50 years of age | Experience level: first safari
Excellent. Great accommodations, and wonderful wildlife.
We had a great experience. It was kind of cold and little rain, but we enjoyed our stay. Since we entered the reserve, we started to view wildlife (giraffes, wilds hugs and we were lucky to see a Lion in the middle of the road). People are really nice. Phinda was great. Excellent food, well organized tours, luxury accommodations. We saw a lot of wildlife including, Lions, Elephants, Rhinos, Wild Dogs, and many more.
50-65 years of age | Experience level: first safari
Loved the prides of Lions! The hospitality of our guides were fun as they spread out a table topped with a checkered table cloth andadorned it with Happy Hour goodies..right before a huge thunder and lightening storm! We left in blackness while our guides shined bright lights on glaring eyes in the woods
50-65 years of age | Experience level: over 5 safaris
Two visits 2011 and 2012 great place for game specialy for cheethas