​User Reviews – Phinda GR

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Mark Ratcliffe Visited: March 2012 Reviewed: Jul 20, 2012

A special place where the best of African nature is coupled with luxury and personal hospitality
Overall rating

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!

Gunter32804 Visited: July 2010 Reviewed: May 30, 2014

I loved Phinda for its beauty and variety of experiences
Overall rating

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!

Roy Mauritsen   –  
United States US
Visited: September 2013 Reviewed: Dec 10, 2013

Experience level: first safari

Simply an amazing experience.
Overall rating

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.

quilttyme   –  
United States US
Visited: February 2011 Reviewed: Jul 30, 2012

50-65 years of age  |  Experience level: first safari

Evening at Phinda
Overall rating

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!!

Marleen   –  
Netherlands NL
Visited: August 2007 Reviewed: Apr 11, 2012

Email Marleen  |  50-65 years of age

Overall rating

Accomodation is too expensive for us, but we were allowed to drive through the park and in a few hours we saw several lions, cheetahs and rhino's.

Ruth   –  
United States US
Visited: February 2020 Reviewed: Feb 23, 2020

Email Ruth  |  35-50 years of age  |  Experience level: first safari

Overall rating

The BEST experience. AMAZING

Bryan   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: May 2018 Reviewed: Oct 9, 2018

Email Bryan  |  65+ years of age  |  Experience level: over 5 safaris

Phinda must offer one of the finest guided game viewing experiences available in South Africa.
Overall rating

Our stay at Phinda in one of the beautiful game lodges in the Sand Forest section was an amazing experience. Phinda has a fascinating variety of attractive bushveld landscapes including mountains, forest, vlei and open grassland. There is an abundance of wildlife, including the Big Five and many rarer and less easily spotted species, such as cheetah and rhino. The bird life is also a big draw card.

The accommodation is of five star quality and unique. Each couple had their own secluded lodge in the forest a short walk from other lodges, the swimming pool and restaurant but hidden from them. The on-suite bathroom had windows looking out on the forest allowing you to leave the blinds open while taking a bath or shower watching Impala browsing in the forest outside.

Our stay included all meals, two professionally guided game drives each day with a separate vehicle, ranger and tracker allocated for our group of 6 guests. Apart from the first day, the same ranger and tracker handled all our game viewing trips. On several occasions our ranger and tracker joined our group for the evening meal, which provided the opportunity to discuss the days viewing experiences with very knowledgeable experts. It also allowed them to get to know us and helped in planning and personalising the next days outings to suit our particular interests.

The quality of the food was excellent. Apart from the three main meals, snacks and drinks were provided in the bush during game drives and during the afternoon break between lunch and the late afternoon and evening game drive. On two nights the evening meal after the game drive was in the form of a barbecue in an open-to-the sky boma. A highlight was the champagne breakfast in the bush organised for us on our last day.

Weather during our stay was superb. During the early morning game drive it was crisply cool and sometimes misty making the mid-drive coffee break very welcome. You must try Amarula Cream in your coffee instead of milk. The misty landscapes were a photographers delight. The days were warm and very comfortable. We had a few short showers, which added to rather than dampened the experience.

All the staff are very professional, knowledgeable and friendly. They interact with you throughout your stay giving a new meaning to the word hospitality. If it fits within your budget, Phinda is an experience no one should miss.

Chris Bridger   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: October 2016 Reviewed: Dec 21, 2016

Email Chris Bridger  |  20-35 years of age  |  Experience level: first safari

A truly awe-inspiring holiday in beautiful surroundings.
Overall rating

Our trip to Phinda Game Reserve was as a present for my Dad's 60th, and it did not disappoint. Our accommodation (we stayed at the Mountain Lodge in Phinda) was beautifully laid out and equally good for both seclusion and socialising - whichever you prefer. The rooms were incredibly generous in size with decking out the front and even a plunge pool for those that are feeling brave. The grounds of the lodge were kept in immaculate condition, the swimming pool was literally a 2 minute walk from your room, as was the outdoor and indoor dining area which hosted the majority of breakfasts, lunch and dinners. Prepared by head chef Neo (who made a point of individually welcoming you to your table and explaining what was for dinner every night, a really nice touch) and his team, the food was always of impeccably high standards as was the presentation of it. We couldn't have been more impressed at the level of service from the in-house team of hosts. They could not do enough to make your stay a more memorable one, from how you'd like your eggs done, to birthday gifts they really did provide everything and were a large factor behind why I feel the holiday was such a successful one. Keep an eye out for Mandla particularly, who I didn't see without a smile on his face for four whole days.

The weather was amazing for the duration of our stay, including some breath-taking electric thunderstorms on our first night. As for when you're out on safari, it does get quite cold when you're out after dark, so despite it being really sunny when you set off, take a jumper. Blankets are provided which was unexpected, but very much appreciated! It was my first safari and will take some beating - we managed to see everything we wanted to, leopards and black rhino's included...and as a keen photographer I was afforded plenty of time to take photos at will of the amazing animals on show. Our guides were totally receptive to what we wanted to see and put on a wonderful breakfast in the bush one morning, as well as taking us on some great walks when there was a bit of downtime.

My only minor criticism would be that considering you spend 7 hours a day in them, the Jeeps weren't the most comfortable form of transport. I'm a little over 6 foot 2 and the legroom in the Jeeps wasn't really adequate for me, the seats weren't very well padded either - but really once you'd gotten over it this didn't detract at all from my overall enjoyment.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Phinda Game Reserve to anyone, it was an unforgettable experience and we owe much to those who hosted us and made our stay that little bit more special.

Jacqueline Landry   –  
Canada CA
Visited: June 2019 Reviewed: Jul 1, 2019

Email Jacqueline Landry  |  50-65 years of age  |  Experience level: first safari

Overall rating

The staff at zuka were kind, warm and so inviting! The safaris were always exciting. The scenery was beautiful!

Michael Potts   –  
Netherlands NL
Visited: October 2015 Reviewed: Dec 29, 2015

Email Michael Potts  |  35-50 years of age  |  Experience level: over 5 safaris

Perfect Safari
Overall rating

I have been to Phinda a number of times but this visit was by far the best. The accommodation, food and location is unsurpassed in the Natal area. What made this trip special was the luck we had with the game sightings. Game sightings are often down to luck however in this occasion we were spoilt, great quality sightings and the rangers spent a nice amount of time with each sighting. The rangers are fantastic at Phinda and they make the safari.

Average User Rating

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

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  • 4 star 6
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  • 1 star 2
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