Phinda Private Reserve

Phinda Elephant Encounter

Phinda Private Reserve is situated in the lush Maputuland region in Northwest KwaZulu-Natal, lying to the west of the St.Lucia Wetland Park (a World Heritage Site).  It’s the largest private reserve in the province, encompassing 23,000 Ha (57,000acres) of prime conservation land, and is extremely pretty.  Formerly, the reserve was a mixture of game ranches and degraded farmland, which over the course of the last 18 years or so has been returned to a pristine state (the word Phinda means “The Return” in Zulu). The scenery at Phinda is very varied; seven distinct habitats, which include the unique and lovely sand forest, savanna mosaic, verdant wetlands and rocky hillsides, now shelter an abundance of wildlife including Africa’s Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, black and white rhino, buffalo) and over 380 bird species.

Phinda is an enormously successful ecotourism project which now employs more local people than the original ranches, and is a conservation success story - a ground-breaking land restitution deal in 2007 restored 9,500 Ha of Phinda Reserve to its ancestral owners who were dispossessed during Apartheid; the new local community landlords have agreed to keep the land under wildlife in perpetuity.

The experience

Accommodation is in a choice of 4 luxury lodges, one private (sole use) lodge, and a luxury private residence, each with its own distinctive character and providing fine-tuned luxury and exceptional hospitality.  Forest Lodge and Vlei lodge are situated in the northern section of the reserve, the first famously sited within the distinctive Sand Forest (guests are accommodated in large chalets raised above sandy forest floor, and huge windows heighten the sense of living within the forest), and the latter sited on the forest edge overlooking open vleis.  In the south, Mountain Lodge, the largest of the group, commands extensive views across the plains from a rocky outcrop on the southern tip of the Lebombo Mountains, and the more intimate Rock Lodge nestles close by in a quiet valley.  Zuka Lodge and The Homestead are situated in the South West, close to the mountains. Guiding and hosting standards at all Phinda lodges are exemplary, and you are looked after at a personal level.  Guides are extremely knowledgeable, and take care to establish your interests and modify game drives accordingly.  Highly recommended.

Walking safaris and other activities

It’s possible to undertake guided bush walks at Phinda, ranging from a few hours out with lunch set up for you out on the reserve, to whole days spent out in the bush.  Extending this concept further, it’s also possible to undertake fully supported tailor-made walking safaris, where you get to eat out under the stars and sleep in fly-camps.  The beautiful Mzinene river, fringed with distinctive Fever Trees, provides the opportunity for short canoeing excursions, as well as sunrise and sundowner cruises – this river is particularly good for birding, and provides a contrast to more routine game activities.  Phinda’s proximity to the iSimangaliso/Greater St Lucia Wetland Park allows guests the opportunity to scuba dive, turtle watch, ride on beaches, and visit birding hotspots.

Why do we like it so much?

  • KwaZulu-Natal's most extensive private game reserve

  • Very lovely habitats, with very different feels between one corner of the reserve and the next

  • Exemplary levels of service and attention to detail

  • Excellent rangers and trackers, and staff who really look after you

  • Superb game experience

  • Unique lodges

  • Cuisine

  • Links easily with Drakensberg, Zulu War Battlefields and the Maputaland Coastal Reserve