PHINDA VLEI LODGE
RETURN OF THE WILD ANIMALS
Phinda Vlei Lodge, located in Phinda Game Reserve, below the Lebombo Mountains in the Maputaland region of northern KwaZulu-Natal, is intimately integrated into the surrounding African bush. Thanks to its coastal rainfalls, Phinda enjoys a lush green environment that contains seven distinct ecosystems – a magnificent tapestry of woodland, grassland, wetland and forest, interspersed with mountain ranges, river courses, marshes and pans. Phinda neighbors the iSimangaliso/Greater St Lucia Wetland Park – a World Heritage Site – to the east, and is only 30 kilometers due west of the white-fringed beaches of the Indian Ocean.
Phinda Vlei Lodge is open year around.
The Lodge provides accommodation in the form of six secluded stilted glass and thatched suites in the rare sand forest, decorated in a subtle blend of north and west African styles, with hints of Balinese influence. Each suite, complete with luxurious en-suite bathroom, dressing room, private plunge pool and game viewing deck, overlooks the grassy plain where guests can observe herds of grazing antelope, zebra and a dazzling variety of birdlife.
In the evening, enjoy a private, romantic candlelit dinner on your outdoor viewing deck under the Stars of South Africa, or join the other guests for dinner at the main lodge.
Phinda is the Zulu word for ”The Return”. In one of the biggest reintroductions of game in Africa, Phinda Game Reserve was restocked with lions, white and black rhinos, buffaloes, elephants, leopards, giraffes, zebras and other big game in an operation dubbed phinda izilwane, return of the wild animals. The Reserve extends an impressive 23 000 hectares (56 800 acres) and is an exemplary example of successful responsible tourism – firstly restoring misused land to its pristine state, restocking it with wildlife and then developing it into an award-winning ecotourism destination.
In 2007, AndBeyond and the Makhasa and Mnqobokazi community leaders signed a groundbreaking land restitution deal, which restored 9 500 hectares of the Reserve to the ancestral owners of the land. Now, as landlords, these communities will continue to share meaningfully in the benefits of conservation and ecotourism and will receive substantial, escalating rental from the Phinda land. They have engaged AndBeyond to oversee the running the business for the next 72 years, and, the communities have committed the land to wildlife in perpetuity.
Among many projects at Phinda AndBeyond give their support to the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, which aims to increase the number of endangered black rhinos in KwaZulu-Natal. Extensive research studying leopards is also being conducted, as is research into a lion re-introduction project.
Situated in the Phinda Private Game Reserve, with seven distinct habitats, at the edge of the Reserve’s unique vlei, wetland, system and at the edge of the sand forest, Phinda Vlei Lodge offers an intimate safari experience.
Twice a day game drives in open Land Rovers. There will be plenty of opportunities for some prime sighting of big game. With this being a Private Reserve, it enables game drives to continue after dark, allowing guests a glimpse into the nocturnal life of the bush.
The highly experienced game rangers and trackers possess a wealth of knowledge and are experts at describing the habits and behavior of a diverse range of wildlife. Rhino tracking can be arranged, providing guests with a comprehensive bush experience.
Riverboat cruises and canoe trips
Along the Mzinene River are provided at no extra cost.
Guests are also able to enjoy a variety of optional safari activities in or near the Indian Ocean; from scuba diving, whale watching, great white shark cage diving and deep-sea fishing to spectacular air safaris.
Excellent big game viewing is to be found at Phinda, with exceptional sightings of the elusive cheetah and black and white rhino as well as of lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, buffaloes, leopards, antelopes such as the suni, nyala and red duike. With more than 360 species recorded, Phinda is an excellent birding destination. Migratory birds are present from November to April, and a patch of rare sand forest habitat is home to many South Africa specials like African broadbill and Neergaard’s sunbird. Other notable birds are Purple Gallinule, Giant Kingfisher, Green Pigeon, scarlet-chested sunbird, Great White Pelican and the Melba finch.
With seven varied and diverse eco-systems, Phinda is a magnificent tapestry of landscapes, from woodland to grassland, wetland and forest, interspersed with mountain ranges, river courses, marches and pans. Allowing for a rich variety of birds, animals and vegetation and excellent photographic opportunities.
Phinda is home to a magnificent variety of wildlife, but is best known for its thriving population of the elegant cheetah and the endangered black rhino. The rare sand forest is home to the shy suni and the rare red duiker, two tiny antelope that are seldom encountered elsewhere. The reserve’s population of nyala is the biggest on private land and photographers are guaranteed frequent encounters with this stately animal.
Phinda is a private game reserve, which means that vehicle numbers at sightings are strictly monitored. Photographers are thus ensured a far more exclusive game viewing experience, with fewer interruptions and more time spent with wildlife. Sensitive off-road driving practices result in close-up, quality wildlife experiences.
Having reintroduced cheetah to the area after an absence of over fifty years, Phinda has quickly established a reputation as one of the best places to view and photograph these rare cats. With much of Phinda dominated by a mosaic of various savanna habitats, these speedy carnivores have plenty of space to carry out their explosive hunting technique, as well as enough cover to protect and shelter their cubs. Phinda offers the best Cheetah sighting in Southern Africa.