Did you know?
Phinda Game Reserve is renowned for its exceptional ecological diversity.
Imagine a scene of overgrazed farmland, overgrown bush and rusting fences. That was over two decades ago. Today, Vlei Lodge, one of six safari lodges in the &Beyond group's Phinda Private Game Reserve, sits in the shade of a sand forest amidst luxuriant bush teeming with game and wildlife.
Vlei Lodge is part of this conservation miracle, where over 23 000ha of overgrazed land has been restored to its former pristine state. It's no coincidence that phinda is the Zulu word for 'return'.
Vlei Lodge sits on the edge of the sand forest – one of five wildly different ecosystems in the reserve, including sand forest, lush wetlands, bushveld, savannah and open woodland.
The spacious individual suites are built of thatch and wood, their décor blending sage green and cream colours with wooden floors and floor-to-ceiling windows: the result is an organic feel reflecting the natural world outside.
Now and again there's a painting of a pineapple to remind you that over 20 years ago this area was once a pineapple farm.
Sit out on your wraparound wooden viewing deck and soak up the views and the passing animal and bird show.
Suite six is a mecca for thirsty elephants who regard the plunge pool as their private watering hole, while if you sit at suite five's pool on a hot day at noon, you could well see up to 20 species of birds come to sip water, including the purple-crested turaco, the grey waxbill and the green twinspot.
Antelope graze around the lodge and the Big Five are all here. And aside from lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant sightings, you stand the chance of some of the most exceptional cheetah sightings in the country.