Did you know?
The tiny knee-high Suni antelope is found at Phinda Private Game Reserve.
A day at Phinda Private Game Reserve in the lush northern KwaZulu-Natal is like a day in heaven. This architectural masterpiece lies within a dry sand forest where stilted wooden suites have huge windows that allow an intimate connection with the forest. It makes for easy viewing of the rare and tiny suni antelope and duiker that walk below.
Before breakfast an early game drive will reveal the world of some of the most spectacular wild animals in Africa, including lion and elephant. Around lunch you can take a plunge and swim with dolphins in the Indian Ocean, rounded off with a great fishing trip and delicious dinner back at the lodge.
Located between the azure ocean waters and the lush World Heritage Site iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Phinda's 23 000 hectares comprises seven distinct ecosystems, including the rare sand forest.
Phinda is a Zulu word meaning 'the return', which signifies that Phinda Private Game Reserve was the location of one of the biggest reintroductions of game in Africa. The area was restocked with lion, rhinoceros, buffalo, elephant, leopard, giraffe and other big game in Operation Phinda Izilwane, meaning 'return of the wild animals'.
Guests can join game drives in open safari vehicles driven by experienced rangers and Zulu trackers, as well as optional activities on the water, in the air and on the beach. The area around Phinda boasts 380 bird species, while the marine diversity off the nearby coast of diving mecca Sodwana rivals Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
The award-winning Phinda Private Game Reserve is rated as one of the most exclusive luxury destinations in the country. It offers six lodges, each designed to capture the beauty of its surroundings.
Each exquisitely designed suite is perched delicately on stilts, is completely surrounded by forest, ensuring privacy, and is walled with wood and glass, allowing the forest in.
The suites are furnished in a minimalist, almost Japanese, style – Zen meets Zulu, if you like.
From your little glass palace, you can watch wild animals – the tiny suni antelope and delicate duiker nibbling at shrubs, and bush babies leaping from tree to tree at dusk. And you are surrounded by birdsong and leaf-filtered lights in the mornings.
Millions of years ago, the sea would have lapped at a shore nearby, and there were sand dunes. But the sea has long since retreated, and a unique forest ecosystem has formed here, distinctly different from normal forests. For a start, you won't see the moisture-loving ferns you'd normally see in a forest. And the leaf litter here disappears quite quickly, consumed by termites.
It also has certain plants that are found nowhere else, and is one of the best places to see the rare Neergard's sunbird. Also look out for the pink twinspot and Woodward's batis, along with the crowned eagle, which hunts through these forests on the lookout for monkeys. You may also see the side-striped jackal and Tongaland squirrel.
Phinda also offers some unique adventures for animal lovers who want to see more than the traditional Big Five, including a night drive to find elusive creatures like the aardvark, bush pig and greater bush baby.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Phinda Private Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)21 794 9050
How to get here
Phinda is easily accessible by road and air. There are daily flights from OR Tambo International Airport direct to Phinda as well as flights from Johannesburg to Richards Bay Airport followed by a two-hour chauffeur-driven road transfer or 20-minute light-aircraft transfer. Private planes and charters can be accommodated.
Best time to visit
The reserve offers great game-viewing opportunities all year round. It has a subtropical climate with hot, humid, wet summers (September to April) and warm to cool, dry winters (May to August).
Tours to do
Phinda offers many eco-tourism activities ranging from game drives and riverboat cruises, to more adventurous activities such as scuba diving and Flight of the Fish Eagle air safaris.
Once you arrive at Phinda, you will be transported in the reserve's 4X4 vehicles.
What will it cost
Phinda is a luxury reserve and is priced accordingly. Depending on season and which lodge you choose, you could expect to pay between R4 000 and R7 500.
Length of stay
An absolute minimum would be two days to gain the most from your experience. A few days extra would be even better.
What to pack
Don't forget your costume.
Where to stay
Phinda has six lodges to choose from. All are intimate, exclusive and quite stunning.