&Beyond Phinda Rock Lodge and Phinda Vlei Lodge
Anyone who has been to Phinda will probably tell you that all five of the best luxury game lodges in the province can be found in the 23,000-hectare &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. It’s that amazing. Situated near KwaZulu-Natal’s coastline, the reserve encompasses seven distinct habitats, including coastal grassland, open woodland, mixed bushveld, sand forest and wetland. While Phinda boasts all of the Big Five, it is particularly well known for its large populations of cheetah and endangered black rhino, which can be difficult to spot at other game reserves.
Because Phinda is a private game reserve – and one with a formidable price tag – you’ll be guaranteed limited guest numbers and an exclusive game viewing experience. There are six different accommodation options to choose from ranging from exclusive-use villas to intimate lodges, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. The game viewing differs in the north and the south of the reserve because of the varied habitats, so we’d recommend splitting your stay between Phinda Rock Lodge, which is set dramatically against a cliff overlooking the valley below, and Phinda Vlei Lodge, which is situated alongside the rare sand forest. Both lodges accommodate only 12 guests, ensuring a private and secluded experience.
In addition to the expected game drives and guided walking safaris, for an additional fee, you can participate in the reserve’s rhino notching program. For this you’ll need a fairly robust travel fund, but you’d be contributing to the conservation of these endangered animals by spending the day with the veterinary team, tracking down and darting a rhino and notching its ear for research and security purposes.