Located in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province is the private Phinda Game Reserve. It covers an area of 17,000 hectares and, unlike most other reserves in the country, it’s entirely fenced. This means that its ecosystem is more self-contained and hasn’t been able to integrate with the larger ecosystem other reserves are a part of. While the reserve is a popular destination for viewing the Big Five (the African elephant, the Cape buffalo, the lion, the leopard and the rhinoceros), it’s also renowned for its abundant cheetah population, with sightings fairly common.
There are a total of five luxury lodges belonging to the &Beyond group scattered throughout the reserve. Each of them is located in a distinct setting and offers stunning views of the surround area. The Forest Lodge is nestled in a sand forest and has floor-to-ceiling glass windows, while the Mountain Lodge is set high up on a mountain crest and offers captivating views of both the sprawling plains below and the Lebombo Mountains. There’s also the Rock Lodge, which is set on a towering cliffside overlooking a deep valley, and the Vlei Lodge, which is set on the edge of a forest and overlooks a vast meadow and wetland system. The final option is the Zuka Lodge, which is perfectly positioned right beside a popular watering hole. Accommodation here is more expensive compared with what other reserves have to offer. The dry season, which runs from May to September, is generally considered to be the best time of year to visit. Animals can still be spotted in abundance at other times of the year, with October to April especially good for viewing migrating birds.
The reserve has a broad range of nature-based activities on offer. There are, of course, game drives routinely offered that give guests the chance to spot a large number of different animals. Walking safaris are also popular, as are nighttime game drives and even stargazing. There are specialised walking expeditions that focus on birdwatching, with over 400 bird species to spot. What makes the reserve particularly appealing to nature enthusiasts is the fact that it encompasses seven distinct habitats, with a much greater diversity of both wildlife and landscapes than other reserves.