A million years ago, the sea was cupped by dunes and lapped at a shore nearby. It has since retreated, leaving a unique forest populated by monkeys, side-striped jackal, Tongaland squirrel, pink-throated twinspots and the rare Neergaard's Sunbird in its wake. In northern KwaZulu-Natal and bordering on the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, it is here that Phinda Game Reserve resides.
Encompassing no less than seven distinct habitats, the reserve shelters an abundance of wildlife, including Africa's Big 5 and more than 380 bird species. White rhino wallow near watering holes while herds of elephant and buffalo trudge across the plains. Predatory cats lounge in the shade or stalk browsing nyala and impala. Experience the thrill of tracking these animals on foot as your Zulu trackers point out interesting indigenous trees and shrubs.
Explore nearby Sodwana Bay's reefs with over 1,200 species of colourful fish populating the warm waters along with spectacular coral formations. Engage with the playful bottlenose dolphin, swim with the flat-mouthed whale shark, and watch the mighty humpback whale move along its migratory paths. The area is in a malaria zone, and visitors should take the necessary precautions.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting Phinda Private Game Reserve
The easiest and most convenient way to visit Phinda is by air. Daily scheduled flights fly from either Johannesburg or Cape Town into Durban's King Shaka International Airport. From here, it's a stunning three-hour drive or road transfer to the lodge. You will drive alongside fields of sugarcane which thrives in the humid and warm climate, with glimpses of the coast as you make your way along the renowned Dolphin Coast towards the wetlands of St. Lucia.
If spending too much time in a vehicle is not something up your alley, there are also scheduled flights into Phinda's private airstrip. These flights can be arranged from either Cape Town or Johannesburg and may have a stop along the way, but it is definitely the most direct way to get you on safari and put a gin and tonic in your hand!
If you are up for the adventure, self-driving through the province of KwaZulu-Natal can be one of the most scenic places you will ever explore anywhere else on earth. Neighbours to Phinda include the expansive Drakensberg mountain range – which, if you are an avid hiker, is not to be missed! If you were the history buff in school, then it's going to be worth your while to visit the Battlefields Route comprising 82 battlefields. If pristine beaches with warm Indian Ocean water are what call you, this is the ultimate bush and beach combination for you. And when you are in control of the wheel, you are in control of your experience!
Yes! At most of the lodges, except for Rock Lodge, children of all ages are welcome at Phinda. Not only are mom and dad able to have a world-class safari experience, but your little ones are also able to soak up the nature and learn all about Africa’s animals – first-hand!
When you visit Phinda with your family, children from the age of three years will automatically be gifted a special WILDchild backpack filled with all kinds of goodies which will correlate to their age – so make sure you tell one of our Rhino Consultants when enquiring. The lodges are all equipped with excellent staff to keep your kids entertained and engaged, including activities such as baking with the chef, bark rubbing, bug collecting, frog safaris ‘poo walks’ – which is much more fascinating than it sounds and shares some secret tracking tips for wildlife.
The best part? All children can join game drives at the ranger’s discretion! Walking safaris are only permitted for children over the age of 16 years, which excludes specialist walks. There has to be something special for just the adults, right? Overall, Phinda Private Game Reserve is the perfect location for the whole family to have a memorable time on safari!
South Africa is known for being a diverse country, not only for its people and cultures but also for its diversity between the different regions throughout the year. The seasons remain constant, but some parts experience cold, wet winters while other areas have dry, warmer winters. In contrast, where some regions experience hot, sunny summers, other areas experience frequent summer thunderstorms – a sight to see!
If you're visiting South Africa for a diverse holiday combining some time in Cape Town along with your safari, or perhaps opting for a safari and beach combination, knowing the best times of the year to travel is important.
Typically, the South African winter falls between June and August, and the summer takes centre stage between December and February. Sub-tropical KwaZulu-Natal, home to Phinda Private Game Reserve, also covers a diverse range of temperatures, but wildlife shine when it's winter and the bush is dry and not as lush as after the annual rainfall the bush is green and thick. For your best chances of seeing wildlife at Phinda, aim to travel between July and September, touching on the cusp of the end of autumn, a dry winter, and the beginning of spring.
Then again, if you're one to escape the crowds, then travelling to Phinda during the low season (the summer months) will gift you the reserve in an Eden-like state with the new green shoots and trees pushing through, as well as the young wildlife emerging as this is the birthing season! Not to mention that travelling in the green season is the best light of the year for photography – so grab your cameras and start your adventure!
We will try to make this decision easy for you, but it's not a terrible decision to have to make.
You can book Phinda Homestead for exclusive use, so imagine your own private home in the middle of the African bush. Not to mention that you get a private chef, butler, ranger and tracker! This is the ultimate multi-generational family getaway which can accommodate up to eight adults and four additional children.
Phinda Zuka Lodge is another option to book on an exclusive basis for your group or family. Where Homestead is your home in the bush, Zuke is your own private lodge! This is the ideal accommodation for a group of friends or extended family, with a separate main area away from the 4 suites.
A firm favourite is Phinda Vlei Lodge. There are 6 suites, each overlooking a wonderland-like sand forest and wetland. Book yourself an in-room treatment by candlelight and melt into the African wilderness.
Still haven’t made up your mind about which lodge to choose? Phinda Forest Lodge might just enchant you! Tucked away under the intimate canopy of trees, you’ll never want to leave your private glasshouse amplifying the natural elements surrounding you.
The ultimate family lodge, however not for exclusive use, Phinda Mountain Lodge, is located on a hilltop, providing expansive views across the African bush below. The largest out of all of the lodges, Phinda Mountain Lodge can accommodate families in cottages or a family designed suite (triple rooms are also an option). With a swimming pool like this lodge has, your kids might even grow gills while on holiday.
And finally, Phinda Rock Lodge, which is the only lodge not to accommodate children under the age of 12 years. Calling all honeymooners looking for the ultimate romantic getaway! Take a dip in your private plunge pool and soak in the wilderness views before dining under an African night sky on the lodge’s rooftop terrace.
Take your pick! Phinda Private Game Reserve can be seen as the pinnacle of private reserves when it comes to memorable bucket list experiences and activities.
While staying at Phinda, in addition to the included twice-daily game drives through the private reserve, guests also have the option of booking a walking safari. Here you will track the endangered black rhino or towering African elephant on foot or go off searching for the rare pangolin with a resident researcher – all of which are conservation-based activities that you will be directly supporting while having an experience of a lifetime.
If you prefer to get more involved in the local community and support the locals, a visit to the African Foundation Community is right up your alley. Education and awareness will help prolong Africa’s wildlife and beautiful biodiversity, and what better way to spread this knowledge than from a young age? On this visit, you will experience the projects in the Mduku and Mnqobokazi communities, including the Khulani Special School, the Mduku Clinic, and the Mbhedula Craft Market.
And if you’re itching for some salty water, then a visit to the nearby Sodwana Bay is easily accessible! Activities like scuba diving and snorkelling can be arranged, as well as a beach picnic adventure along the Maputaland coastline.
KwaZulu-Natal is virtually malaria-free, but we cannot say that it's entirely malaria-free. There are still some spots where there is a low risk of contracting malaria (mainly during the wetter, rainy months). Cases are usually more north, closer to the Mozambique border, where there is a higher risk of malaria.
If you come prepared, you could easily avoid infection. We always recommend that you reach out to your doctor about malaria prevention before travelling to a malaria area, as we are not doctors. Therefore, this information should not replace that issued by your doctor.
The area you will be travelling to might be a low-risk malaria area, though we still recommend you take precautions. Malaria medications are not what they used to be, and there are many new advancements as far as prophylactics go. Malanil and Malarone are great options, but again discuss your options with your doctor. If you go to your local doctor or travel clinic and ask for one of these, they are freely available in most places.
They are a one-a-day tablet, and you start taking them a day before you enter the infected area, daily while you are there, and then for seven days afterwards. It is as easy as popping a daily vitamin pill. There are zero side effects for most people, and it will not prevent you from enjoying your trip. It is always best to consult your doctor, as you may have underlying conditions which would affect which medications you will need for this trip.