Phinda Game Reserve, South Africa

Phinda is a 50,000 acre game reserve on South Africa’s east coast in the heart of Zulu-land. The diversity that this reserve has to offer is unparalleled throughout the whole of Africa; it boasts 7 completely distinct habitats, including a section of the incredibly rare Dry Sand Forest which is home to a number of endemic birds and mammals.

Phinda is a relatively young reserve having restored much of the wildlife and land from years of heavy farming with its name literally meaning ‘the return’, and is a true success story of conservation. 

The charm of the reserve is in its variety. The diversity in the habitats allows for an abundance of spectacular views, most notably from the top of the Thabankosi mountain (ask your ranger to take you for morning coffee up it). From the top of the mountain you can look all the way across to the coastal dunes and marvel at their splendour.

Phinda is famous for its rhino sightings, both black and white, as well as having a fantastic number of cheetah, there are nearly always some fairly young cubs somewhere on the reserve. It is also a birder’s paradise with over four-hundred and fifty different species so there really is something for everyone.

There are a number of activities you can do on Phinda and off it. On Phinda you can do walking safaris as well as Black Rhino Tracking, sleeping out under the stars, community trips and a boat trip on the Mzinene River. From the reserve you are an hours drive from Sodwana Bay Coast which is one of the world’s top dive spots. Scuba diving and ocean safaris, where you have a chance to swim with wild dolphins and whale sharks are a favourite of guests. Between December and February you can also see loggerhead and leatherback turtles nesting on the beach which is a must do!

If you're those extremely conservation minded then &Beyond's newest activities include elephant and rhino darting as well as pangolin tracking. These activities do not come cheap, however they do contribute to vital research.

Where to stay in Phinda? 

There are six very different lodges on Phinda spread out across the reserve, three in the north, two in the south and one in the west.  The north of the reserve is where the rare and ancient Sand Forest can be found, a really remarkable thing to see and spend some time in. This is where the seventeen-room Forest Lodge is based and is perfect for birders and families.

The north also has a large and very open marshland where there is some great game viewing, in particular of cheetah. The South of Phinda, and much of the West, is more similar to what you’d expect to see in the Sabi Sands, however it does have some unique floodplains and mountainous areas. Phinda Mountain Lodge is the biggest lodge at Phinda with twenty-six rooms and is perfect for families and larger groups of friends. For couples and honeymooners looking to escape the crowds, Rock or Zuka lodge are both small and intimate (six and four rooms repectively). Their child restriction policies also help to make these the perfect lodges for a peaceful and tranquil stay.


  • Lion, Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Rhino, Wild Dog and Cheetah. This park has 7 out of our Big 7  icon
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Lodges in Phinda

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Client Reviews
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Phinda Game Reserve - Reviews

Phinda Vlei Lodge: Absolutely loved our time at Vlei Lodge, our ranger Matt was brilliant and all the staff so friendly and helpful.  Our room was fantastic and we even had elephants drinking from our pool one of the mornings and could see Cheetahs from our deck on another.  The team at Vlei pulled out all the stops for our honeymoon, we could not have asked for more. Truly amazing

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