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“We cried when we left” 5 of 5 stars
Review of andBeyond Phinda Vlei Lodge

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andBeyond Phinda Vlei Lodge
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Kwazulu-Natal, Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa   |  
Hotel amenities
Certificate of Excellence 2014
Santa Monica, CA
Senior Contributor
28 reviews 28 reviews
28 hotel reviews
Reviews in 24 cities Reviews in 24 cities
116 helpful votes 116 helpful votes
“We cried when we left”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 24, 2011

During early January 2011, my wife and I stayed at three different &Beyond resorts, starting with Phinda Vlei, moving on the Ngala Tented Camp, and finishing with Leadwood in the Sabi Sand. If you are interested in a comparison of the three, please see the end of my review of &Beyond Leadwood, where I try to summarize.

So - Phinda Vlei. This place is spectacular. My wife and I are ruthlessly picky global travellers and we never find places (including St Regis, Four Seasons, etc) that consistently live up to our expectations. Phinda Vlei blew us away. I am quite literally at a loss for writing the review, because it would just read as a litany of superlatives that would make me sound silly. Service and attention to detail are peerless. Food is simply amazing and more plentiful than you can imagine. The rooms, amenities, and views are jaw dropping. The caliber of other guests makes you look forward to chatting over dinner or laughing during game drives.

We saw all of the "big 5" here with the exception of leopard. Also saw cheetah, giraffe, spiders the size of my open hand in webs the size of the car, hippo, wildebeest, warthog, zebra, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc. We'd seen all of this by the end of the second day, so what we found was that once we'd "checked off our list" like the amusingly competitive Americans we are, we really settled down and started to appreciate the safari for its true beauty. All of the little things - the flora, the subtleties of a new birth with a nursing baby impala, the dynamic of different types of animals mingling in common interest of self-preservation, the difference between the shape of black and white rhino mouths, the quiet beauty of the untouched landscape, etc. It became less about "what we saw" and more abut "how we saw it."

You will love Phinda whether you are a first-time safari visitor or someone who has been going on safari for decades. We had a CEO of a Fortune 100 company there with us. He and his family were just as awestruck as my wife and I. We also had a South African couple who have been to every resort between Kenya and South Africa, including Singita, Londolozi, Ulusaba, etc. They chose to become club members at &Beyond, and the various lodges at Phinda are their favorite.

This place isn't cheap - $1000 per night per person in the high season- but how often do you spend that type of money and feel like it was worth every single penny? We ASKED to leave a special tip for our ranger and for the cook, though there is absolutely no expectation that you do so.

The rooms are gorgeous, the wine and food phenomenal, and the staff amazing. I really don't know how any other safari lodge could be MORE luxurious, no matter the cost.

  • Stayed January 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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127 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (47)
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  • English first
  • French first
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English first
London
Senior Contributor
35 reviews 35 reviews
25 hotel reviews
Reviews in 29 cities Reviews in 29 cities
33 helpful votes 33 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 16, 2011

Several friends recommended this lodge and the reserve. It is exceptional, very well appointed, delightful staff, outstanding food and the game drives were extraordinary. I think we got lucky but we saw everything from dung beetles to leopards. We made a list of what we had seen and got to nearly 100 birds, animals and insects worth recording. Amazing.

  • Stayed November 2010, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed January 6, 2011

We stayed at Phinda for a week over the New Year holiday 09/10. 3 nights at Vlei Lodge in the north of the reserve, followed by 3 nights at Rock Lodge in the south. This was our first Safari holiday. Over all a great Reserve, where we saw a huge array of animals and had an incredible experience.

Vlei Lodge has 6 rooms and felt quiet and intimate. The communal areas were beautifully decorated with a relaxed feel, with a small indoor area but huge deck where our meals were served.

Our room No.4 was spacious with a lovely neutral green/fawn colour palette with dark wood, A/C and mosquito nets. The large bath and open style shower were lovely. The mini bar was well stocked. It felt very private and with a great view over the Vlei, where we saw numerous animals during our lazy afternoons reading on the deck. The private plunge pool was unfortunately too cold!

The food and wines were great. The quality of the food chef Happiness provided was outstanding and the quantity substantial. Drink/snack before 5am game drive, then continental breakfast on our return. We often skipped lunch because we were still full from breakfast. Then a drink/snack before the 4pm game drive and a 3 course dinner later.

The staff at the lodge were excellent. In particular our Ranger - Kyle was superb. He was enthusiastic, knowledge and articulate not just about the animals, but the birds and trees too.

No TV, Internet and phone reception was a welcome change.

We had a fantastic stay, however it was expensive!

  • Stayed December 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 18, 2010

If you are looking for a good game drive this is it. It was a far cry from the Zoo like game reserves around the Cape. Lodge really is out in the middle of the bush but completely posh rooms. I was a solo traveler and was lucky enough to get my own Ranger and Tracker for all 4 of my game drives at no extra charge just because that's the way the reservations worked out. Here are just a few highlights:

* being a solo traveler I was very glad when my Ranger (Sam, who is the best damn ranger ever and a great guy to be around) offered to eat meals with me. We had alot of time to talk and I learned so much more about South Africa and the Zulus

* I saw all Big 5 plus all other kinds of animals much to the astonishment of many others who had been to game reserves in the past. I did it all in only 4 game drives

* The rooms were huge and beautiful, you almost forget you are in the bush until you see the monkeys playing on your front porch, the wildebeest roaming just 20 meters from your plunge pool or the occasional impala grazing on your foot path back to the lodge

* The second morning while having breakfast we could see a wildebeest that had been killed the night before about 50 m away in the clearing of the bush that is overlooked by the lodge patio. So the action really does happen right at your doorstep (the rangers later cleared the carcass away so that it wouldn't stink up the area)

* The only small detractors where a shower head which kinda shot water streams every which way but straight down (but still able to get a shower and it had fantastic water pressure), the monkey's stealing your food at breakfast and lunch can be a bit nerve wracking to those afraid of animals but was a bit comical for me, I was hoping for a Braai for a meal one day but the food was great in any case.

Overall a great place. I really enjoyed it. Especially the part with no tv, no internet and limited cell phone connectivity.

  • Stayed December 2010, traveled solo
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Montreal, Canada
Senior Contributor
33 reviews 33 reviews
15 hotel reviews
Reviews in 19 cities Reviews in 19 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 23, 2010

I have travelled to many places in my life - but let me say this was the most AWESOME ever. The respect to guests, the detail, the ranger and tracker, the food, the accomodation, and the animals - WOOOWWW. I would most definitely recommend this lodge to anyone and have no doubt that the attention to detail would absolutely flabbergast anyone.
All of the big 5 were visible and if not were hunted down to find (even in bad weather). The food was extraordinary, the accomodation was so clean and beautiful. One night I went to bed and could not believe that the heating pad was warming my spot. Please anyone reading this - believe me.

  • Stayed November 2010, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Florida
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 27, 2010

We stayed at the pinacle of an African safari camp here in Vlei. No single part of life here in Phinda was short of superior. The food, prepared and served by chef Happiness was unequaled in taste, presentation adn preparation. Breakfast was special always including fresh fruits, and unique hot breakfasts. The accomodations were luxurious from outdoor showers to bathtubs with rose petals and candle light, Martin, our ranger was very knowledgeable and anxious to accomodate all visitors. We would love to revisit Vlei if ever the opportunity presents itself. What a wonderful holiday!!!

  • Stayed September 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Washington DC
Contributor
16 reviews 16 reviews
14 hotel reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 8, 2010

My husband and I had such a wonderful time at Vlei lodge we didn't want to go home!!The staff was excellent in every way: we looked forward to each drive with Prince, the tracker and Devon our ranger. The pair together are so much fun to get to know. Prince has so much experience tracking and understanding the movement of animals in the wild- he found us elephants, cheetah, leopard and lions. Decon our ranger was so dynamic and knowledgable of not just the animals, but of the trees and birds. If you are into birds and trees- he's the man you want guiding you through the bush. After each drive was over, we looked forward to seeing Bhekis, Precious and the rest of the staff for some of the most amazing meals I have had. If you have a chance, you definitely want to stay at Vlei Lodge!!!

  • Stayed June 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about andBeyond Phinda Vlei Lodge

Address: Kwazulu-Natal, Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Location: South Africa > KwaZulu-Natal > Phinda Private Game Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 6 Specialty Lodging in Phinda Private Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
AndBeyond Phinda Vlei Lodge is the ultimate, romantic and totally private safari getaway. Its location amongst the trees on the edge of an open grassland offers fantastic game viewing, with each suite carefully positioned for a prime view of the animals coming out to drink. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Phinda Vlei Hotel Phinda Private Game Reserve

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