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.
- 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