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andBeyond Phinda Forest Lodge
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Reviewed February 7, 2008

We spent a day here --- should have spent all of our time here in place of the Mountain Lodge as it was very intimate, with uncrowded game viewing and wonderful service. The rooms were glass walled but private because of the distance between rooms. We enjoyed the small size and ability to get to know other guests. Our guide and driver were exceptionally accomodating and knowledgeable. Two to three days should be sufficient. The food was good although a bit below the Mountain Lodge.

Stayed: January 2008
2  Thank Mountainmann
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 4, 2007

Wonderful place to stay for two nights. Lodge itself is very sensitively built in a forest. There is plenty of game to see.

The rooms are very comfortable.

The food is adequate without being memorable.

Best way to get there is a direct flight from Johannesburg with Federal Air

  • Stayed: July 2007, traveled with family
    • Value
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    • Check in / front desk
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3  Thank Aristeppus
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 28, 2007

We booked our trip through CC Africa which manages the lodge. My husand and I stayed at Phinda in January 2007 during our Honeymoon and had an amazing experience.

The staff is very nice and the service is excellent... the team at Phinda consistently strives to please. They organized special dinners almost every night. The safari was fantastic and the guides are very knowledgeable. I would definitely recommend staying here. I have too many pictures to post ... we also stayed at Londalozzi and Sossusvlie Lodge in Namibia during our trip.

  • Stayed: January 2007, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
2  Thank anna78
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 28, 2007

ROOMS
Wow! And Wow again! These rooms were amazing, I loved them even though they are not what I would expect at a safari lodge. They had all glass windows so you could look into the forest. What a first impression they make. The main areas were also designed in the same way. Inside there was a huge bed, wardrobes, desk and sitting area with table on which were jars of sweets and nuts to snack on. There was a separate bathroom with bath and stand up shower, a double sink and separate toilet. Again toiletries were provided. Outside, we had 2 verandas, one large out front which had a sofa and table, mini bar/fridge and a stand with umbrellas and Wellington boots. A smaller veranda was situated at the back of the suite. I loved to watch the smaller animals, the monkeys and antelopes from the sofa, if you are very quiet and still they come right up to the room, brilliant! The rooms were cleaned daily and a turn down service switched on your electric blanket in the evenings. The one problem we had was the room safe, it was broken. It wasn’t such a problem for us and the main safe was given as an option. The problem was that once our pin was keyed in the safe seemed to lock but when we checked we found it hadn’t, the lodge hadn’t been informed it was broken by the previous guests so people could have been using it assuming it was locked when infact it wasn’t. I guess the lesson here is to make sure you check that the locks work and don’t assume they do.

FOOD
Breakfast was served after the morning game drive and food was a plenty. The array of fruit was amazing, there were cold meats, cheeses, breads, biscuits and pastries and probably much more. There was always a changing menu of 4 cooked meals, one of which was a traditional Zulu dish, some kind of porridge with honey was one I remember. Lunch was served between 12 and 2pm (I think) and was a 3 course affair if you so chose, beginning with soup, then a platter was presented (we only had lunch twice as we were still full from breakfast most days, one day we had a Greek platter and on another day we had a steak platter), then there was a desert. There was no choice with these courses, but the main had salads and bean salads and potatoes on them so you could eat even if you didn’t like the meat/fish options. The evening meal was a sit down affair with a soup to start, then a choice of mains and desert and we thoroughly enjoyed the food, Sam the chef was great.

One special thing about Phinda was how they tried to ensure your breakfast and dinner dining experiences were different each day. One day we had a picnic breakfast with our vehicle companions in the bush; another we were at the lodge; then another a huge bush breakfast had been set up for all guests to drop in on. Our dinner experiences ranged from a romantic dinner for 2 beside the pool; a boma dinner; a dinner with our ranger John and other vehicle companions in the main room. I really felt Phinda tried to accommodate all of their guests without infringing on others, there was a huge party of people one evening and that was the evening that the 3 couples were given a romantic pool side dinner away from the noise.

GAME DRIVES
The vehicles could accommodate 10 guests and the tracker sat at the front on the left of the bonnet. The rangers did not wear headsets (not too disruptive as John kept the radio low). We stopped for morning coffee and sundowners during the drive. We were lucky enough to have at most 4 other guests in our vehicle, mostly it was 2 other guests and on 2 game drives we had the vehicle to ourselves!

HIGHLIGHTS

On one of our ‘private’ game drives we had the luxury to choose to stay at a sighting much longer than I imagine some people might. We were sat there watching 2 female lions not doing very much but our ranger thought at some point they would try and make a kill so if we didn’t mind waiting we could do that. The lions had cleverly positioned themselves overlooking a water hole, looking for ‘takeaway’ as John put it. From behind us we saw some impala crossing the road walking round away from the lions to the water hole, there was a whole bunch of them. They clearly knew something was up and were quite edgy, hovering for a while before taking the plunge. We watched as one of the lions ears pricked up. Suddenly she went on the move running right past our vehicle. The power! The impala were spooked and went running off, well that was that, we thought, however, the lion still had her body low and still looked like she was stalking, all of a sudden a very young impala burst through the bush, the lion was on top of it in no time, both disappeared into the bush and we heard a cry, several infact. We found out moments later when we drove into the bush that the lion had got her supper and was munching away. I am glad that I didn’t see anymore than I did, I know it’s nature and I really do try not to root for the impala because the lions need to eat, but it’s so hard when it’s a baby  Anyway, the lead up to this, watching the lion during a full on chase just took my breath away. Amazing stuff.

Another highlight was during our romantic poolside dinner. At this time the other 2 couples had headed off to bed so we were just finishing up when one of the rangers came over and asked us if we would like to see an elephant. Sure, why not. So off we went and round the corner stood there like a gigantic silhouette was a beautiful elephant. Now, in the vehicle these animals are big, on foot they are just massive. I held back a little (about 10/15 metres away) whilst DH got a little closer with another ranger, the elephant showed no signs of aggression and soon moved on. I must admit to being very wary and hardly breathing as we all know how dangerous elephants can be, but what an amazing experience.

The cheetah sightings were awesome, we had several and were able to follow a couple for quite a while. On one drive we were going along at a steady pace when John stopped and reversed. John pointed out to us some drag marks on the road and as we followed them along, there in the longish grass was a cheetah feasting on a fresh kill of impala. I was so impressed by John and Zidele throughout our stay, I loved to watch them track the animals, show us the different tracks and share with us what and why they were doing certain things.

I enjoyed seeing and following a hyena, some people don’t have very nice things to say about these animals saying they were ugly etc. I don’t think they are ugly and their matriarchal social structure fascinates me.

The Northern pride had holed themselves up in a dense patch of bush and hadn’t (to everyone’s knowledge) come out for a couple of days. We hadn’t yet seen a male lion on 3 game drives. I was shocked when John and another ranger, along with Zidele said they were going into the bush to see what the lions were up to as it was unusual for none of them to have come out during all that time. Off they went and I was worried, seriously worried (I didn’t see this at Simbambili), 10 minutes later they were back and we were informed the lions were fine and were sleeping so it wasn’t likely that they would be out and about anytime soon. We did get to see the male lions on our last game drive, they had devoured a zebra and were sat on a mound in the grasslands, they were worth the wait, watching the younger lion interact with the older lion was just brilliant, you could see the respect!

On an evening game drive we caught up with some elephant researchers who were tracking a herd of elephants. The researchers suggested we go and wait by the dam as the elephants were all lined up just inside the trees waiting to come out to drink. Well we waited and waited, nothing happened, that was until it got dark and all of a sudden all these shapes started to appear, increasing in size every minute. They were here finally! It was slightly unnerving when a male started to walk round the dam to our vehicle, especially as we were on the dam wall with a drop at either side and if that wasn’t bad enough my heart just about stopped when the car wouldn’t start first go. It soon did start and we edged away leaving the elephants in peace. Although we couldn’t get any photos of this sighting, the moonlight did give it a special aura.

One evening during dinner we could all of a sudden hear all this commotion coming from the kitchen, then these voices suddenly united and some of the staff came dancing and singing out of the kitchen. They are part of a choir at Phinda and treated us to several songs, the energy they had was humbling and the voices! Anyway, they have a CD that I stumbled across on our last morning in the shop.

PHINDA AND THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
We had the opportunity to talk to some of the staff about The Africa Foundation, a charity that CC Africa founded but is now independent which works to improve conditions and opportunities in the rural communities next to their lodges. We had a lengthy chat with our driver, who lives in the community adjacent to Phinda reserve, on our airport transfer. He told us that the foundation has worked with the local school and supports children whose families have been affected by HIV/AIDS to go to school. We were informed that the people Phinda employ are mainly from the local community and has surpassed the percentage that was originally agreed with the community leaders when Phinda was opened. We were also told that the employees also had a chance to train for different jobs within the company, our drivers aim is to train to be a ranger, he currently guides the boat trips but these were not in working order during our stay hence he had the pleasure of driving us. Phinda also brings local children onto the reserve to teach them about conservation. I think this is partly to help keep poaching to a minimum and show them how the animals being kept alive can benefit them and their community. Our driver showed us where the community chief lived with his wives and pointed out other buildings of importance in his community. We saw people walking to the main road to get fresh water which was in big canisters, he told us that the government would be putting in a water pipe system and that he expected this in the next 2-4 years. I felt sad and slightly uncomfortable having just spent 4 nights at a beautiful lodge with all of the comforts and more of home (i.e. electric blanket) and here were people who didn’t have access to fresh water in their home. It certainly brings you back down to earth. I do however see the flip side that if we didn’t visit then there would be no employment for the local community and from my chats with several staff. Anyway, our driver was very interesting to talk to and I really enjoyed our transfer, it is so interesting to talk to someone whose life experience is so different than your own. Phinda do offer a community visit to somewhere local, a couple we had a drive with had enjoyed this.

A link to our photo's: http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/fiwebweb

  • Stayed: June 2007, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
12  Thank bethany1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor Member
Tavistock, Devon, UK
15
Reviewed February 11, 2006

We have just had three days/two nights at Phinda Forest Lodge. Everything was wonderful - the accommodation, food, service and overall experience of African wildlife.

The game drives each morning and evening gave us memories we will cherish for the rest of our lives. To be able to get so close to wild animals was amazing, even following a leopard for 20 minutes as she ambled along the path in front of the Landrover.

I am sorry that an earlier review thought it expensive - this is the sort of experience that is beyond price.

  • Stayed: January 2006
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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5  Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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