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“Cool setting in the bush”

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andBeyond Phinda Forest Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Vail, Colorado
Level 6 Contributor
137 reviews
66 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 92 helpful votes
“Cool setting in the bush”
Reviewed July 18, 2014

Phinda Forest Lodge has a lot of really great attributes. It is literally in the sand forest and feels very much like a camping experience as a result. The suites are gorgeous and luxurious and the glass walls that open into the forest are awesome—it's like being in a tent but with glass walls and plumbing. I even saw an incredibly rare tiny Suni while lying in bed one morning!

The dining lodge is nice with a great view of the bush where I saw Giraffe and antelope cruise by. The Boma is really cool and not quite traditional as far as the structure goes.

My ranger Benson is among the best of the best. I really enjoyed his knowledge of the bush and ability to mimic bird calls and make things informative and entertaining.

The one thing that would cause me to think twice about going back to Forest Lodge is the fact that the suites are spread out with very long walks to them and in thick sand. I don't really understand why they haven't put in boardwalks. If I wanted to trudge through sand 15 minutes to get to my unit I'd stay at a beach resort.

  • Stayed May 2014, traveled solo
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1 Thank Nemophilist
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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369 reviews from our community

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Ontario
Level 6 Contributor
143 reviews
52 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 130 helpful votes
Reviewed July 18, 2014

Phinda (pronounced Pinda) Forest andBeyond camp is exactly what you would expect from andBeyond (room cleaned multiple times a day, amazing food at every meal, multiple 3 course meals, snacks before and on the drives, 2 drives a day 6:30 am and 3:30 pm with the afternoon drive extending to dusk for the night portion - generally speaking over the top).
Lodge - we stayed at Forest, were thinking of Vlei but it was full. To be honest I would choose Forest over Vlei again simply because it is cheaper and the luxury rooms at Vlei seem a bit over the top when you are hardly in them (plunge pools that you can't use anyway since it's too cold - had that experience at Xudum, amazing "room" but really unnecessary). There is power all day (no generators), electric blankets, a mini fridge and internet in the rooms (doesn't seem to be in the main area) but it's a bit hit and miss, we think it gets slow when people come back from the drives since everyone is on it, but we left our phones in the rooms and the internet updated when we were out. I'm unsure if the water is completely potable, they provided bottles so we used them for teeth brushing. The rooms have glass walls so you can watch the duikers and nyala wander by, we did see the odd monkey and guinea fowl but nothing else.
Forest and Vlei are across a field from each other - but obscured from each other by trees - From the Forest eating area you have a view of a waterhole. We saw geese and nyala daily, impala a few times, one giraffe and some warthogs. Apparently some elephants came by at night - but its very dark so you can't see anything. Great place to view stars. The monkeys are troublesome and will take any food they can get when you are distracted, there are birds that beg for bread and one was eating out of people's hands (not that I would encourage you to feed the animals, but it looks like people do). If you hang around at night you might see a genet, we saw one on the main deck and again I think it was looking for dropped food, again please don't feed them.

I thought a fence meant that it would be easier to see animals, but that isn't the case. In the sand forest area and even in the broadleaf forest the vegetation is dense so the majority of viewing is on or near the road. Leopards at Phinda are elusive, they don't respect the fence (they go over or under) so at any given time they have no idea how many leopards are there - we didn't see one and the people before us didn't see one - so in total over a week of time and no leopards. Black rhino are elusive - we saw one but apparently it hadn't been seen in two weeks and then it was gone again. Cheetahs are the thing to see in Phinda and we were not disappointed - a female and two cubs (twice), a brother and sister and a pair of brothers. Essentially once a day we saw cheetah. The savanna area you will see zebras, wildebeest(gnu), warthogs and giraffes. We got lucky and saw lions twice, but I don't think this is a common occurence - perhaps you can request to see lions but of all the trucks looking for lions they were actually found by a research truck and not by the trackers. Elephants and buffalo also seemed a bit rare but i think that is because they move - at Forest/Vlei and Homestead you stay to the north, if the elephants have gone south you might be out of luck - though we did see some elephants and buffalo but not a ton.

The trucks do not have tops - in Botswana all of them were covered - so this might mean you want to bring hats and do extra sunscreen. I think in theory this is due to offroading, but there really wasn't any off roading in Phinda - the brush is very thick and any offroading on the savana/marsh area has minimal bushes.

Pregnant on Safari - I didn't find much info on this before so I will add this note. At 25 weeks pregnant (and having an easy time) I would say safari here is very doable, but to be honest you might prefer Kirkmans Kamp. Some of the roads are really rough in Phinda for some reason, Kirkmans was smoother, i have no idea why. Ask for a pillow to sit on - even if you aren't pregnant it might make it nicer. Also keep in mind if you need to go to the bathroom more frequently than every 3 hours you will you will need to squat behind a bush (try not drinking before for an hour before the game drives). Didn't take malarial meds (SA says this area is malaria free in winter) and didn't see any bugs in either Kirkmans (Sabi sands) or Phinda.

Weather - cool in the mornings (hats/ear covers useful), they give you blankets and hot water bottles. It was not as cold as Sabi Sands but still a jacket and sweater would be recommended.

Andbeyond Rankings from our experience:
Chobe was best for quantity of herd animals and lions, Kirkmans and Sandibe equally best for leopard, Phinda best for cheetah, Xudum is good for birding

Room Tip: Not sure if you have a choice - but the lower numbered rooms are closer to the lodge
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  • Stayed July 2014, traveled as a couple
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4 Thank rockohorse
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Durban, South Africa
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviewed July 7, 2014

Went with a friend, but really a person should go with a romantic partner. The all-round view from the room is spectacular. We were totally pampered from the moment we arrived and loved the game drives. The food was sometimes brilliant and sometimes really not great, but the overall experience was five star.

  • Stayed June 2014, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
Thank Arlene L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cape Town Central, South Africa
Level 3 Contributor
3 reviews
Reviewed July 6, 2014

We go on a bush trip annually, and Phinda Forest Lodge has been one of the best experiences we've had, if not the best. Service was unreal and staff went completely out of their way to accommodate our craziest requests.

Highly recommended!

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
Thank ErnstK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Perth
Level 3 Contributor
13 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed June 23, 2014

Absolutely nothing could have made our stay here better. Absolutely beautiful rooms, attentive staff, amazing food and safaris. The team really works together to make sure you have an impressive experience. Big thank you to our safari team who really made this the most incredible experience, big 5 and more!

  • Stayed June 2014, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Bargin_traveller12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Stellenbosch, South Africa
Level 6 Contributor
126 reviews
35 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
Reviewed June 17, 2014

By far the best Game Lodge we have ever stayed in. Amazing room with near 360 degree glass walls which allows an uninterrupted view of the beautiful surrounding sand forest with Nyala visible from the outdoor shower! Beautiful pool with a view of the bush. Lovely restaurant with 5-star service and food to die for. But the highlight of the trip has to be the &beyond staff. They literally carry you on open arms! Nothing is too much trouble. The game rangers were terrific. Incredible knowledge of the bush, including the animals, birds and flora! Had amazing sightings of cheetah, lion, giraffe & our endangered horned friends! If you are considering a game lodge and are willing to pay the price, &beyond is the way to do it and Phinda is the place to go!!!

Room Tip: All rooms are amazing!
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  • Stayed May 2014, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
3 Thank Shaun_Stell
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hamburg, Germany
Level 5 Contributor
85 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 24 helpful votes
Reviewed May 18, 2014

The highlight of our holiday!!
Being our first safari, it was a fantastic experience and we were amazed by the great service, the delicious food, the beautiful rooms and the wonderful people that run this place.
Thanks to our ranger, Ross and our tracker Bernard, we saw the big five and had very amazing drives with them.
The attention of the staff was awesome.
Definitely a place we will recommend!!

  • Stayed April 2014, traveled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank Marina C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about andBeyond Phinda Forest Lodge

Property: andBeyond Phinda Forest 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 Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 6 Specialty Lodging in Phinda Private Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Number of rooms: 16
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Set deep in the heart of a rare and beautiful dry sand forest, the award-winning Forest Lodge fuses architecture and conservation. The lodge was hand built by local artisans, with a minimal footprint on the forest floor – not one tree was felled during construction. An exquisite contradiction, floor-to-ceiling glass walls invite the forest inside, while the dense tree canopy shelters and provides privacy. Floating on stilts above the forest floor while dainty suni graze below, the 16 Zulu Zen suites blend harmoniously into the dappled shade. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Phinda Forest Hotel Phinda Private Game Reserve

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