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“Beyond Expectations”

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andBeyond Phinda Zuka Lodge
Metro NYC
Level Contributor
10 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Beyond Expectations”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 10, 2013

Like many other reviews, this was our first safari experience- however, when we left Phinda we visited two other camps- and our initial impression of Phinda still stands- it blew us away. There is not one thing that stands out- the rooms are not overly luxurious, but they are comfortable, clean, with large bathrooms and a sitting area- but they seem to be exactly what you would want for an African Safari- not over the top, but in a sense, in touch with nature. The staff was fantastic- extremely attentive without being the least bit intrusive. We used 3 cabins for our group, and the 4th was empty, so it felt to us like a private family/friends compound. I would encourage any family or group of friends that need 4 accommodations to book here- you will literally "own the place." Our safari driver and guide, Ed and Simi, were also fantastic- very knowledgeable, willing to go the extra mile for us, and friendly with a sense of humor- they ceased feeling like guide and driver and felt more like a couple of knowledgeable friends we were visiting in that beautiful country by the second drive. The wildlife we saw was by far the best of our trip (we also visited North Sabi Sands and Zambia)- yes we saw the "Big 5"- but so much more- we were trailing two cheetah brothers that were hunting, which came upon a white rhino mother and calf- the curious calf would run up to the cheetah's, which would hiss and it would run back to its mother- this happened numerous times, and then some giraffe's (which we learned are very curious) came over to check things out- so we have photos of giraffe's, 2 cheetahs and the rhinos all checking each other out (it almost felt staged it was so amazing!). In addition, the scenery is beautiful, far more so than North Sabi Sands- so when we weren't seeing animals, which was rare we were enjoying the ride anyway.

Room Tip: The rooms...all 4, are all the same- it really doesn't matter.
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  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with family
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1 Thank Primoclass
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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46 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (21)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • Portuguese first
  • Any
English first
Bangkok, Thailand
Level Contributor
17 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 7, 2013

10 of us arrived at Zuka Lodge from various parts of the world of a family holiday. Our grandsons were all under the age of 9, I do not think Zuka had so many little boys in one go!! but the staff were well prepared for them & catered to all their needs.The guides Edward & Nick kept the little fellows very interested in the wild life & by the time we left our youngest who is 4 + knew most of the animals by name.
The meals were also catered to the young ones need, but the 5 adults did not miss out on anything, as our meals were discussed before hand,Dudu fed us well & made sure there was "hot chocolate" on the game drives for the boys, who looked forward to it.
All 4 rooms were extremely comfortable & could not ask for more. Bath by candle light, wow!!
I do highly recommend this wonderful lodge to anyone wanting a relaxed family holiday.
A big thank you to all the staff, Kenny & the Zuka family for making this family holiday one never to be forgotten.

Room Tip: Room 4 has lots of Nyala's around. loved it. room 1 closest to the main area.
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  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with family
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Helpful?
Thank Annette680
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Level Contributor
5 reviews
3 hotel reviews
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 10, 2013

We spent 4 nights at the magical Zuka Lodge at Phinda. As mentioned in previous reviews, Zuka Lodge is made up for 4 rooms, so the overall service and feeling of the Lodge is one of a personal nature. The manager, Kenny, immediately greeted us by name and was always on hand with Ndu, who even kept an eye on our children to allow the adults to go on a walking safari (which was very much appreciated). Eduard and Sibu (our driver and tracker) were utterly charming company and ensured that we saw all the game that was on our wish list, apart from the elusive leopard. Warick, the chef, discussed each of our meals with us in advance and cooked the most delicious food. His baker makes perfect pastry too. Travelling with children, this meant that all our meals were thoroughly enjoyed by all. In addition to this, our children have various food allergies and our quick discussions meant that all allergies were taken into consideration at all times, making meal times completely stress-free. We had very high expectations when arriving at Zuka Lodge, some might say unrealistically high. Suffice to say, that these were surpassed in every way. I could go on, complementing the setting, the rooms, the cleanliness, the work with local communities, the abundance of games to play in the lounge, the gin and tonics whilst the sun sets on a game drive, so many little touches that make the whole experience magical.......Zuka Lodge is not a cheap safari, but it is a most wonderful safari experience and I would not hesitate to recommend it. We look forward to returning and looking for that leopard...

Room Tip: Lodges 1 and 2 have a more direct view of the water hole.
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  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with family
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    • Service
Helpful?
Thank dawn w
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 5, 2013 via mobile

We arrived at the Phinda Reserve not knowing what to expect, it being our first safari. We stayed at the Zhuka Lodge, which only has 4 huts and we were 4 couples- perfect. We were greeted by the staff, who immediately started to pamper us. The lodge is perfect, the rooms perfect. We felt comfortable right away. Special thanks to our rangers Lucky and Simi who spotted everything- big 5 in under 2 hours one morning! The cook Dudu was a wonder, I will never forget her charm and her kitchen, the manager Nina who always knew what we needed and wanted without being asked. Phinda should be on everyone's bucket list!!

  • Stayed March 2013
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank Patzimms
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Tucson, Arizona
Level Contributor
92 reviews
40 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 124 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 16, 2013

I was magically bumped to Zuka Lodge after Mountain Lodge was taken over for a corporate retreat. Wow, was I impressed, this being my very first safari. I was met efficiently by a driver at the Richard's Bay airport, then by Ryan, the manager, once we got to Zuka. He gave me the lowdown after I checked in: stay on the paths, no wandering around the grounds, no walking even the footpaths after dark without an escort--the lodge's grounds are completely open and animals such as warthogs, lions, and elephants are free to wander.

Zuka only has four rooms, all apart from each other. The room was spectacularly luxurious in an understated way. The huge bed was very cozy with a down duvet, down pillows, robes, slippers, all sorts of exclusive toiletries, a flashlight, and a big deep tub with a separate "rainshower" stall. It had a wonderful view of the waterhole, and I could sit on my deck and enjoy it after each game drive.

I loved all the attention to detail. The staff are very attentive without being intrusive, and they seemed to know my name right away. Ryan was an especially hands-on and gracious host. The room was kept magically spotless and tidy even though I never saw the cleaning woman; every time I returned after a game drive or dinner, she had tidied it up, or lit candles in the bathroom. I really liked that I could charge tips and purchases with a credit card instead of having to pay cash. There is wi-fi available in the reception area. Mr. M, the butler, was gracious and unobtrusive. There was no request he could not fulfill.

Kyle, the ranger, was very knowledgeable and with a good sense of humor. In deference to the other two guests, he was not very attentive to bird sightings so I probably missed out on some interesting species. The tracker, Simi, was amazing and became my hero. My one must-see was a cheetah, and he found three of them the very first morning--from a long way off. We were able to drive right up to them and observe them closely; they are accustomed to these big funny green "animals" (the game trucks) and paid us no attention. The team also found lots of lions and even dismounted from the truck to track some. A special treat was a whole pride lolling about on the road, with four adorable and curious cubs, and later being able to observe a hyena den.

During the morning drives we would stop in a scenic spot and have coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and excellent shortbread. During the afternoon drives we stopped for drinks and snacks and enjoyed the sunsets. Coming back from each game drive, Ryan and Mr. M were there to greet us with refreshing scented washcloths and cool drinks. One night we returned to find the lights out and the grounds lit by lots of candles and lanterns, leading us to an outdoor table for a special meal.

Now, the low point and the reason for the four green dots: the food. The food was very artfully presented, but very inconsistent in quality. It always seemed to be a beat off: sometimes bland, sometimes too salty, sometimes just right, all within a single meal. There were some odd combinations at times, like squares of watermelon alternating with squares of feta cheese. The soups were sometimes tasteless to the point of being unidentifiable. It seemed the chef was so caught up in the presentation that he forgot about the flavor. I'm sorry I can't remember the name of the woman who did the baking, but her efforts were spot on--the rolls, the breads, the shortbread, and the rusks were the best of the three andBeyond lodges I stayed at on this trip. I feel a little bad about being the first to not assign a perfect score, but the food just never met the quality of the rest of the lodge.

Room Tip: Number 2 has a great view of the water hole.
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  • Stayed February 2013, traveled solo
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Helpful?
3 Thank azbuceadora
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Winchester, UK
Level Contributor
21 reviews
14 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 31 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 2, 2012

As our first attempt at a review was rejected due to being too long, so we thought we'd concentrate on tips that first timers may appreciate. We're a Northern European family of 4 with two teenagers, safari virgins. We chose Zuka Lodge as a family who live a few doors away had visited and were blown away by it 7 years ago. If you are reading this wondering whether to spend your savings on Zuka Lodge and a private game reserve or save some savings on self drive through the Kruger, don't think twice. The Lodge is fabulous, the staff are fabulous and Hendrik the ranger was brilliant at giving us what his experience told him we'd love e.g. a 1 hour walk and a river trip as well as the game drives with Simi the tracker.

If you opt to arrive in Phinda by light aircraft make sure that you pack light, using small soft squidgy bags as everything has to squeeze into very limited space on the plane. The trip from the airstrip to the lodge is in an open jeep so depending on the time of day and year you might want layers or suntan lotion and this 30 min journey marked the start of our safari, spotting so many animals on the way.

After a lovely warm friendly welcome we were shown to our immaculate rooms. A real "wow" factor; spotlessly clean, beautiful and fabulously tranquil. We couldn't believe how quiet it was, just the sound of animals and birds. You will feel like a celebrity, indeed, several have stayed here and we have one diva to thank for the pool which was built especially for her and the verandah overlooking the pool which was built for another.

We felt that we had entered another world, so far from anything else that we had experienced before, a wonderful adventure .  When we left we genuinly felt rather sad even though the holiday wasn't over as we were off to explore Knysna and Cape Town but somehow after 4 days in Phinda we felt that we had left something very special behind us.  

Nothing was too much trouble for the discreet team of staff. They adjust their style to yours so we didn't suffer any intrusive fawning type attention that can be irritating. Of course, if you are a diva and want this, I'm sure they can look after you in your style too. Ndu, our butler, was so attentive, he and the chef served delicious food (lose a few lbs before you go as your waistband will be tighter when you leave!) Housekeeping maintained spotlessly clean lodge and did our laundry, it was delivered it back to our room a few hours later neatly folded and beautifully presented. Every little detail was tended to.

What to pack? Definitely have layers for the Game drives. August was sunny and dry but quite breezy particularly when driving around in an open jeep. We wore our gloves and hats and wrapped ourselves in blankets first thing and last thing but we peeled them off and enjoyed the warm sunshine. You will get dusty but not dirty. Pack your sunbathing kit for in between Game drives.

Hendrik our brilliant ranger made our trip very special; his genuine enthusiasm and love for the animals was infectious. He entertained and educated us.  Not only could he read the 4 legged animals but he could read we 2 legged ones and looked after us so well. We had absolute faith in his ability to keep us safe and make our holiday truly magical - thank you.

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
3 Thank Spongthrush
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Midlands
Level Contributor
42 reviews
38 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 68 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 27, 2012

We stayed for 3 nights at the start of our most recent safari in June. There are only 4 rooms, so we knew it would be quiet and intimate, but we had the whole place to ourselves for the entire stay! It was amazing! Literally the entire lodge at our disposal, which was wonderful.
The camp is situated right in front of a waterhole where all sorts of animals come to drink. We stayed in room 1, which we think is the best, has the clearest view of the waterhole. All kinds of non predator animals are around all day, including giraffe, and one night when we were having dinner a huge bull elephant came to drink and bathe.
There is a large family of warthog that play in front of the lodge all day, which are lovely, and one decided to make his bed right by the wall of our room, so we had animal company all night.

The food was amazing - the best we have had in all of our trips to Africa. Inventive, tasty, well presented - who would have imagined getting a "deconstructed ceasar salad" on safari??! Lovely light lunches with great salads, and very nice dinners. And even though there were just the two of us, they set us up with somewhere different to have dinner each night.

Our ranger was brilliant - thanks Hendrick - and also our tracker, Simi. They had a great relationship and found everything we wanted to see and more besides. We saw lots of cheetah (really wanted to see them as had never done so before), an intimate meeting between an old bull ele and a young adolescent male ele, just gorgeous watching them sniff each other out then entwine trunks to say hello. Amazing close encounter with 3 rhino.

We had booked a private vehicle (as otherwise there is the risk at this camp of being in a vehicle of 8 people which we didn't want). If you don't want 3 to a row, best to book private (although it ended up being irrelevant for us as no-one else was there).

The rooms are smaller than other camps we have stayed at, but still lovely, and we didn't actually spend that much time in it as there is so much to do.

The landscape and views were extraordinary, it's like being in several different places at once. Mountains, low lands, a river... it is an amazing place.

We travelled with Aadvark Safaris, our third trip with them, we thoroughly recommend them.

Room Tip: We think room 1 had the best view of the waterhole.
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  • Stayed June 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank DJM_MP
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about andBeyond Phinda Zuka Lodge

Property: andBeyond Phinda Zuka Lodge
Address: Phinda Private Game Reserve, Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Location: South Africa > KwaZulu-Natal > Phinda Private Game Reserve
Hotel Style:
Ranked #6 of 6 Specialty Lodging in Phinda Private Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 4
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
An intimate safari retreat, andBeyond Phinda Zuka Lodge is situated amongst densely wooded hills studded with aloes. Available as a sole-use private villa, everything guests need is right within reach - a dedicated game ranger and game drive vehicle, an interactive kitchen with a dedicated chef, a butler, a comfortable library with Internet access and TV, a sitting room with a fireplace for evening chats, their own swimming pool and even a private watering hole right in front of the lodge. ... more   less 

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