Luxury in the Wild

It’s the crack of dawn in the middle of the African wilderness and there’s a tap on my door.   Strong coffee and a quick chat with the rangers later, and we’re off into the bush to spot the wildlife at their most active.  The expert guides and trackers have a sixth sense of where to find a pride of lions, the newest baby elephant, or the most impressive herd of buffalo to leave us totally awe-struck.  And so begins another day on safari in South Africa’s Phinda Private Game Reserve.

The landscapes of Phinda vary from extraordinary forest growing out of the sand, to rocky bush covered hills, all home to not only the ‘Big Five’ game (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) but also the many rarer and less easily spotted species, such as the elusive cheetah and the scarce black rhino.

Also rare, in the best possible way, are the safari lodges at Phinda! With only a handful of luxury lodges (owned and operated by andBeyond) within the 56,800 acre reserve, you are never bumping into other vehicles on game drives. Each lodge has its own unique personality, and many suites boast their own private decks and plunge pools.  All come with the best service on earth!

A day in the life of a Phinda safari is designed around thrilling you with wildlife in the early morning and late afternoon when the animals are out and about, but seems equally focussed on indulging you in delicious cuisine at every opportunity!  Thrilled by the morning’s game drive, it’s back to the lodge for a sumptuous breakfast, then you might just have time to fit in a short walk accompanied by your ranger before a stunning lunch of Pan-African cuisine. Time then for a refreshing dip in the pool, an afternoon siesta or simply watch the wildlife from your private veranda before afternoon tea (freshly baked muffins anyone?).  The late afternoon game drive lasts until after dark, when spotlights are used for a glimpse into the nocturnal bush life. Listening to lions roar and glimpsing bright eyes shining through the dark is quite an experience. You will stop to enjoy sundowners and snacks in a scenic spot as you witness yet another spectacular African sunset.

Back to the lodge, you might find a mouth-watering dinner at the lodge boma (outdoor courtyard dining), or in a surprising bush location, where the guests regale each other around the campfire with their thrilling wildlife encounters.

Phinda had been at the top of my wish for so long my expectations were sky high, but I’m happy to report it was all that and more!  From thrilling up-close wildlife encounters, to the warm hospitality of the lodge hosts, to the delicious cuisine I became far too accustomed to, it was simply exceptional.   I urge you to visit South Africa for its stunning landscapes, its Winelands, Garden Route, Cape Town and more. Whatever your plans, put Phinda on your wish list and prepare to diet on your return home!

By Ange Pirie