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“Fantastic experience”

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andBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 23 September 2012

We initially stayed for 2 nights at Forest lodge and although we enjoyed the different experience loved Mountain lodge better. The room layout at Mountain lodge in the huts is much nicer and the main lodge and pool area are much nicer. Although Forest is a much smaller more private lodge on Phinda the service and facilities at Mountain are much nicer. We were extremely lucky as we had the same ranger Jacques-pierre Joubert (JP) at both Forest and Mountain and Pat Zwane as our tracker. Both who are fantastic at their job if you have a choice!
We were also lucky enough to see all the big 5 and more and the last night was very special with them taking our group to the very top of the biggest hill on Phinda where we were able to have final drinks on our last evening safari. An extremely memorable trip and we were also very lucky to have a fun group for our safaris and great weather. That was one advantage of staying at both Forest and Mountain lodges as there terrain between the 2 lodges is different although no doubt the rangers could possibly take you to one or the other if you are only staying at one lodge for your holiday if weather/time permitting.
The staff at Mountain lodge were also fantastic and much more attentive than the staff at Forest lodge. A big thank you to Obed, Richard (for all his entertainment!) and the rest of the staff at Mountain for making our stay so memorable.
The pool area was conveniently close but a little cold to swim in. We were also lucky enough to have another bush dinner one evening which is quite an experience. Plenty of wildlife near the lodges and huts including Baboon and Nyala. My only photographic moment I missed was the morning I was cleaning my teeth in the bathroom and there was a large male Baboon sitting on the railing near the window. I am not sure who got a bigger fright!
We would definitely go back to Phinda if the opportunity to do another South African safari arises.

Room Tip: We had hut #21 I think it was. It was one of the first huts as you leave the lodge so it was only a...
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  • Stayed: January 2012, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank jimnhelen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 5 September 2012

This is a top end lodge. Beautiful design and awesome location on a hilltop overlooking the private reserve. They are targeting a five-star experience, and successfully achieve this. The rooms are beautiful and well appointed, the food is excellent and the service is generally great, although we had a few hiccups. There are lots of game on the property, and the property is large enough to have many different parts to explore. We did a morning and afternoon safari each day. The morning safaris started at 6am and the evening safaris started at 3:30. We were in a group of three and paired with another family of 2-3 on each safari. We had the same guide throughout. We stayed two days and while most guests typically stay 3-4 days, the two days felt enough for us given our other two safaris.
We saw lots of game, including all of the Big Five except for the leopard (which can also be found on the property). We got great close ups with lions, cheetahs, rhinos, giraffes, wildebeests, zebras, and lots of other mamamals. Birds were also in abundance. The guides were great and fun to be with.
Phinda has a number of lodges on the property. This is the only one that accepts kids, so this was a younger crowd than you sometimes see at lodges. This was perfect for our daughter. They also have activities targeted for kids and babysitting services. The also have a nice pool, but it is not heated, so a bit chilly in the winter.
You should come here if you want luxury accomodation and service as well as opportunities to see lots of game. It is a big lodge with lots of people, and on the property you will see lots of other people out on safaris. If you want a more low key experience and more value for money, you might consider somewhere else in KwaZulu Natal like Makakatana Bay Lodge (which I also reviewed).
The closest airports are at Richard’s Bay and Durban. You can arrange a pick up or rent a car. Driving is easy, but would recommend only driving during the day time. The lodge also has its own airstrip, with a chartered flight the easiest way to get to other places like Kruger.

  • Stayed: August 2012, travelled with family
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4  Thank KilburnPost
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 September 2012

If you're thinking about going to Phinda, stop. Thinking, that is. Just go. It is an amazing, beautiful, flawless place. We just got back from our visit. We were with our kids ages 9 and 12 and my mom aged 75. We were greeted by Tammy, who I think was the manager and somehow we had three rooms booked instead of a double and a triple. "I'll take care of it", said Tammy and she did just that the entire trip for every little detail. Mike was our ranger and John was our tracker. Mike was clearly in love with the bush and knew every answer about every animal and plant we saw. Every single day we saw something utterly amazing, like the cheeta with her cubs, a lion chase and the hilarious hyena den. Mike would cheer and take his own pictures when we saw these amazing things and his enthusiasm was contagious. John could spot things from miles away and we knew that whenever he would jump into the jeep from the tracker's seat that we were about to see something amazing. The two of them made this the trip of a lifetime. Between drives Thuba invited my daughter to catch bugs and do arts and crafts and swim. My daughter adored her and it was clear that Thuba loved kids because she was so naturally great with them. The food and service at the lodge were first class. They kept surprising us with little special things, like Zulu bedtime stories, a backpack full of treats for the kids, packed healthy snacks for the kids on the afternoon game drive, dinner in the bush and on our last morning drive, freshly cooked crumpets in the bush. If you are considering a safari, especially if you have kids, don't deny yourself the absolute joy of Phinda. My mother has been on three safaris and I was on one before, and we are already plotting our return to Phinda. We have never experienced anything as wonderful as this place.

Room Tip: All the rooms are completely private with indoor and outdoor showers, a plunge pool, a huge bathtub...
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  • Stayed: August 2012, travelled with family
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4  Thank khalintiger
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 August 2012

My wife and I just returned from a 15-Day Southern Africa vacation that included 5 nights at Phinda Mountain Lodge. This lodge is run by &Beyond, and is one of several lodges in Phinda Private Game Reserve in the Phinda Resource Reserve in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. We traveled in late July 2012: this is Winter in South Africa, during the dry season, with mild to cold conditions generally, though the weather was somewhat cooler than normal. This review will cover several areas: (1) Overall Experience, (2) Safari Quality, and (3) Accommodations.

Personal Background: my wife and I have been on safaris before in August/September 2006 in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, and Zambia. While we normally stay at low to moderately priced lodging, the 2006 was at higher end locations (see Elsa's Kopje in Kenya).

Overall Experience:
We had an Excellent experience at Phinda overall. While the game viewing was not as fantastic as we had hoped, the overall experience was as top-notched as any we've had, including superb guides, fantastic accommodations and meals, and excellent value-for-money. As with other safaris, nearly everything is included in the cost (except some optional activities and higher-end drinks). The staff were very friendly and helpful, meeting all our needs with great flexibility and concern for our enjoyment of the vacation. We would heartily recommend Phinda to anyone wishing to experience a top-notch safari, particularly to anyone interested in seeing Nyala or Cheetah up-close.

Daily Safari Quality (Guide: Nic // Tracker: Malusi):
(1) Overall Feel: being at a private reserve, vehicles are allowed to go off-road, which we did numerous times. Consequently, you can get much closer to the animals, on a more consistent basis, than you can at the various national parks in South Africa and other countries. On one occasion at Phinda, we had Hyenas sniffing our vehicle. As we were there in winter, the lack of foliage on the undergrowth helped with the viewing. However, the undergrowth is dense in many areas and viewing is still much more difficult than in the Serengeti or Chobe. For sheer quantity of game, Phinda is probably not the place to go. The only game we saw that was numerous was Nyala, which roam the camp freely. However, we saw a lot of Cheetah at Phinda, including many young (too cute!), whereas we traveled for a month in 2006 without seeing any Cheetah. Another star of Phinda was black rhino; on a special black rhino walk we got to within 30m of black We saw very few elephants, no leopard, a smattering of lion, and a few more buffalo. We also saw a fair amount of hyena and a scattering of hippos, kudu, wildebeest, waterbuck, and other antelopes. Birds were also not as numerous as I would have liked, being an avid birder. Game viewing is in a open vehicle with 3 rows of seats for up to 3 persons per row. Another row of seats in the front for the driver and guide, with a "Tracker" seat mounted to the left-hood where the tracker normally sits. Temps were low to mild during most of the game drive times. Morning in particular could be very cold (low 40's), though the afternoon drive could get quite warm (high 70's to low 80's). Layering was very important in order to be warm enough when cold but cool enough as the temps got greater. One very nice touch on the morning drives were hot water bottles included with the blanket that was included with every drive.
(2) Communication: 7-8. Nic was very good about talking about the game plan for each drive, asking about what we'd like to see, and pointing out the game. Malusi was not as talkative during the drives but was very personable at other times. I thought that Nic could have done a better job of discussing options when other rangers reported sightings that might be of interest; too many time we wound up diverting from our original plans and driving long distances to see something and not actually seeing anything. We also had a couple of instances where group events were previously arranged but not communicated properly (for example, we were set to have dinner with Nic and the others riding in our vehicle but didn't know about it until 10-15 minutes after we were supposed to be at dinner).
(3) Knowledge: 7-8. Overall I would have liked to see a bit more discussion of the behavior and traits of the animals we were seeing and how they specifically behave in Phinda vs other locations. When Nic did talk about these things, he did a better than average job. This was particularly true when discussing the hyena behavior at the den and when talking about cheetah kills.
(4) Professionalism: 8. Both Nic and Malusi are fairly young (21 and 28 respectively), but were near model guides. Nic and Malusi took great pains to cover all the bases, from discussing the drive game plans, the layout of the reserve, and various activity options we had, to ensuring that we took our various game-drive food/toilet breaks and had a daily sun-downers. They were always on time, courteous, and professional. On the other hand, the Nyala were so plentiful that Nic resorted to casually calling out "Ny-ALL-ah" whenever we saw them; this got to be slightly annoying towards the end of the trip. Nic also did not do as much to look into two optional activities we were interested in: a river safari or a black rhino walk. Both had superb English skills (whereas my Zulu is non-existent).
(5) Courtesy: 8-9.
(6) Personality: 9-10. Very upbeat for the most part, and Nic made great effort to make each drive interesting.

Black Rhino Walk Safari Quality (Guide: Mark // Tracker: Seepu):
(1) Overall Feel: My wife and I had previously done a safari walk, the last at Puku Ridge in the Lower Luangwa in Zambia. I like to do these types of walks on occasion because you get a better feel for the bush than you do when riding in the vehicles all the time. This walk has superb. Our guides were excellent and we had two close encounters with a young male black rhino. One was from about 20m from us with a lot of scrub obstructing the view while the rhino grazed. The second started out when the rhino is heavy thicket, but ended with a heart-stopping stand-off…us crouched on the ground acting like rocks, and an alert rhino facing us for 15min or so from 25-30m trying to figure out if there was anything out there that needed to be stomped! Great day!
(2) Communication: 9. Mark did a fantastic job discussing every aspect of the walk, what we needed to do and be worried about, how to handle dangerous situations, etc.
(3) Knowledge: 8-9. We learned a lot about the habits of the black rhino, their history at Phinda, as well as specific information on the young male we saw.
(4) Professionalism: 9. Gave great pre-walk briefing, kept us in the loop during the whole walk. Seepu went back to get the vehicle when it became apparent that we were going to be walking quite a distance from the original starting point.
(5) Courtesy: 8-9.
(6) Personality: 8. Very personable and informative.

Accommodations:
(1) Overall: Excellent facility with minor annoyances. Staff was very good, frequently checking to see how things are (how was your day, how was your game drive, do you need anything, etc). Food was top-notch with good variety including vegetarian options.
(2) Bed: 8. Would rate higher but the bed was two singles pushed together with a single set of linens to fit. The bed was quite comfortable and warm enough, but the ridge in the center makes cuddling more difficult. Other than that, the room itself was quite large and well appointed, with air conditioning, mini-bar, and couch.
(3) Bath: 7-8. Decent pressure and consistent water temperature. Included outside and inside shower. Points off for no shower curtain or door (so unnecessarily cooler than otherwise would be).
(4) Common Areas: 8. Beautiful common areas, lovely dining area including open-air African Boma for special meals. Landscaping around the lodge and rooms is very tastefully done and also quite beautiful, blending in well with the environment. Points off for unheated pool.
(5) Service: 7-8. While everyone was very professional and friendly, meal service was occasionally spotty and bar area not always manned.
(6) Courtesy: 9. Gracious and attentive.

  • Stayed: July 2012, travelled as a couple
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7  Thank Thundar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 August 2012

I usually write long reviews on places we like to visit as a family but this one will be quite short because quite simply Phinda Mountain Lodge is the best game reserve experience to take your family on, period.

From the time we arrived and were greeted with warm towels and cold drinks to the first game drive where our Ranger and tracker were able to get us in position to view Cape Buffalo, White Rhino, Lion, and Leopard. On the first drive!! We also were able to view elephant (fulfilling the Big Five) as well as see Black Rhino and even had the most incredible experience of seeing a Black and White Rhino together in the same frame, breathtaking!

I truly could go on and on for ever on how fantastic Phinda is but in the essence of saving you time I'll end now so you can book your own Phinda experience, you'll never regret it!

  • Stayed: August 2012, travelled with family
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2  Thank Kirk_and_Jo-Anne
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 August 2012

My husband wanted to make sure we saw white and black rhinos. This was advertised as having a high probability of seeing them. Well we saw alot and of course much more. The rooms and food were fantastic! Definitely like a 5 star resort! One thing I didn't think of doing was two visit both lodges. Different animals and environment. So I suggest spending two days at one lodge and 2 at the other

Stayed: September 2011
1  Thank Margaret C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 July 2012

The mountain lodge at Phinda was beautifully built and we enjoyed the the beautiful rooms and outdoor areas. The bedrooms where in independent thatched huts, all far enough apart to be very private, giving you a sense of what it's like to be in the bush! We travelled with 3 children and found that the room layout was not ideal for us at this time as the kids could not be left on their own in a room that we could not get to easily if needed, due to having to be escorted after dark. Problem solved we split our family in two for the 5 nights. All the staff at the lodge are truly lovely people, with a genuine need to help you have the best holiday ever. Innocent and Richard are very patient and great with the kids. The food was second to none, especially for me the vegetarian! Nothing was ever too much bother. Our ranger Brett was fantastic, he was happy to answer even the silliest questions again and again, his knowledge was amazing even about the smallest things. He and Busani (our tracker, who could spot a fly at 2 miles) went out of their way to entertain our boys, from stone throwing, pellet gun shooting, poo spotting, tracking animals, camp fires and lots of other things. We saw all the animals in abundance 7 black rhino! But no leopard, that's for next time (although Brett and Busani tried and tried and tried to find them). I can't recommend phinda enough, the setting, the rangers/trackers, staff, food, and simply for what phinda is try to do for the animals and the surrounding communities. Go see for yourself you won't be disappointed, it is a magical experience.

Room Tip: Room 12 is the best, room 14 is also beautiful.
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  • Stayed: July 2012, travelled with family
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3  Thank travel-happy08
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about andBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge

Address: Phinda Private Game Reserve, Phinda Private Game Reserve 3960, South Africa
Region: South Africa > KwaZulu-Natal > Phinda Private Game Reserve
Amenities:
Free Parking Restaurant Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 6 Speciality Lodging in Phinda Private Game Reserve
Price Range: £1,619 - £2,951 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 24
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
With wraparound views of the ancient Ubombo mountain range, Mountain Lodge balances itself majestically above its panoramic surroundings. The 24 suites scattered along the mountainside offer complete privacy and luxury. There's no end to the choice of taking in the view - spacious verandas with private plunge pools and layered guest areas each provide their own magnificent outlook. Delicious Pan African meals are enjoyed in the dramatic stone and reed boma, lit by the warm glow of dozens of candles and lanterns. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Phinda Mountain Hotel Phinda Private Game Reserve

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