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“Exceptional Lodge”

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andBeyond Phinda Zuka Lodge
Reviewed 2 March 2012

As a family we have stayed at all the Phinda Lodges but Zuka Lodge is definitely our favourite. This is mainly due to the exclusive use of the lodge and the privacy that is achieved as a result. This last trip to Zuka by far exceeded all previous stays at Phinda and this was down to the staff, in particular the professionalism of manager. On this particular trip Zuka completely exceeded all expectations from the moment we arrived. Being a fussy bunch we outlined on arrival what we liked (and didn't) and every whim was catered to including boma nights (every night) and a over-the-top New Years Eve dinner. A big mention must go to the Chef and his team for creating the best meals we have had at all &Beyond Lodges. A perfect combination of authentic South African dishes to suit the environment we were in! The lodge is perfect understated luxury set next to a watering hole. The elevated pool is a great place to watch the wildlife while lounging in-between game drives.

I haven't mentioned anything about the game viewing but lets just say 'tick' to all the big 5. Including mating leopards. Incredible! Some of the most breath taking sightings in 3 days. Phinda really does deliver on the game viewing experiences.

The lodge now feels like a home away from home, and because of this we never wanted to leave! Thank you to all the Zuka team for an incredible and memorable stay! Phinda means 'The Return' and we just can't wait to!

Room Tip: There are only 4 rooms and they're all identical in setup
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  • Stayed: January 2012, travelled with family
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2  Thank joedolpire
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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40 - 46 of 50 reviews

Reviewed 22 February 2012

By no means the best experience I have ever had. From the fine and stunning cuisine to the superb service and the best ranger and guide ever. Hendrick - we loved you. Myself and Gary visited in September 2011 and not only did we meet lovely people who really looked after us, we stayed in the most beautiful place I've ever seen. The safari drives were above & beyond my expectations and the safari walk I did one morning (4 hours - lost track of time due to tracking rhinos) was just an amazing experience. The waterhole right in front of the lodge lets you daze dreamily whilst waiting for the delicious fresh cakes which are made for you and the cold white sauvignon blanc that is constantly poured and topped up.
Loved this trip and the people and the lodge and could not recommend it highly enough. Thank you all so much and sorry for taking so long in doing this - it has been my intention for a long time.
Carol
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Room Tip: All of the rooms are fantastic so it really doesn't matter. I liked being closest to the main l...
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  • Stayed: September 2011, travelled with friends
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1  Thank Ingers72
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 October 2009

It was our first time in Africa and our first safari experience. We booked Zuka for ourselves and another family, in all, four adults and four teenage children.I am a hotelier and have been in the industry for 30 years.
The Manager of the Zhuka Lodge, Matt, his wife Tiffany and all the staff were extremely professional in the manner in which they looked after us.
Families concerned about whether their kids will be bored should not worry. Two game drives a day means that everyone is fully occupied, albeit the downtime between the game drives is relaxing with the pool and the space provided such that everyone can find their own space and do what they want to do. We played card and board games in the evenings and if all else fails, there is a separate area with a TV if the kids need it.
The game warden, Cebu, and his spotter really exceeded expectations and couldn’t have been more helpful in finding all the game we were there to see. They were extremely knowledgable and taught us lots of stuff like tracking techniques, etc.
On the middle day of our stay we were just about heading home as it was getting dark on the evening game drive: the heavens opened and we got caught in the most horrendous downpour. We could hardly see our hands in front of our faces but despite the driving rain and the poor visibility, Cebu managed to get us home safely and still with a smile on his face – brilliant!
The lodge is set up very well. We felt safe, the F&B was superb, the service friendly but professional at all times, and the quality of the fit out and maintenance of the lodge was first class. It was very good value for money and we would recommend it to anybody contemplating a similar trip to the one we had. The only complaint we all had was that we stayed for 3 nights and felt that we could have stayed an extra 1/2 nights!

  • Stayed: September 2009, travelled with family
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Thank Aussie040
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 September 2009

I have stayed in different lodges all over Africa several times, and although each is unique in it's own way, Zuka lodge will stand out in my mind for a long time. Because there are so few of them, I will get the cons out of the way first:

Cons:
-the shower and tap are salt water, because although they are purified they come from a salt water source
-Phinda game reserve itself is, although great for game viewing and relatively big, not as wild as, say Kruger National Park.

I cannot, unfortunately, list the pros in the way I can the cons, simply because there are so many of them: the lodge looks out onto a natural waterhole 50 meters away, where everything from warthogs to giraffes come to drink. Our first night we looked out and saw two lionesses have a drink, then lie down to sleep not 40 meters from our room; the next morning it was a solitary cheetah. And so on.
The food was truly fantastic- the chef, Dudu, is really talented. And believe me, as is so rare in Africa, there is no need to worry about quality here, everything is top-notch. Our ranger, Lucky, and our tracker, Josi, managed to track a pride of lions through the deep bush and show us as they hunted several times. We saw the elusive black rhino, and all of the other Big 10 (several times). Therefore the game was excellent.
The rooms were cosy, elegant and very comfortable, and the mostly invisible staff kept them spotless. Our butler, Catherine, and the manager were a great blend of professional and friendly.
I would recommend that Zuka be your final stay if you plan to visit several parts of South Africa, because it just might convince you to extend your stay (indefinitely). Sure wish I had.

  • Stayed: August 2009, travelled with family
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Thank iHotelreviewer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 15 March 2009

It’s easy to get jaded by the luxury on offer in South Africa these days, but Zuka is something special.
Firstly it’s tiny, just four thatched huts, so a maximum of 8 guests. We stayed here for 4 nights with my sister, her partner and two friends so had the place to ourselves.
On the surface Zuka does everything that a “normal” high end safari lodge does, greeting at the airport by your guide and ranger who stay with you the whole time of your stay, morning and afternoon game drives, sundowners, the big 5, great meals and so on, but it does it with an intimacy that you just don’t experience that often.
One comment about a drink preference saw that delivered to you every time – miraculously appearing in your hand, one afternoon of card playing saw the table set up for us and waiting when we came back from game drives, a food preference whipped up in a second. This is the type of attentive service you expect from the best hotels in the world but they can never achieve no doubt attributable to Octavia our hostess with the biggest smile on earth.
Some things to note, the cottages were as expected, just above average size and well decorated but the stone walled bathroom is an absolute highlight.
Upon return after dinner it was decked with candles and bubbles – lovely.
The waterhole at the front of the lodge is a feature as well with many animals coming to drink it is easy just to sit and watch. The choir of locals brought in to entertain us was a highlight as was the Boma and bush dinners.
How do you describe a special magic about a place without experiencing it? Impossible but Zuka pulls this off time and again with aplomb. Even the most experienced and jaded African traveller will revel in the personal touches of Zuka. Highly recommended.

  • Stayed: March 2008, travelled with family
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Thank piesandpease
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 November 2008

I can't say enough about our experience at Phinda. Since the moment I started making the arrangements with CC Africa's rep. Fred Mittermayer who made sure he knew what we liked and then made sure to exceed our expectations our stay was GREAT. My wife and I had the pleasure of visiting Phinda with 3 other couples and we opted for splitting our stay into the first 2 nights at Vlei Lodge and the last 3 at Zuka Lodge. Let me start with Vlei. From the moment we arrived until the moment we left Etiene (the manage)r and the rest of his staff pampered us and made our stay a most memorable one. Each of the suites is independent and has a small plunge pool who's main purpose is to attract animals to gather around your porch for a drink. We had everything from Nyalas, Impalas and monkeys up ti a small herd of Elephants one night visiting at our door.
From the moment you get off the plane you are picked up by your ranger for the duration of your stay at the lodge. We were fortunate to have Richard whom we enjoyed so much that we asked if he could continue with us to Zuka and fortunately he did.
The game viewing is amazing, we saw the big 5 within our first 24 hours there and practically daily. Upon arrival we saw Zebras and Giraffes and must have taken a couple hundred pictures but by the second day , after witnessing lions hunting, leopards roaming, black Rhinos charging at you , Cheetahs feasting, etc. "simple" things like a herd of Zebra or a family of beautiful Giraffes seem boring !!
To finish with Vlei lodge the food is outstanding as well as the staff and accommodations.
Now back to Zuka, take our experience at Vlei and multiply it times 10! The place is amazing and having it all to ourselves was great, our only regret was not being able to stay longer. Splitting our time between the two lodges makes sense because Phinda is so large and diverse but Zuka is so great that with only 3 nights there you can't really enjoy all it offers. Do yourself a favor and stay at Zuka with your family or best friends but stay a full week, you will not be disappointed. Mandi (Zuka manager) and her lovely staff will cater and pamper you like nowhere else.
If you are undecided and comparing save your time and go to Phinda and if you can afford it stay at Zuka. We can't wait to go back !!

P.S. Phinda was just voted in the top 30 resorts of the world for 2008 by Conde Nast Traveler magazine.

  • Stayed: September 2008, travelled with friends
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Thank Akrut
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 July 2008

What an amazing place to stay.

Am writing this nearly 2 years after staying there, and this is the first (but not last) review I have done as I realise I have got so much out of Tripadvisor but haven't really put a lot in. Yet.

Anyway, back to the property - even though it was nearly 2 years ago, the memory is still VIVID in my mind. Yes, it does seem expensive but the price is per night for the property (4 individual chalets - perfect for 4 couples) and when you consider the price includes absolutely everything, and you are the only guests there it isn't actually so bad.

And the experience is magic. I stayed with my wife and three kids (13, 16, 18) for 3 nights at Zuka Lodge and it was the most memorable experience we have shared as a family. It is one of 5(?) lodges within Phinda, all slightly different styles & prices. We also stayed at Phinda Forest Lodge for 3 nights after Zuka. If (when!) we were to go again, we would stay at one of the other lodges first for a couple of nights, then Zuka for 3 nights, that way we would have the best last, and I think with one day less, a perfect balance.

The staff at Zuka were fantastic - friendly and so committed to what they were doing. Lucky, who made our 'Luckylicious' cocktails amongst other things, Octavia who oversaw everything, Sheldon who was our ranger with a wealth of knowledge and banter, and Prince our tracker, who could tell the difference between black rhino poo & white rhino poo at 50 yards, and how many animals and of what number & variety had passed through a particular spot (and when) from, well I don't know how he could tell that.

Each day (and night) here is full on. You're woken at about 5am for a cup of something hot & fruit before heading out on your morning safari. A couple of hours into this they stop, set up a picnic table for another cup of whatever & snack, before continuing with the mornings adventure. Back to the lodge at about 10am for breakfast on the porch, and what a spread. If it's not there, you pretty much only need to ask and they'll whip it up. (Oh, the porch, lodge, and all chalets are set up immediately by a watering hole, where animals of all description come to drink - you must call security to escort you from chalet to chalet to lodge once it's dark, as the lodge is not fenced off from the reserve)

After brekky, it's siesta time or swimming time etc. Lunch follows that, then around 4pm it was off on the night safari. The same break follows with picnic table, only this time the full drinks cabinet comes out too. This could potentially last for some time, but with the kids with us it was just one or two then back in the jeep. You arrive back at the lodge at 9 or 10 for dinner.

I could write several books on the safari experience but will resist the temptation. The big 5 are all here, though leopard proved elusive for us. (Good reason to go back!)

The accommodation, staff, food - they are all excellent. When looking through the guest book here, without name dropping, there are movie stars and royalty. I'm surprised there aren't more reviews on Zuka.

Perhaps they want to keep it to themselves.....

  • Stayed: September 2006, travelled with family
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Thank critterz
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

Address: Phinda Private Game Reserve, Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Region: South Africa > KwaZulu-Natal > Phinda Private Game Reserve
Hotel Style:
Ranked #6 of 7 Speciality Lodging in Phinda Private Game Reserve
Price Range: £10,546 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
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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