Phinda Game Reserve, South Africa

A Phinda elephant with safari jeep nearby, South Africa

A Phinda resident out for a morning stroll.

If you’re in South Africa and would like a world class safari experience and can handle world class prices then Phinda Private Game Reserve on the coast north of Durban is worth consideration. Even the well heeled locals swear by it.

There are two ways of reaching this massive 23, 000 hectare wildlife park in the Kwa Zulu-Natal district, by air or by road. Flying requires getting to Richard’s Bay (there are connections from Johannesburg and Durban) where there is a light aircraft shuttle to Phinda. The drive from Johannesburg is about 600 km and takes 7 hours depending on the state of the roads whilst the journey from Durban is 350 km and takes about three and a half hours.

A mother cheetah in Phinda, South Africa

A mother cheetah in Phinda, South Africa

The Reserve is a wildlife sanctuary with seven distinct habitats – woodland, grassland, wetland and forest interspersed with mountain ranges, river courses marshes and salt pans. This huge space is home to Africa’s Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino) as well as cheetahs, the endangered black rhino and over 400 bird species, making a stunning animal viewing experience.

Mother and baby rhinos in Phinda, South Africa

Mother and baby rhinos in Phinda

Safaris take place first thing in the morning and then in late afternoon/early evening when the animals are most active. They are conducted from tough open vehicles which are safe from anything except a bull elephant in musth when it is safer to clear out of the area.

Rabid hikers can also do a foot safari which puts everyone, especially the ranger who knows what the dangers really are, a little more on edge and requires careful checks afterwards for any unpleasant bugs you might have picked up in the bush.

A lion in Phinda, South Africa

A lion in Phinda, South Africa

Prices are about $600-$700 per person per night depending on the lodge and the seasonbut include pretty much everything – accommodation, three meals, refreshments, alcohol, scheduled safari activities, nature walks and emergency medical evacuation insurance. One guest was taken by a lion one evening when returning to the lodge to pick up a sweater but these days guards are provided for such forays after dusk.

Words and Photos by Daniel Nash II

If Phinda is too expensive for your budget, up north in Kruger NP there are masses of cheap rest camps and lodges, along with self drive safaris or low-price wildlife safaris conducted by lodge professionals.

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