Phinda Vlei Lodge

Phinda Vlei Lodge is an intimate romantic, private safari destination. Overlooking the Reserve’s unique vlei (wetland) system on the edge of the sand forest, its location offers ever changing game viewing from the comfort of your bed, your shower or your private plunge pool.

At Phinda Vlei Lodge simply spending time in your spacious suite is like being on safari. With each suite carefully positioned for a prime view of the animals coming out to drink and panoramic vistas from even your shower or bathtub, the game viewing never stops!

Set on the edge of the forest and overlooking an open meadow (or vlei), complete with watering hole, this wildlife playground brings your game encounters up close and personal. Each morning and early evening the animals appear, dotting the sweeping vlei in a never-ending wildlife parade.

Whether from the intimate guest areas or the seclusion of your own suite, watch the daily details of the bush come to life, from the antics of the monkeys and the prolific birdlife to the herds of zebra or families of warthog ambling along the open vlei.

Suites - (6 ROOMS)

Stilted glass and thatch suites set on the edge of the rare Sand Forest. Each air conditioned suite features a spacious room, luxurious ensuite bathroom, and dressing room. The ensuite bathroom provides a sense of old world luxury, while the suite’s interiors showcase a mix of curated antiques and collectibles. Take advantage of a private lap pool and game viewing deck that overlooks a grassy meadow, where you can observe antelope grazing nearby, as well as a variety of birdlife.







































Game Drives
Enjoy early morning and late afternoon game drives that continue after nightfall. &Beyond's professionally trained guides will ask you about your favorite wildlife and will do their best to ensure that your preferences are met, whether it is tracking a particular species or spending more time enjoying each sighting and getting to know the habits of the animals. They will also tell you about the vegetation of the region and will explain the behavior of the animals that you come across.

In some cases, the guides will be able to identify individual animals and let you know about their history and habits. &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve is renowned for its exceptional sightings of the elusive cheetah and the rare black rhino, as well as the Big Five. There is also a number of resident lion prides and rangers will do their best to provide you with an exceptional sighting of all of these animals.

Beyond twice-daily game drives, there are bush walks; Zulu village tours; night turtle drives (seasonal); scuba and ocean safaris; black rhino tracking on foot; participative conservation experiences; Cheetah, black and white rhino, lion, nyala! Additional costs apply to the following experiences:

Sleep Under the Stars
Enjoy a leisurely afternoon game drive around &Beyond Phinda Private Game reserve, awash with untamed wildlife and birdlife.  Arrive at a romantic and magical setting in the middle of the bush, where comfortable beds with real duvets and warm blankets have been set up, draped with billowing mosquito nets. Inviting chairs surround a blazing campfire and twinkling lanterns hang from towering trees. On days when the weather turns dark, revel in the knowledge that a warm, comfortable room at a nearby lodge is ready and waiting in case you change your mind. Those who choose to persevere will be welcomed with sundowner drinks to toast the disappearing sun whilst your dedicated ranger prepares a delicious meal, celebrating African flavors on the open fire. Recreate the day’s adventures and encounters around the fireside, from the swift cheetah that raced past your open safari vehicle to the white rhinos and the more rare and endangered black rhino, as well as the elegant nyala antelope. Drink in the tranquillity of the bush and enjoy the distinct night sounds and songs of Africa. Fall asleep under an impossibly starry sky to the soothing sound of the hyena calling out in the distance, secure in the knowledge that an armed guard will patrol the site throughout the night.

Rhino Tracking on Foot
Slip on some comfortable walking shoes, grab your binoculars and camera, and spend the morning on foot with an expert ranger and tracker team in search of the rare and highly endangered black rhinoceros, also known as the hook-lipped rhinoceros. A walk through the bush is a far more intimate experience as, without the distracting hum of the safari vehicle, you will hear, smell, feel and see with heightened awareness, igniting your entire consciousness. As you slowly walk along tracks trodden by untamed wildlife, you will be humbled and left in awe of this magnificent natural site. Experience Phinda Private Game Reserve on foot, in awe of its untouched nature and allure. Tread along the very paths black rhinos roam free on and witness their lives from a careful distance. It is the perfect setting in which to appreciate the natural environment. The slow pace of the walk and the interpretive skills of the armed guides open your eyes to a new and fascinating world. Learn how to follow rhino tracks, recognize rhino middens and scratching posts, and follow the signs of the bent trees and broken grass blades, searching for rhino in the company of wildlife professionals. The safety of our guests is paramount and only the most highly trained and qualified &Beyond guides host these walks.

Elephant Collaring Experience
Guests will have the opportunity to participate in &Beyond Phinda’s elephant conservation project, witnessing an elephant capture and darting, and assisting in the changing of the sleeping pachyderm’s radio collar. Phinda is committed to ensuring the survival of Africa’s elephant herds and, as such, we implement best practice research and management practices. Seven elephant herds on the reserve have been collared to assist with monitoring and tracking their movements. The collars also play an essential part in Phinda’s immunocontraceptive program, aimed at managing the elephant population in the reserve to maintain optimum levels.

From time to time, one of the elephant collars utilized in this research will be in need of replacing and we invite groups of up to eight guests each (sharing one vehicle) to participate in this extraordinary experience. Guests will play an active role in the day’s adventure. As the veterinary team flies overhead in a helicopter in search of the elephant, guests will follow in hot pursuit with an expert ranger in an open 4×4 safari vehicle. Once the animal is located and darted, the helicopter will land, and guests will have the never-to-be-repeated opportunity to touch the anaesthetized elephant as they change its collar.

Dates for this exceptional adventure are dependent on whether there is elephant to collar, as well as on the availability of the vet and the helicopter pilot. Guests will need to spend a minimum of three nights at the reserve to allow for any unforeseen delays due to bad weather or any other factors beyond our control. All funds raised from guests go directly towards the costs of running Phinda’s elephant conservation and management project.

Guided Nature Walk KwaZulu-Natal
A guided nature walk is a magical alternative to a Big Five game drive in the wildlife parks of KwaZulu-Natal. This adventure makes full use of all your senses, allowing you a deeper connection with the African bush. Strap on your boots and feel the wild grasses crush beneath your boots as you follow your expert guide into the pristine, untamed landscapes of the region. Be mesmerized by the morning sunlight as it dances in dew drops delicately sprinkled on flourishing vegetation. Smell nature in its purest form and be enchanted by the chorus of wildlife surrounding you.

Nothing quite encapsulates the feeling of viewing wildlife on foot.  Encounter a variety of plains game from a safe distance and be enchanted by the reserve’s smaller inhabitants. This activity is also fantastic for keen birders and photographic enthusiasts. Your guides have a wealth of experience under their belts and will not only introduce you to the region’s fantastic fauna but its kaleidoscopic array of flora too. For any safari addict, this is definitely a bucket list adventure that will keep you coming back for more! 

Horseback Riding in False Bay
Set off to explore the picturesque False Bay Nature Reserve, part of the renowned Simangaliso Wetland Park, on a scenic two-hour horseback ride. Swing into the saddle of a gentle steed, trained for every age and level of riding expertise. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the Simangaliso Wetland Park offers extraordinary habitats for you to discover as you ride through a diverse landscape of dense woodlands, azure lakes that feed into an aquamarine ocean, gilded sand dunes alongside and vast grasslands.

Your journey will take you through the shady sand forests of the park before reaching the pristine shoreline of False Bay, which stretches into the horizon. Enroute, you may encounter a plethora of bird species, as well as sightings of crocodiles sunning themselves along the shoreline, curious zebra cantering alongside your horse, wary impala twitching their ears at every sound and plump hippopotamus wallowing in the lakes. As you make your way along this beautiful stretch of coastline, be sure to keep an eye out for crisp white shells that echo the secrets of the sea, as well as delicate ammonite fossils, extinct marine mollusks dating back millions of years.

Sodwana Bay Diving
Diving the reefs off South Africa’s east coast at Sodwana Bay allows you to experience a portrait of marine diversity, with over 1 200 species of fish and spectacular coral formations set in warm and clear tropical waters. Ideal for divers of all abilities, dives can be tailored for all guests who hold an Open Water 1 NAUI or PADI dive qualification have dived in the last six months. The tropical waters of Sodwana Bay are home to an abundance of marine life, boasting more than 80% of all the world’s marine classes. Swim past lemony yellow butterflyfish, powder blue triggerfish and citron-spotted whale sharks.

Renowned as one of the top five diving destinations in the world, dives at Sodwana Bay reveal just a taste of the wide-ranging biodiversity found here. With the aquamarine water as the perfect canvas, watch in awe as variety of rainbow-colored fish dart in and around healthy coral reefs, creating a vivid visual masterpiece. The Maputaland coast is unique in that it is the only site in the world that attracts prevalent South African, tropical Indo-Pacific, Southern Ocean, circum-global, deep-sea, and European fish, which filter down along the west coast of Africa coast. This vast range of species includes predators like the ragged-tooth shark and the silvery dolphins, as well as easy-going turtles and streamlined rays.

Village Community Experience
A community excursion offers a fantastic opportunity to  learn more about the wonderfully diverse communities of  KwaZulu-Natal. Embark on an insightful tour with Africa Foundation, &Beyond’s community development partner, which has been active within the rural communities surrounding &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve for 25 years. Gain first-hand knowledge of the Foundation’s various projects, aimed at improving education, healthcare and access to water, as well as the development of local businesses in the area. You will have the opportunity to visit projects in the Mduku and Mnqobokazi communities, including the Khulani Special School, a community crèche, the Mduku Clinic, the Nkomo Full Service Primary School, the Mbhedula Craft Market or the Dongwelethu Poultry Project.

These tours offer insight into the everyday lives of community members as well as the difficulties they may face. For instance, the Khulani Special School was created by two concerned community members to meet the needs of children with disabilities living within the communities of Mduku, Mnqobokazi and Nibela, who previously had to travel over 150 kilometres to the nearest formal special needs school.  The Mduku Clinic was built by Africa Foundation in 1995, before which the closest hospital was 70 kilometres away and the only access to a nurse was a mobile clinic that visited the community once a fortnight. Now up to 42 000 patients visit the clinic annually and the facility provides emergency care, treatment of chronic diseases and a wing dedicated to the healthcare of women and children. Nkomo Full Service Primary School was formed in 1997 by stalwart teacher Nomusa Zikhali, who used to teach 60 children under the shade of trees. Now, Nkomo is a full service primary school with more than 20 classrooms and over 1 000 pupils.

Snorkel Trip
While enjoying the exceptional Big Five at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, why not treat yourself to an Ocean Safari that offers the opportunity to encounter some of South Africa’s most beautiful marine life? Set off on board a semi-rigid inflatable boat in the company of a certified Dive Master and enjoy the prospect of encountering and swimming with sleek, silvery dolphins. Snorkel among some of South Africa most magnificent coral reef, viewing a bevy of iridescent tropical fish. Marvel at the colossal forms of humpback and southern right whales. The temperate waters are awash with a plethora of diverse aquatic life, including the ancient walnut-hued leatherback and the white-bellied loggerhead turtles, the slow-moving, yellow-spotted whale shark, a variety of shy eels and hundreds of minute, kaleidoscopic fish that flit in and around the corals.

Marvel at the iridescent colors of a variety of tropical fish as they streak through the aquamarine waters, from the bright yellow of the butterfly fish to the topaz triggerfish and the distinct shapes and vivid colors of a variety of wrasse. Marvel at the medley of colors of the flourishing marine species beneath the calm, azure surface as you swim amidst the infinite hues of blue that stipple the sky and sea.

Turtle Time
Each year, during the southern hemisphere summer, between November and January, enormous leatherback and loggerhead turtles emerge from the Indian Ocean at Sodwana Bay to lay their precious eggs in the sun-warmed sand, as they have done for hundreds of millions of years. Set out on a thrilling night-time adventure along a stretch of 16 kilometers of tranquil beach, set to the background of the harmonic sounds of foamy waves rushing in to shore. With only the beam of your flashlight, the cold light of the moon flitting between wispy clouds and the distant flash of the lighthouse to guide you, search for these gentle animals as they ride the waves to shore to dig their nests at one of Africa’s last key nesting sites.

Dig your bare feet into the cool, velvet sand and hold your breath as you wait for a ritual as old as time to once again take place. Watch in wonder as two of the ocean’s largest turtles – the walnut-hued leatherback ringing in at 700 kilograms and the white-bellied loggerhead touching 160 kilograms – breach the quiet shore, leaving behind a deep trail in the soft sand. Marvel at the silent concentration of the mother as she squats above a deep hole in the sand, laying scores of smooth, oval eggs, which she carefully covers with warm, loose sand before disappearing back into the inky waves.



Yes; no children under 16 on Walking Safaris; children 5 years and younger cannot participate in game drives; children aged 6 to 11 permitted on game drives at the lodge manager’s discretion

Available at an additional cost


All convertible to doubles













25m / 82ft  

Available with prior notice and at extra cost


220v AC

Yes, wifi in rooms and guest area

Depending on availability and at additional cost

Visa, Diners, Amex, MasterCard


Gym in a bag available on request

Subtropical climate with hot, humid and wet summers from September to April and warm to cool and dry winters from May to August

Rainfall averages 1 000mm / 39” per annum. Much of the rainfall comes in the form of short, intense afternoon thundershowers. Rain can be expected throughout the year

Summer: daytime temperatures above 35˚C / 95˚F Winter: night-time temperature rarely drops below 10˚C / 50˚F

All year round; best game viewing from March to end of September

The reserve is situated in a lowrisk malaria area

The Phinda airstrip is not registered; coordinates are S27˚.51.36’ and E32˚.18.48’

Open year round

For more information on the lodge, click HERE


Rare Sand Floor Retreat
Honeymoon Special - 50% off for your honey
* Valid within 6 months of getting hitched - 2 night min.

Long Stay Specials
Stay 3+ nights - enjoy air credits
Stay 6-8+ nights - take up to 20% off
* Can combine with other select lodgings. Restrictions apply