Safari at Phinda

Our next stop would be the most exciting: Mountain Lodge in the Phinda Private Game Reserve. The Lodge is a lux grouping of rondovals located on a private, 56,000 acre animal reserve with an abundance of wildlife near Hluhluwe. Our huts were decadent, with giant bathrooms, glassed showers, and stand-alone bathtubs with views of the bush. Nyala and Impala would come right up to our private plunge pool while we would sun ourselves between game drives. The service was divine and the staff were warm and hospitable. You can read my TripAdvisor review here.

Many of us dream of an African Safari. Perhaps it stems from our childhood fantasies of having a pet monkey, riding an elephant or taming a lion. Travelling with our 14 year old son J made the excitement all the more real. Before we had even made it to the lodge we had past herds of wildebeests, long necked giraffes, and many surprisingly cute warthogs. The smells of the savannah were intoxicating and the earth baked in the bright sun.

Waking early in the morning, just before day break, we would head up to the lodge in the predawn light to sip cups of tea and coffee before heading out on a 2 or 3 hour game drive. We would explore the reserve coming upon herds of zebras, buffalo, impala and wildebeest.  We would watch elephants knocking down the tall trees and giraffe towering above them. Monkeys would chatter loudly warning the valley below of the cheetahs on the prowl. Later in the day we would head out in the truck – driving into the brush in search of white and black rinos, hippos and lions. We would stop for tea along side one of the many beautiful watering-holes, careful not to get too close to the waters edge, and sip tea and afternoon amarula in the warm sun. With the long shadows of late afternoon we would explore more of the reserve well into the darkness – with the stars burning in the heavens we would make our way through the brush spotting the animals of the night: an owl, a giant porcupine and the leopard. During our 4 days at Phinda we participated in 8 game drives. Our tracker John, who had been with Phinda for 16 years, was simply superb at tracking animals – a fact that was proved to us late night looking for a leopard.  Our ranger Felicity was everything you could have wanted. Not only was she incredibly knowledgeable and an excellent tracker herself, she was also friendly, inviting, and a true joy to spend the hours with.

After an exhilarating, bundu-bashing ride through the forest, or an afternoon spent quietly watching the cheetah slinking through the tall grass, we would head back to the lodge in our trusty Land Cruiser where there would be fresh drinks and cool towels waiting. Breakfast and lunch were served in the pavilion overlooking the southern part of the reserve and dinner was either there or in the boma or gathering place where we would dine on barbecued springbok, ostrich, chicken or fish. The food was delicious and they were always ready to cook you up something off menu at any time.

I wish I could go every year.

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