Friday, May 29, 2015

Big love for the big five

You cannot not do a safari while in Africa. And i was lucky enough to get to go on one. Most Indians start and stop at Kruger National Park. It is after all one of the largest game reserves in Africa. But I went to a small private game reserve about 3.5 hours drive from Durban called Phinda Game Reserve. 

There is a lot of discussion going on about whether national parks are better or private game reserve. Frankly, I am no expert on it so I won't comment. But what i would say is that there is a lot of good going on for both sides.
View from Phinda Mountain Lodge
Anyway, Phinda Private Game Reserve is co-owned by &Beyond group of hotels and has multiple investors including the American Getty family. You have the option to stay at any of their three lodges which have a distinctive charm. I stayed at the &Beyond Phinda Mountain Lodge which is great with very friendly and helpful staff. But i liked their Phinda Rock Lodge more - and for good reasons!

One is that they don't allow children! So they have very limited rooms given out only to couples. Secondly, it has an amazing view from reception area. And lastly, the last room is famous for receiving unexpected guests at odd hours. It's overflowing mini pool at the edge of the lodge attracts herds of elephants who come to satisfy their thirst but also to get some downtime. And yes! We got lucky and i have photographic evidence to show for it. The guest occupying that room was kind enough (in his ecstatic state) to let us in and share a beautiful moment with the elephants! 

Elephants enjoying a drink at Phinda Rock Lodge
Coming to the main talking point though - yes we did see a lot of animals, including a few of the Big Five. Visitors are accompanied by a ranger and a tracker on every game drive. We had Divan and Mlusi with us who were very good at what they do. With their help, we were able to spot three young male lions along with their mother as well as two young cheetahs at very close range! 

One my personal 'wow' moments was seeing the giraffes and the elephants. They are huuuge and majestic and when you see them, the only thing that you can think of is that you want them to be around forever. Of course, the concern is for all the Big Five animals, specially the black and white rhinos who are close to extinction.
Mlusi sits on his special chair while Divan drives his jeep

A lot of reserves in Africa, including Phinda, are working together and individually to protect these animals. Water scarcity is one of the concerns but poaching is a big worry. We did spot a lot of rhinos but they are very shy and so we saw them only from afar - through the binocs.    

Nyalas abound though and you can see them everywhere - even in your lodges - grazing and simply looking like they're at home. 

If this piques your interest but are unable to travel to Africa, there's something exciting you can do closer home. Taj Safaris, along with &Beyond, has a similar set up in India. Since our country does not allow private parks, these Taj Safaris properties are located inside or close to national parks.

Divan having some of Mlusi's magical concoction of coffee, hot chocolate and Amarula

If you want to inquire about any of the andBeyond properties in Africa, you can contact their 
central reservations office for all its lodges on or call on +27 11 809 4441 (South Africa number).

Rack rate (per person per night sharing in ZAR)
Phinda Mountain Lodge has separate rates for mid-season and high-season. 
Suites - High Season (Jan 1 - April 30; Aug 1 - Dec 31): 6,000 rands
Suites - Mid-Season (May 1 - July 31): 5,500 rands
Family suites - High Season: 42,000 rands
Family suites - Mid-Season: 38,500 rands

If you are traveling to South Africa and need a local contact, you can talk to Wendy Schulz at She works for a local travel agency authorised by South African Tourism and she is a sweetheart! 


Aloke said...

Well written. Why don't you add some more details about such as the cost of stay and safari and also how to reach there...who to contact etc...


Hazel Jain said...

Sure... i can do that.. :)

Also, i know parks arent allowed to privatise in India. What i meant was that Taj has a similar facility in india with andBeyond.