Thus far I have been documenting our South Africa trip on a day-to-day basis, but for the safari, I decided to break it up into three posts, first covering the experience and then the animals: the Big 5 and the “Fun 5 +.” So first, the experience:
We arrived to the game reserve, Phinda, on Thursday late afternoon and stayed for 4 amazing nights. Phinda is a private game reserve in the northeastern part of South Africa, south of Kruger. It is 23,000 hectares and has 6 different camps on the reserve. We stayed at Phinda Vlei which has a main lodge and 6 private cabins to accommodate a maximum of 12 guests at the camp. In a word, the experience was magical. Here, let me give you a tour.
Let’s start at the main lodge:
View from within the lodge looking out into the vlei.
Next, I’ll take you to the cabins. Each couple had their own private cabin. From your cabin, the only view is out into nature as you can’t see any other cabins or the main lodge which made it feel like total retreat.
View of the cabin.
Each cabin had their own private plunge pool.
View from the bed.
Internal view of the bath area looking out onto the deck.
Looking back into the room.
Now let me walk you through the daily schedule.
5:30am – Friendly wake-up call!
6:00am – Meet at the main lodge for coffee, tea and biscuits.
6:15-10:15am – Morning drive
Our tracker, Tulani in the front.
Pretty old tree.
About half way through the morning drive, around 8:30, we would pull over for a little “Sunrise Stop.”
Setting up shop with some wildebeasts in the background.
Sunrise set-up: coffee, tea and hot chocolate, homemade granola bars, and some local Amarula for a little kick in your coffee.
Coffee with a view!
Then we would continue the drive.
Incredibly beautiful property. And can you spot the zebra!?
Love the landscape.
Upon returning around 10:15am, we would have an amazing breakfast at the main lodge.
Breakfast overlooking the vlei.
I think the breakfasts there were Michael’s favorite meals of the trip!
Each couple got a huge tray of granola, yogurts, fruits, veggies, cheeses, meats, juices, etc. and then they would do your hot breakfast made-to-order.
Our favorite breakfast visitors were the monkeys who were actually quite skilled and aggressive about snatching up food!
Monkey! High in the tree.
Sitting on the roof like he owns the place.
Lunch was served at 2:30pm but we usually ate so much for breakfast that we skipped lunch, so in between game drives from 11:15-3:15 we just had down time. This was some of our favorite time – it was the definition of relaxing. Take a nap, read a book, go for a swim, take a shower…be happy!
Just reading by the pool.
Our new friends, nyalas and impalas!
Apparently the pools have been known to attract all sorts of animals from time to time, even including elephants!! but we were pretty happy with the nyalas and impalas.
Michael going for a quick dip.
A baby nyala nursing from his mama!!
Seriously so relaxing.
Busy afternoon at the pool!
At 3:15pm we would go back to the lodge for a little afternoon tea and snack before heading out for the evening game drive.
Heading out with our ranger, Dumi, and our tracker, Tulani!
Apparently you can’t have a game-drive without stopping for drinks, so around sunset we would pull over for snacks and sundowners.
Sundown setup: dried sausages, dried mango, nuts and DRINKS!
Grotesque or picturesque?
The lodge did so many little things to make the experience special. One night we returned to our cabin only to find the room filled with candles and the tub filled with bubbles. Another night, on our evening drive, we came upon a tree strung with champagne for us!
On safari, champagne grows on trees.
And every night, dinner was different. Our first night, we dined out on the vlei in front of the lodge around big tables together.
First dinner out on the vlei.
The next two nights we had private tables set out at the lodge.
The food was always exotic and fabulous.
The friendly genets liked to join for dinner.
For our last night, we were surprised to have dinner totally out in the bush. We thought we were on our way back to the lodge when we pulled up to this scene. It was obviously impossible to capture on camera but it was MAGICAL. We sat together with the other couples from our vehicle and our guides and was such a special way to end the trip.
Arriving at our dinner in the bush.
Tables set up in the bush.
They even had a bonfire!
Whew. It was amazing. And we haven’t even gotten to the animals yet! Next up, the Big 5…
Other posts in this series — Cape Town: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Wine Country: Day 5, Day 6.