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:
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.
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
About half way through the morning drive, around 8:30, we would pull over for a little “Sunrise Stop.”
Then we would continue the drive.
Upon returning around 10:15am, we would have an amazing breakfast at the main lodge.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Apparently you can’t have a game-drive without stopping for drinks, so around sunset we would pull over for snacks and sundowners.
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!
And every night, dinner was different. Our first night, we dined out on the vlei in front of the lodge around big tables together.
The next two nights we had private tables set out at the lodge.
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.
Whew. It was amazing. And we haven’t even gotten to the animals yet! Next up, the Big 5…