The Best Luxury Safari Resort – AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge
We often say that though the places we visit are amazing, it is the people and interactions we remember the most. This was definitely the case throughout our stay at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge. From the staff including all of the managers, our butler, Mo, our tracker, Bethuel, our ranger, Brenden and our fellow game drive team members – we will never forget the experiences we shared with everyone at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge.
“After our stay with AndBeyond, we can confidently say that we will only stay with them because of the huge impact they had on us as individuals and our experience.”
Why You Should Choose AndBeyond
When travelers choose their safari lodge, there are several things they typically consider, but the main concerns are – location, service, budget and activities. These are all very important things to consider, but what makes AndBeyond go “and beyond” is their loyalty to the guests, land, wildlife and community. Their loyalty and commitment is the reason why they are listed four times in the “50 Best Resorts in the World” from Condé Nast Traveler AND Travel and Leisure.
AndBeyond has a simple principle they abide to and it is called “The Three C’s”. CARE for the LAND, CARE for the WILDLIFE and CARE for the PEOPLE. AndBeyond’s priority is not about making money, but about ethical conservation and community work.
In addition to their responsibility in conservation and community, AndBeyond strives in making their guests feel a part of their family. We have stayed at some of the best resorts in the world, but none have made us feel more like family than AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge. We cried when we had to leave because of the connections and relationships we made with the staff. After our stay with AndBeyond, we can confidently say that we will only stay with them because of the huge impact they had on us as individuals and our experience.
The last reason travelers should choose AndBeyond is because of their luxury service. Most resorts have luxury service at their accommodation, but being a safari lodge, AndBeyond takes luxury service further than anything we have ever experienced. From private meals, surprise dinners in the bush, luxury safari drives, candlelit hot baths and more – AndBeyond continued to surpass all expectations.
Getting to Phinda Game Reserve is a pain, but when you arrive you forget all about your transportation troubles and how long it took to arrive. The hassle of getting to any game reserve is quite normal though, it’s always a long journey, but it’s more than worth it. There are two ways to arrive to Phinda – by plane or car.
Phinda Game Reserve has their own private landstrip, so flying to Phinda is the fastest option. South African Airlink flys to and from Phinda based on their set schedule. Be aware the plane is extremely small and seats only 12 passengers. If the weather is bad, the plane will not land in Phinda due to the risks since the airstrip/runway is very small. So, even though you pay for the luxury of getting to Phinda by plane, it may not always be the quickest. Case in point, our flight time from Johannesburg to Phinda (with a stop in Kruger) was supposed to be a total of three hours, but ended up taking eight hours. Due to bad weather, our pilot had to land in Durban and then a bus was arranged for us to go from Durban to Phinda. The drive from Durban to Phinda was at least three hours.
This brings us to the second option of arriving to Phinda, by car. The driving distance from Johannesburg to Phinda is five hours. You can also fly to Richards Bay and drive only 50 minutes. The last most common driving route, is flying to Durban and then driving three hours to Phinda. We found that at least three other travelers during our stay took the driving route from Durban to Phinda.
A Day at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge
5:30am – wake up call
6:00am – 6:30am – morning coffee and tea with fresh fruit and breakfast breads
6:30am – 9:30am – morning game drive
9:30am – 11:00am – breakfast
11:00am – 1:00pm – down time
1:00pm – 3:00pm – lunch
3:30pm – 4:00pm – afternoon coffee and tea with snacks
4:00pm – 7:00pm – afternoon game drive
8:00pm – 10:00pm – dinner
A luxurious day like this is ALL included in the daily rate. Yes, all we did was eat and go on safari game drives, it was the best vacation of our lives!
Accommodation and Amenities
The accommodations of AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge were amazing! As the name of the lodge states, it is indeed on a mountain providing their guests with the most beautiful views of the reserve and the Ubombo Mountains. Their dining room, pool, lounge and of course, the suites, all had views of the reserve, thus giving guests special sightings during their entre stay. There are a total of 23 rooms, 16 are suites, one family suite and 3 are family cottages, which can become 6 regular cottages.
Within the lodge were an abundant number of features for guests to make use of:
- Dining Room
- Outdoor BBQ dining space
- Lounge with bar access
- Safari Shop
- Wild Child Club
- Conference Room
- Business Center
- Pool Deck
The lounge was our meeting point every day for our game drives. It was a place where everyone was brought together for eating, drinking and mingling. We felt like a part of their family every time we were in their lounge. We would be introduced to managers, staff, our ranger, Brenden, and new members of our team (guests would stay in the same vehicle with the same group, ranger and guide, during their stay). Thus, giving us a warm welcome and a special family gathering atmosphere.
As we briefly mentioned, the lounge is where we met every morning and afternoon for coffee and tea. During this time the bar would be full of food and drinks for all of the guests. The rangers would offer us our drink of choice, (coffee, tea, espresso, latte, orange juice, etc.) and there would be fresh fruit and baked goodies to snack on. Before every game drive, we would gather around with Brenden and our team to enjoy our coffee and snacks, while we laughed and told amazing travel stories of all the places we had all visited.
In addition the the lounge being the meeting point of every morning and afternoon, it was also a great place to hangout in-between game drives. We loved sitting in the lounge admiring all the beautiful African art pieces. There were also several different board games to play, comfortable lounge chairs to relax in and of course a beautiful view to always enjoy.
We never had to leave our lodge to find animal sightings. Every morning there would be monkeys hanging around the lounge looking to snag our morning cookies and cake. Near our lodge and suite we would find hedgehogs and nyala. They were shy, but not as skittish as the ones we would see on our game drives. From the lounge we could see giraffes walking around and one time we saw them just a few hundred yards away!
We are sure you are wondering if any predators or animals could attack us, there were never predators, but there is always security around in case of any situation were to occur. At night time we always had to have security walk us to our rooms for safety reasons.
Our suite took our breath away! It was more than spacious with high ceilings, an ensuite bathroom, a sitting area with a bar and a private verandah with a plunge pool and outdoor shower. Not to mention our bed was facing the windows to our verandah, which greeted us with the open air and views of the Ubombo Mountain range. Needless to say we had beautiful views whether we were laying in bed, taking an outdoor shower or relaxing on our deck. Waking up every morning to the sun peeking above the mountains was always the perfect way to start our day.
Our bathroom was almost as big as our bedroom and seating area combined. It had a full bath tub in the middle, (which we enjoyed a lot), a walk-in shower in the corner, double sinks and a private toilet room. Bath robes, slippers, bottled water and toiletries were all provided for us and stocked daily.
We loved our seating area with the beautiful African chandelier and our own open bar. Our suite also had a desk near our bed and a closet that had plenty of space for all of our belongings. We felt more at home in our suite than our actual home – it was that luxurious!
Guests staying at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge should enjoy a relaxing day at their fabulous spa. I (Christina) enjoyed a 45 minute massage with Isabelle, who was one of the best masseuse I have ever had. Isabelle used techniques I have never experienced in a massage before by using wooden African massage tools to help release the knots in my back. She also had a variety of natural massage oils, which all served a different purpose – relax, detox, de-stress, hydrate and more. Guests can also have the pleasure of enjoying a massage in their room. In addition to massages, the spa also offers wonderful bath aromatherapy.
The safari shop has everything a guest could need for their visit and souvenirs to take home. If guests need binoculars, a new safari hat or shirt, the AndBeyond Safari Shop has it all for them. The only thing a guests needs to really bring with them to the resort is themselves! We found their safari clothes to be reasonably priced around $50, which is what we paid for our clothes back home. We had to contain ourselves from buying every souvenir inside the shop – there were so many beautiful African pieces we wanted to buy. Some of the African souvenirs came from the nearby Zulu village, therefore the locals were getting paid well for their work.
Service was exceptional from the moment we arrived to the lodge until we were on the plane back to Johannesburg. Any questions and concerns we had were always answered by a staff member or a manager. At least 85% off the staff at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge were from the nearby Zulu village, including our butler, Mo and our ranger, Bethuel. Regardless if it was Mo, or our favorite manager, Will, we made some great relationships with a lot of staff members who took great care of us – like we said, AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge is like our extended family.
Every time we arrived back to the lodge from our safari game drives we were greeted by the staff with warm towels and refreshments. In the morning they would serve fresh orange or kiwi juice and in the evenings they would serve hot chocolate or spiced hot wine.
AndBeyond certainly went beyond with their service. We were welcomed with a letter and a surprise anniversary platter of fresh fruit. When Adam got sick, the staff took great care in helping him get better by providing him with complimentary medicine and making sure he was feeling better the next day. When we came back from one of our game drives, we found our bathroom was candlelit and a hot bath was drawn with some bubbles. Every detail made a difference to provide us with the best hospitality we could have imagined.
Every guest in a suite or cottage is assigned a butler. We had Mo during our visit and he took care of us for anything we needed during our stay, including our meals. Mo delivered excellent service with a bright smile everyday. We could not have asked for a better butler.
The housekeeping team did a phenomenal job! Laundry is a complimentary amenity at Phinda Mountain Lodge and the housekeeping team took great care of our delicate clothes. Every day when we returned to our room, our laundry was neatly folded in a basket with a sweet letter.
The dining options at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge were endless! During our four nights at the lodge we dined at the pool, the verandah, in our room, at the boma, the dining room, and the bush! The kitchen staff did an excellent job preparing delicious, authentic South African cuisine for every meal. Food and drinks are included in the rate, so guests can eat till their hearts are content.
It is true what they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge! Every morning there would be an array of breakfast foods and drinks at the center table inside the dining room. Muffins, yogurt, cereal grains, smoked salmon and more would be placed around the table for breakfast starters.
There was an amazing alcohol set up for bloody marys and mimosas, as well as fresh pineapple, carrot and orange juices.
Then guests would choose their main hot entree from the menu.
Lunch was served as a buffet style inside the dining room at the center table. Every afternoon there would be a selection of cold salads, roasted beef, a quiche of the day, a hot dish of vegetables, a pie of the day and more.
Lunch by the Pool
AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge arranged a beautiful private lunch by the pool. Our butler, Mo, would bring us an array of all the food options that were being served in the dining room to our table in small portions. We had everything we needed – great views with great food.
In our four nights at the lodge, we never ate dinner at the same place. Our first night was inside the dinning room, then we ate the boma, followed by a private dinner in our suite, and lastly we had a bush dinner! AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge goes above and beyond when it comes to dinner, they give you a true African dining experience that you will never forget – we certainly will not!
The dining room would turn into a quiet romantic evening with dimly lit lanterns on every table. For our three-course dinner we enjoyed a vegetable soup for an appetizer, prawns with a lemon and herb sauce and a puff pastry tart with cherries and ice cream for dessert.
A Boma dinner is a traditional African outdoor dining experience in an enclosed area where guests dine under the stars. The dinner is typically a buffet including barbecue meat and vegetables. Several tables were set up for the guests to enjoy dinner with their rangers and trackers – we were eating with family. The food was fantastic, but the company was even better. Dining as a team discussing all the amazing animal sightings from our entire day under the stars was the perfect way to end a perfect day.
AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge arranged a private dinner for us to help celebrate our two year wedding anniversary. We enjoyed a beautiful roasted butternut squash soup and sweet corn fritters for appetizers. For our entrees Adam had a mushroom risotto, which was heavenly, while I had a seared ostrich loin for the first time. It was so tender and amazing! And who could forget dessert? Two slices of bitter chocolate torte with caramel ice cream.
We were finishing our afternoon game drive when we saw candlelights in the distance. AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge surprised all the guests with a bush dinner. Yes, we were dining not just under the stars, but possibly surrounded by wild animals. It was incredible how the staff created a restaurant with a full bar, kitchen, wash room and dining room in the middle of the bush, “game reserve”. A fire pit was near the bar with lounge chairs where everyone enjoyed a few glasses of wine before dinner. Even though we were surrounded by people, it still felt so romantic with all the lanterns lit and the fire going. This was not only our last dinner at the lodge, but also one of the best dining experiences ever and one we will remember forever.
We never expected our safari game drives to be so luxurious. We had some cold weather during our visit, so AndBeyond provided blankets and ponchos for everyone. We also enjoyed five star hospitality on our safari breaks. Our tracker, Bethuel and our ranger, Brenden, would set up a beautiful array of hot cocoa, tea, coffee, cookies, coffee bread and more for our morning drives. During our night drives, we were provided with every alcoholic beverage you could think of, along with delicious chips and dip, corn nuts, dried fruit and more. To read more about our luxury safari experiences, click here.
Phinda Private Game Reserve is at least 74,000 acres, has the Big Five and around 30 cheetahs, our favorite animal. On our first game drive we found a pride of lions with two cubs and five female lions! The same evening we were alone with a leopard at night! The next morning we found two brother cheetahs and were able to enjoy them all to ourselves. It only took us three game drives to see all three big cats! In addition to the big cats we saw plenty of elephant, rhino, buffalo, giraffe, zebra and more.
Also included in our daily rate were bush walks. One afternoon, Brenden took us out to the bush to find animals tracks in the road. We were successful in finding several different animal tracks, as well as elephant bones!
AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Range offers a full day of activities included in the daily rate, but for those seeking more adventure, there are more activities that can be added to a guests visit. To name a few:
- Sleeping under the African stars
- Professional safari photography
- Tracking black rhino on foot
- Ocean safari in the Indian Ocean
- Zulu village tour
We can say without a doubt that every penny is worth a visit to AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge. All of our expectations were surpassed! Here are the current rates for the suite in 2018, the rates are per person, per night.
Included in the daily rate:
- Two safari game drives
- Three meals daily
- Beverages – soft drinks, coffee, tea, house wine, local brand spirits and beers
- Refreshments and meals on safari breaks
- One hour bush walks with a ranger
- Transfers to and from Phinda landstrip
- Emergency medical evacuation insurance
Christina + Adam