Established in 1991, this eco-award-winning flagship &Beyond (formerly CCAfrica) reserve is a heartening example of tourism serving the environment with panache. Phinda (pin-duh) is Zulu for "return," referring to the restoration of 54,360 acres of overgrazed ranchland in northern Zululand to bushveld. It's a triumph. You may find it impossible to believe the area wasn't always the thick bush you see all around you. The Big Five have established themselves
firmly, and Phinda can claim a stunning variety of five different ecosystems: sand forest (which grows on the fossil dunes of an earlier coastline), savanna, bushveld, open woodland, and verdant wetlands.
Phinda can deliver the Big Five, although not as consistently or in such numbers as most lodges in Mpumalanga. Buffalo, leopards, lions, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, elephants, white rhinos, hippos, giraffes, impalas, and the rare, elusive, tiny Suni antelope are all here, and rangers provide exciting interpretive game drives for guests. Birdlife is prolific and extraordinary, with some special Zululand finds: the pink-throated twin spot, the crested guinea fowl, the African broadbill, and the crowned eagle. Where Phinda also excels is in the superb quality of its rangers, who can provide fascinating commentary on everything from local birds to frogs. It's amazing just how enthralling the love life of a dung beetle can be! There are also Phinda adventures (optional extras) down the Mzinene River for a close-up look at crocodiles, hippos, and birds; big-game fishing or scuba diving off the deserted, wildly beautiful Maputaland coast; and sightseeing flights over Phinda and the highest vegetated dunes in the world.
KwaZulu-Natal Parks, South Africa