Phinda Private Game Reserve combines a truly unique wilderness with luxurious finery.

Phinda Private Game Reserve

The Phinda Private Game Reserve is situated on the unspoiled northern coastline of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. The natural beauty of Phinda is breathtaking. There are seven distinct habitats in the reserve, sometimes referred to as “seven worlds of wonder”. Phinda has everything from unblemished beaches to marshland, woodland, grassland and forest. The very special dry sand forest is home to the red duiker and suni. Phinda also hosts the largest privately-owned nyala population in the world. The reserve takes up 23 000 hectares of some of the most spectacular natural beauty in the country and offers a perfect bush and beach adventure. Only here can a visitor see elephant, rhino, cheetahs, whale sharks and dolphins in one day.

Destination Map

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Private Game Reserve
Private Lodge


Phinda (which translates to 'back to the wild') offers seven distinct habitats with accommodations adapted to suit and blend into each environment. All the lodges have to perform eco-audits in order to achieve an ideal condition where they put back more than they take out. All Phinda's lodges offer luxurious five star accommodations with high levels of personal service and attention to detail. Similar safari activities are conducted from each of the lodges.

Phinda Forest Lodge >>
The private deck of a suite at Phinda Forest Lodge.

Forest Lodge hosts 16 suites that can accommodate up to 32 guests. It is child-friendly and offers internet access as well as child-minding services. The glass suites are built on stilts, creating the illusion that they are floating above the floor of the rare sand forest. All suites have a private veranda and personal bar.

Phinda Rock Lodge >>
A private plunge pool at Phinda Rock Lodge

Rock Lodge clings to the side of a rocky cliff overlooking the spectacular Leopard Rock. There are six suites to accommodate 12 guests. Because of the location, children are not permitted. All suites are en suite with a personal bar, plunge pool, private sitting area and deck. The main guest area has dramatic fire places and a shaded deck.


The Phinda Private Game Reserve was established when Trevor Coppen, a property and timeshare developer, was driving from Durban to the little village of Mbazwana through an area known as southern Maputaland. The area was, at that time, covered with farms for cattle, pineapples, cotton and hunting. Coppen had the idea that the area could be restored to its original, natural state and thus exist as a prime game reserve. Coppen began by investigating the area and decided that it could indeed be done. By buying up adjoining farms and taking down fences, he gradually enlarged the area until Phinda was born.

In February 1991, the Phinda Private Game Reserve was officially established. “Phinda” means "return to the wild", which is what eventually transpired on the reserve. 120 kilometers of fencing had to be erected and thousands of animals had to be re-introduced to the area. The buffalo quarantine protocols developed at Phinda have become accepted as the national protocol for relocation of buffalo onto private land.

Through Les Carlisle and his team, Phinda was the first reserve to use sedation techniques to socialize animals from different prides before releasing them into the wild. The reserve was also the first to transport sedated lions by air. Their techniques and protocols are today recognized as excellent examples of predator reintroductions. The elephant reintroduction techniques developed by Les and the Phinda team have revolutionized the way elephants are captured internationally.

Geography & Climate

The Phinda Private Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal consists of 23 000 hectares of prime natural surroundings with seven distinct habitats. The area is humid with summer rainfall and visitors are welcomed all year round. Phinda is a low-malaria area but it is still recommended that guests take precautions. The spectacular reefs and beaches nearby also offer visitors scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities. The warm water of the Indian Ocean is home to whale sharks and dolphins.

Located between the St Lucia Wetland Park and the Mkuze Game Reserve, Phinda offers unique experiences for the discerning traveler. The unusual sand forest is thought to be a relic of dune forests that have been separated from the ocean as the shoreline eroded over millennia. Climatic changes caused dune shifts and, as the shoreline tempered, the sand forest became a habitat on its own. The sand forest habitat in Phinda is home to many of the shyer animals such as red duiker and the rare suni.

The wetlands habitat (also known as vlei-lands) is nature’s water filter and plays an important role in the sustainability of the entire eco-system. Populated by a plethora of birdlife, the wetlands of Phinda attract a variety of animals in search of water and food. The savanna habitat is an expanse of grass interspersed with clumps of trees. It is here where visitors will find the bigger game species such as elephant, rhino and lion. Savanna covers about two thirds of South Africa and is the most common terrain type to be found in Phinda.

Mammals & Birds

With an estimated 400 species of bird, Phinda Private Game Reserve is a bird watchers’ paradise and, because of the different habitats, a large diversity of birds can be seen in the reserve. On the river and surrounding wetlands, one can encounter water birds of every description, fishing and snacking in their preferred habitat.

When Phinda was being stocked with game, cheetahs were re-introduced to the area after an absence of 50 years. Today Phinda has a healthy cheetah population which is the subject of an on-going research project focused on their habits and family units.

The shy leopard also makes his home within the Phinda reserve, as do lion, elephant, white rhino, black rhino, buffalo, crocodile and hippo. The lion population is unique in that prides were artificially “constructed”. By using a sedation technique, the lions were socialized until they had accepted one another and were then released into the wild.

Visitors may also view sea turtles laying their eggs on the land before disappearing into the ocean again. This magnificent spectacle can only be experienced by a very select group, as the turtles and their eggs regularly fall prey to the unscrupulous or uninformed. By visiting Phinda, a guest can become one of the chosen few.

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