Phinda Private Game Reserve

Phinda combines a truly unique wilderness with exceptional wildlife encounters. The reserve offers Big Five game viewing safaris in breathtaking nature in northeastern South Africa. It is one of the finest places to enjoy a luxury safari in South Africa outside the Kruger National Park and the private reserves with which it shares unfenced boundaries.

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The Phinda Private Game Reserve is on the unspoiled northern coastline of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. The natural beauty of Phinda is breathtaking. The reserve has seven distinct habitats, sometimes called "seven worlds of wonder."

Phinda has everything from unblemished beaches to marshland, woodland, grassland, and forest. The extraordinary dry sand forest here is home to the red duiker and suni. It also hosts the largest privately-owned nyala population in the world. The reserve occupies 23 000 hectares of some of the most spectacular natural beauty in the country and offers a perfect bush and beach adventure. Visitors can only see elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, whale sharks, and dolphins in one day at Phinda.

230 km²
Bird Species

Tours and Safaris that visit Phinda

10 Days From: ZAR 69,270 pp Luxury Code: H07

Romantic experiences in the wilderness and shores of South Africa make this honeymoon package of a week and a half the ideal couples getaway.

7 Days From: ZAR 69,270 pp Luxury Code: H16

This safari combines Big Five game viewing at Phinda with a beach vacation in southern Mozambique - a tropical paradise on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

7 Days From: ZAR 69,270 pp Luxury Code: S14

Two of South Africa's finest safari areas and luxurious lodges in each area make the Kruger and Zululand package an opulent game-viewing adventure second to none.

Safari Lodges at Phinda

Four lodges and two luxurious single-use facilities provide safari accommodation at Phinda.

Phinda Forest Lodge

Forest Lodge is an intimate glass-fronted lodge that allows a unique immersion into the surrounding sand forest, where red duiker and nyala can often traverse.

Phinda Rock Lodge

Rock Lodge is built on the edge of an escarpment with beautiful views of the surrounding bush. It is small and intimate, with only six rooms providing luxury safari accommodations.

Phinda Vlei Lodge

Vlei lodge overlooks a unique wetland system at the edge of a Sand Forest. The lodge is small and intimate, with every luxury imaginable, making an oasis in this wilderness.

Phinda Mountain Lodge

Mountain lodge caters to families visiting the reserve. It overlooks the foothills of the Lebombo mountains from atop one of the hills in this private reserve.

Phinda Homestead

Homestead is an exclusive-use villa that provides luxurious accommodations and an intimate safari experience. It is the perfect high-end getaway in the wilderness of Africa.

Reasons to Visit Phinda


Sand Forest

Millions of years ago, the sea was further inland, reaching the area now referred to as Africa's sand forest. This rare terrain and the unique ecosystem formed on the dunes is a refuge for various animals, including the black rhino. Guests to the reserve can even stay in the sand forest region at Phinda Forest Lodge.


Ocean Access

Phinda is located in the wetlands region of the South African east coast, and ocean adventures are easily accessible from the reserve at the nearby Sodwana Bay. Guests can visit the bay to go diving, snorkeling, and fishing. The area is widely renowned for its diving spots, such as Seven Mile.


A Wide Selection

The reserve encompasses seven distinct ecosystems, which have created many different habitats attracting a wide diversity of animals. It includes the Big Five and a significant number of antelope species. Combined with a tropical climate and mild weather conditions, guests can visit these ecosystems at any time.

Experiences to Savor

The experiences guests relish most are often the small things like watching the tiny red duiker dash about in the undergrowth of a sand forest and savoring each lodge's unique location.

Rhino Footprints

You have the fantastic opportunity to track black rhinoceros on a guided bush walk. The bushveld seems to go strangely quiet, and you can hear your heart beating in your head, and then suddenly, you freeze as you observe the majestic creature in its natural habitat.

Water-based Game Viewing

Canoe and boating safaris are available on the Mzinene River – a great way to view birdlife, crocodiles, and hippopotamuses in their natural environment. Traveling down the river as the sun sets is also exceptionally beautiful.

Lodge Locations

Each of the lodges at Phinda was designed for the best aesthetic and most comfortable experience possible. Glass lodges in the forest, stilted suites on the wetlands, and the rock lodge built into the cliffs, for example, cater to every preference.


Is it easy to get to the beach from Phinda?
Yes, Sodwana Bay on the coast is easily accessible.
Why is it often referred to as the "Seven Worlds of Wonder"?
It is because of the seven distinct ecosystems on the reserve.
What type of activities can we partake in by the coast?
There is scuba diving, fishing, and even turtle watching.
What will we see when going scuba diving?
Plenty of fish and spectacular coral reefs are seen when diving in the Indian Ocean.
Are there swimming facilities?
There are lodges on the reserve that have swimming pools available.
Are there game drives?
Yes, two game drives daily are standard inclusions at the lodges.
Can we take a cruise on the river?
Yes, Phinda is one of a handful of reserves in South Africa that offers water-based safari activities.

Useful Travel Info

Getting There

By Air

If you are traveling directly to Phinda, you will be welcomed at OR Tambo International in Johannesburg and assisted with transferring to Richard's Bay Airport, less than two hours from the reserve. The option also exists to take a charter flight directly to the reserve, which has an airstrip.

By Road

The reserve is approximately 135km from Richard's Bay Airport. Guests will be transported from the airport in a private, air-conditioned vehicle by an experienced guide along the sugarcane plantations and the tropical surrounds of the KwaZulu-Natal north coast. The two-hour scenic drive is a great way to familiarize yourself with the area.

Weather & Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit depends on your safari preferences. The reserve is in a malaria zone, and the risk is always higher in the wet summer months while being almost non-existent in the dry winters. It is also easiest to spot wildlife during the winter as the vegetation thins and the animals stay close to water sources.

In summer, the rains transform the area into a lush green African bush, and new-born animals are everywhere. It is also the best time for birding, as the migratory birds from the northern hemisphere make their annual return to the south. The summers can also become very humid as the pressure builds before the rains.


Phinda was established when Trevor Coppen, a property and timeshare developer, drove from Durban to the little village of Mbazwana through southern Maputaland. The area was, at that time, dotted with cattle, pineapples, cotton, and hunting farms. Coppen believed he could restore the region to its original, natural state and transform it into a conservation area. He gradually enlarged the area by buying up adjoining farms and taking down fences 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. One hundred twenty 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 relocating buffaloes onto private land.


With an estimated 400 species of bird, Phinda Private Game Reserve is a bird watcher's paradise. Because of the different habitats, a large diversity of birds can be seen in the reserve. On the river and surrounding wetlands, you may encounter waterbirds of every description, fishing and snacking in their preferred habitat.

Leopards occur at Phinda, as do lions, elephants, white rhinos, black rhinos, buffalo, crocodiles, and hippos. The lion population is unique because prides were artificially "constructed " using a sedation technique; the lions were socialized until they had accepted one another - and were released into the wild.

Visitors can view sea turtles laying eggs on the beach before returning to the ocean again.

Vegetation & Terrain

Phinda in northern KwaZulu-Natal consists of 23 000 hectares of prime natural surroundings with seven distinct habitats. 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 St Lucia Wetland Park and the Mkuze Game Reserve, Phinda protects an area of unique ecology. The unusual sand forest is a relic of dune forests separated from the ocean as the shoreline eroded over millennia. Climatic changes caused dune shifts, and the sand forest was born as the coastline tempered. The sand forest habitat at Phinda is home to many shyer animals, such as the red duiker and the rare suni. The wetlands habitat (also known as vlei-lands) is a natural water filter; it plays an essential role in the sustainability of the entire ecosystem. Populated by a plethora of birdlife, the wetlands of Phinda attract various 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 large game species such as elephants, rhinos, and lions.


Imagine an African safari at the beach. It is usual for guests at Phinda to view lions, rhinos, elephants, and dolphins on the same day. In the wildlife section of the park, guests can experience game viewing in open-air 4x4 vehicles or through interpretive bush walks led by armed expert game rangers.

Various beach activities are also available, and avid scuba divers can arrange to visit some of the world-renowned Sodwana Bay diving sites. You can explore the park from the skies in a helicopter or hot air balloon, which makes spotting larger animals, such as the elephant or even whales, possible from a great distance while savoring ever-changing landscapes.

Visitors can immerse themselves in the culture of the Zulu communities that reside in the area by visiting traditional homes and meeting some of the locals. Phinda is an excellent place for stargazing; some lodges even offer an entire night spent under the stars (don't worry - an armed ranger will keep a lookout while you sleep).

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