#SheTravels South African Safari

October 17, 2022

It was March 2020 when our trip to Botswana was abruptly cancelled due to the march of COVID across the world. Thankfully we have always booked with And Beyond travel and they kindly kept our credit going through the dark years. When it was suggested that I accompany my husband on a recent trip to South Africa, I jumped at the chance to visit what I consider to be one of the most exciting and scenic places in the world. It is a place of contrasts, great beauty, wonderful produce and the most amazing variety of animals you could ever see. We were headed to And Beyond’s Phinda Mountain Lodge after a brief stop in Irene Lodge, Johannesburg.


Irene Lodge is a beautiful sprawling hotel with a lake filled with bird life and lovely walking tracks to stretch your legs after a long flight. It boasts a gym, spa, pools, library and lovely restaurants and bars. Many conferences are held here. The staff are wonderful and meals are amazing. One of my favourite parts is watching the beautiful African sunsets from the deck or outside my room. We were lucky enough to get one of my favourite rooms facing the lake. Irene Lodge is also attached to a working farm. We visited this beautiful spot on the weekend and it was heaving with families picnicking , relaxing , playing in the playgrounds and on old tractors and visiting the restaurants. It is truly a beautiful place.

Getting to Phinda

But lovely as our stay at Irene was we were keen for the main event, going on safari at Phinda Mountain Lodge. We boarded a little twelve seater plane and took off for our one and a half hour flight to Phinda. As we reached the runway we could see elephants, a giraffe and warthogs. We had nearly touched down when an unstable wind gust rocked the plane and up we went to try again. The adventure had begun. 

Phinda Mountain Lodge

We were greeted by some of the rangers and even as they drove us to the lodge we saw plenty of impala, zebras and comical warthogs. We had stayed here once before in 2017 and it has been upgraded since and is all the better for it. We loved the new infinity pool and the extended deck plus the new fresh design colours of teal and beige. There is a state of the art gym, spa and all rooms have been refreshed.

We were warmly welcomed by the staff, some of whom we remembered. Each day you are greeted with a lovely juice… think beetroot, ginger and pear. The lovely staff cannot do enough for you. You have your own butler who looks after your every need and although the days are long , it is truly one of the best experiences you can ever have.

We arrived to a sumptuous lunch feast prepared by chef Kelly and the team. Last time we were here lunch was buffet style, which is really not my cup of tea. Kelly’s menus were fresh, delicious and inventive. We always had a choice of three salads or soup for entrée, three delicious mains and two desserts.The best thing was you could have as much or as little as you liked. Rooms are luxurious with huge comfy beds, stand alone inviting baths, plunge pools, indoor and outdoor showers and a spacious deck and living room area. There is also a free laundry service included and unlimited mini bar offerings.They truly cater for everyone.

Game Drive Day One

After lunch we headed out on our first game drive. Our wonderful ranger, Ayanda and knowledgeable guide, Sizwe, ensured our sightings were tailored to what we wanted to see but to also accommodate any cool sightings along the way. The first animals we saw were elephants and I was very happy. Last time we were here we didn’t see any. This time they were plentiful, with young males playing by the waterholes and beautiful herds with the cutest babies crossing the road. They were so happy in this environment!

We called this day the day of threes . We spied three zebras, three water buffalo and three young male giraffes playing together, before stumbling upon a mother cheetah with her two baby girl cubs. The baby girls were play-fighting and nearly ended up jumping into our truck. Cue a very deep breath from us all. The cheetah cubs were learning to stalk impala and it was amazing to watch these sleek animals as they hunted their prey. Luckily for me the impala spotted them. I have never seen a kill and nor do I want to.

On the way home we saw a Mama hippo and her two babies lolling by the side of the waterhole. I’ve never seen these lumbering creatures out of the water before. One more thing to tick off the bucket list. We stopped for drinks and peppered our guides with questions before heading for home. Here we enjoyed a sumptuous dinner feast before falling exhausted into bed. But we weren’t asleep for long …

Day Two

Each day your ranger wakes you at 5:30 am and everyone meets at the main lodge for coffee and a chat before beginning the game drive for the day. The animals are waking up too and you get to see the sunrise. With the jet lag and the excitement we were never too tired and always woke at around 4: 50, so were always ready and waiting when our guide rang. It’s an exciting way to start the day.

More beautiful elephants greeted us on Day Two before we saw zebras, wildebeest and a couple of lions who’d been mating but were now resting under the thorn trees. Our guide Sizwe bravely went on foot to find them. The male had been munching on a wildebeest so was luckily quite full. No matter how many times I go on a safari every experience is different. Drinks breaks for coffee, my favourite African treat – crunchies or a Mocha Chocca Amarula gives you time to share your sightings with rangers and friends.

Heading back to camp we enjoyed a delicious breakfast. There are about six different options and also a buffet with fruit, pastries, juice and mimosas. My favourite was the eggs benny which sat atop a bed of mushrooms and spinach. I am missing that beautiful breakfast already!

In the middle of the day time is your own. You can visit the spa, laze by the pool, read, enjoy the decadent bathtub or cool off in the plunge pool in your room. Conference groups use this time to meet in the purpose built meeting room. If you are energetic you can hit the gym. Monkeys, nyala and impala roam the camp during the day, so you never know who you’ll come upon as you walk out your door.

In the afternoon you meet for delicious cakes and coffee before heading out again. We were lucky enough to find a herd of elephants and a big male lion who was lolling quite close to the lodge. It’s easy to see why you are encouraged not to walk on your own at night.

Day Three

It had rained the night before and as we headed out I knew we were in for some awesome sights as the animals love to congregate at the waterholes after the rain. There is an air of frivolity and freshness. We first saw a huge herd of water buffalo frolicking by a full waterhole. I was excited to see they had lots of little babies.

Next were two rhinos and as we were getting closer we spied another tiny baby rhino. Our lucky number three was at it again. She was about the size of a warthog. Even the rangers were surprised and excited. Babies this small are usually hidden away and they had never seen one that tiny before. It truly was the cutest thing I ever did see.

After breakfast a few of us were brave enough to head into the bush for a nature walk to learn about some of the smaller plants and animals. It was great to stretch our legs… but you felt very alert the whole time. Luckily for me the only bigger animals we saw were warthogs who watched us curiously before running away. I learnt so much about the plant, animal tracks and smaller animals of the bush.

Later back on the truck we found some pretty herds of impala and more cheeky warthogs. I love watching them trotting jauntily away. Soon our guides began tracking leopard. They knew the general area… but these big felines can prove elusive. We managed to find a beautiful one on the afternoon game drive, a female, whose cubs were hidden away in the den. She was unfazed by the truck as she’d been born in the park and knew we meant her no harm. I love the leopards. They are one of the most beautiful animals you can see on safari.

We next spied a gorgeous big elephant and then a large rhino grazing by the airstrip. He chased one of the trucks as it started up. On the way home massive crocodiles were basking on the banks of the waterhole. Scary stuff!

Stopping for drinks we enjoyed a special wine and chocolate tasting. The staff are always surprising you with special treats. It was great fun hearing stories from my friend who’d taken her children to tour the local schools, shops, markets and to meet the medicine woman.

Dinner was a very special BOMA meal, kind of like a bush barbecue, where guests meet in the open air in an area surrounded by grass reed walls. Here guests can feast on local barbecued meats and vegetables whilst telling stories of their day. The rangers and staff join in. It’s a happy, party atmosphere. I always love a BOMA dinner.

Day Four

In the morning we were on the hunt for black rhino but instead we found a gorgeous male cheetah, two majestic maned male lions, more big white rhinos and elephants. It was a special day of tracking in a different part of the park.

We knew that on the last night was a Bush Dinner, but we had decided to use the beautiful facilities in our room and the lodge. We lazed by the pool in the afternoon and the staff set up a beautiful romantic dinner for us on the deck which was decorated with candles and lanterns. It was magical watching the sunset and sharing some time together.The dinner was delicious too and I would recommend this option for most couples during a safari trip. The others who went on the afternoon game drive did find that black rhino, but I loved our special afternoon. I had seen a black rhino last time we were at Phinda and it was a pretty scary experience.

The next day was our flight to Stellenbosch and even as we drove to the airfield we caught a glimpse of a curious jackal, more hippos lazing by the waterhole, a crocodile, warthogs and plenty of impala and nyala. It always feels hard to say goodbye on safari as the staff treat you like family during your stay. And Beyond prides themselves on their loyalty to guests, land, wildlife and community. Their ethos embraces ethical conservation and community work and it shows.

I can’t think of a better way to experience Africa than a safari and there are so many to choose from. Yes, you mostly eat, drink and go on game drives but it will honestly be the holiday of your lifetime. You can see why we visit again and again. South Africa is open for business and Phinda Mountain Lodge knows how to go above and beyond! What are you waiting for?

Thanks to my talented friend, Belinda, for sharing some of her amazing photos. Next week at SheSociety I share my visit to beautiful Stellenbosch.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.