Phinda Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal

&Beyond Phinda Vlei Lodge


Secluded hideaway on the edge of a sand forest

Make yourself at home in this elegant safari lodge, surrounded by Phinda Private Game Reserve’s wildlife-rich wetland system and rare sand forest.

&Beyond Phinda Vlei Lodge includes six thatched suites with subtle North and West African and Balinese touches in the décor. Your spacious suite boasts an en-suite bathroom, dressing room, plunge pool and game viewing deck which looks out over a meadow where herds of zebras and antelopes can often be spotted grazing.

Warm up in front of an open fireplace in the guest sitting area on a chilly evening, or cool down in a large private lap pool surrounded by the sounds of the local bird life on a warm afternoon.

Take a table on an outdoor deck or enjoy the lodge’s innovative cuisine in a more romantic bush setting.


At a glance

  • Six suites with private plunge pools

  • Restaurant and private dining experiences

  • Bar and lounge

  • In-room wellness

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    Game drives

    Your professionally-trained guides will chat to you about your favourite wildlife and try to structure your morning and late afternoon game drives around that. Whether you head out tracking a particular animal or spend the time on fortuitous sightings, your guide will be able to share with you their knowledge of the plants and animals in the region. The reserve is known for its cheetahs and rare black rhinos. There are also several prides of lions.

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    Nature walks and big game viewing walks

    Join your ranger on an interpretive nature walk around the lodge. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the fascinating flora here, read animal tracks and see smaller wildlife up close. Engage all your senses as you try your hand at tracking, picking up on the nuances of every sound, scent and visual clue.

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    Additional cost activities

    Apart from game drives and walks, you might want to participate in some of the other activities on offer. Head out rhino tracking, or learn about turtle, elephant and pangolin conservation. You can also go on a scuba safari, visit the beach or experience an ocean safari. A Zulu village tour is a great way to learn about the local culture, and a sleepout is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Community & Culture

Care of the land, wildlife and people: the business model supporting this ambitious project was based on the principle that by harnessing international capital through low-impact, high-yield tourism, conservation can provide economic viability while also generating meaningful benefits for neighbouring rural communities.

There are several community-led initiatives, in collaboration with Africa Foundation, which focus on education, healthcare and small business development running for those who live in communities around the reserve. The tertiary bursary programme Community Leader’s Education Fund supports promising local students and 373 bursaries have been granted since 2019.

Artisans and crafters can also participate in a three-year skills development programme with Africa Foundation’s Artisans and Crafter job creation initiative. The foundation also offers an ECHO education programme that focuses on conservation and environmental engagement.


&Beyond was launched with the creation of Phinda Private Game Reserve in 1991. The original 13,076 hectares (32,311 acres) selected was identified as key conservation land. Wildlife had originally occurred here, but for almost a century this area had been dominated by pineapple, cattle, sisal and game farms, and was severely overgrazed and degraded. The founding vision was to rehabilitate this depleted tract of land, and reintroduce all the large mammal species that had originally lived in this region.

Through relationships with the local communities and close affiliation with the Mun-Ya-Wana Conservancy (a collaboration of wildlife land owners in the surrounding KwaZulu-Natal region), Phinda has grown to 28,622 hectares (70,726 acres) of protected wilderness. Today, Phinda is not only a flagship property but it is also a proven impact case study that is widely regarded as one of the world’s most far-sighted and successful blueprints for international ecotourism.

The reserve forms part of the Mun-Ya-Wana Conservancy which is privately-owned by members of the local community and is actively managed by the Phinda conservation team. The rhino population here is considered to be globally important and there are a variety of measures in place to protect them, including the reversible strategy of dehorning them. Black and white rhinos have been monitored here since 2005. To date, 58 cheetahs have been translocated to reserves in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa to help supplement declining populations. The Pangolin Reintroduction Project is working on reintroducing Temminck’s ground pangolins to an area in which they haven’t been seen for decades. The information this project gathers will be vital to protecting one of the most trafficked animals in the world.


The lodge’s waste is recycled using a local waste management company and thanks to the reserve’s water bottling plants, almost 150,000 plastic bottles are eliminated every year. In addition, the property actively conserves water, with recycled grey water being used to replenish waterholes. In general, &Beyond has a set of group goals aimed towards reducing their carbon footprint. This is monitored through annual lodge audits.

What makes us different

Why Niarra

Niarra Travel is a forward-thinking travel company headquartered in London born out of a passion to do things differently.

In Swahili, a Bantu language spoken by millions in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, the name Niara means "with utmost purpose" and our team are united by a passion for exploration and a belief that the right kind of travel can make the world a better place.

Our Travel Researchers are here to create incredible trips with a positive impact for you.

  • Unforgettable experiences

    Creating your trip is entirely collaborative and our Travel Researchers are here for every step.

  • Positive impact

    Curated sustainable experiences and accommodation that maximize the benefits to local people and place.

  • Fairness and transparency

    An open, competitive pricing structure that ensures more money goes to where it's needed in the destination.

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