Renowned safari journalist and expert Lisa Grainger recommends her favourite African camps, from savannahs teeming with Big Five, to star-lit desert wildernesses.
Recommended place to stay:
Phinda Rock Lodge
Phinda Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa|www.andbeyond.com|
Official star rating:
The Getty-financed Phinda, featuring four camps spread over 23,000 private hectares of the Phinda Private Game Reserve boasts not only the Big Seven – but whales too along the coast.
There are seven ‘biomes’ on the property, so the vegetation – and thus the creatures – are extremely varied. Great for a first safari, to see all the game.
Rock Lodge is the smallest and most intimate, offering a chance to see both conservation and community in action, as well as go on a slickly-run safari. It’s a small, intimate, and cosy cliff-top camp.
Architecture is more Mexican than African, but when you’re on the cliffside, looking from the balcony, it doesn’t matter. The views are gorgeous.
Rooms are spacious, comfortable and have all the basics, including a private balcony with plunge pool and outdoor showers which offer one of the best bathroom views anywhere.
Game & game viewing
All the Big Five are here (both black and white rhino) plus a highly varied mix of other species, from cheetah on the plains to forest birds and monkeys in the wetlands.
Phinda is a short drive from the KwaZulu-Natal coast, where whales come to breed and whale sharks are spotted. The snorkelling and diving is spectacular, too.
The beaches near Phinda are wild and unspoilt and the lodge will pack a picnic, umbrella and deckchairs for a day’s outing. A local stables can arrange riding expeditions, and there’s a river cruise in the nearby wetlands to see wetland birdlife.
Guides & guiding
Guiding is varied, but generally good. It is known for employing young keen guides starting their careers, as well as super-experienced experts – male and female.
Local community & conservation
Conservation and community initiatives are extremely important at Phinda; the camp was built with community help, employs most staff from nearby villages and leases the reserve from Zulu people. Part of the profits is directed into the Africa Foundation, to help needy communities.
Taking the kids
No children are allowed in this camp – families should instead opt for the sole-use Phinda Homestead.
Phinda Rock Lodge is reached by a plane to Richards Bay or Durban airport, then a short charter flight or a two-hour drive to camp. They welcome children over 12.
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Food & drink
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