Home in the bush

January 6, 2014 in SOUTH AFRICA | Comments (9)

Vlei Lodge

Picture 1 of 24

Our private pool to share with the animals

AndBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve has six intimate Lodges, each very different, making the most of the variety in natural vegetation and topograpy. We stayed in three Lodges and enjoyed three very different experiences. From high on a hill at Mountain Lodge in southern Phinda, to Forest Lodge hidden under the canopy of Sand Forest, to the ultimate luxury of a cottage at six roomed Vlei Lodge, with its views of herds of animals from our private pool. Though Vlei was definitely our favourite I can recommend moving just to get the different moods and different eco zones – to the tune of at least 2 nights at Vlei following 2 nights elsewhere.

Click through the gallery at the top to see more pictures of Vlei Lodge…

Mountain Lodge

Mountain Lodge lies in southern Phinda in an area of tall hills and thick acacia veld or savannah. We had room/suite (chalet) number 12, the one most loved at Phinda Mountain Lodge, as it faces the most stunning views.

The chalets are very chic with thick clean golden thatch as roof and ceiling, a spacious lounge area, lovely bathroom with long double vanities, Feng shui bath in the centre with morning views over green hills, and two showers, one out there on the extensive deck. Stepping outside on our first sunny day in South Africa, we saw the joy of golden sun spread over the green early morning hills, and play on the surface of our plunge pool.

There are 25 chalets at Mountain Lodge which means 50 guests. The public areas are placed way up for the views, and the pool is a perfect place to be if you didn’t have your own pool too. It also has a conference centre.

Click through the gallery at the top to see more pictures of Mountain Lodge…

Forest Lodge

Here at this somehow simpler but very special camp, there are 16 glass walled chalets deep in the sand forest, way under the canopy. You meander down past the tall trunks and curving branches in the leaf filtered light over a sand path, in meditational quietness to get to your room. Built on stilts over the sand, the chalets can be relocated easily to spare this precious rare coastal rainforest that remains thanks to conservation efforts.

forest lodge view out

People who live in glass houses, have the dreamiest views

In the room you see all around you into the forest underworld. We saw red duiker through our glass walls and heard the cry of bush babies and red chested cuckoos the locals call Piet Mij Vrouw. Like the European cuckoo it repeats itself, in this case saying piet mij vrouw or Whip Poor Will.

The veranda has a sofa and 3 large candles as well as a complimentary minibar to go with the all inclusive. This is a magical place to recline and let the sounds of the night enchant you. The chance of a leopard slinking by is not non existent. One was seen in the camp the next night when we had moved on to Vlei Lodge. My daughter who lay there for hours wished she had seen it.

At night they draw the curtains for you, for a sense of privacy in your glass house, though each glass cabin stands hidden in the bush reached by a side path. Come morning, you cannot wait to see out into the secrets of the forest milieu. One way to enjoy the view is standing in the shower. The door open wide… and from the bath too you have forest views.

The public area areas at Forest Lodge are charming. Wooden platorms with sofas and dining tables, overlooking parkland.

The hands on of management was remarkable: we felt we were just 2 there, not 32. The head chef Stuart met us to discuss our special needs with happy enjoyment at the challenge and Phindas organic garden and juice machine came into good employ.
The boma, a typical feature of any self respecting game lodge, does need good weather. And we were so lucky that the rain had cleared that day, allowing us to dine there in the light of fires, with the caterwauling of bush babies, and the flicker of warm light.
No private plunge pools at Forest Lodge but a very attractive round common pool – quite deserted actually. You are either on safari, eating or sleeping – very little time to swim. And no wifi in the rooms.

Click through the gallery at the top to see more pictures of Forest Lodge…

Vlei Lodge

We loved all the lodges. But exclusive six room Vlei Lodge is undoubtedly our favourite, certainly a place of bliss if you stay in chalet number 6.
In the cooler hours nyala, impala, warthogs and more come right in to graze off the acacias or the grass on the open area. This is safari as you dream of…if you prefer serenity to activity, floating in your jewel of a pool, lying on your sunbed, and seeing these animals in their wild freedom. You can even view them from your net draped bed through the wide glass doors, or from the shower or the feng shui bath tub.
In the heat of day they move off into the shadows under the trees, but now is a time to catch up on your wifi or just catch up on your sleep after all the hectic game watching by 4WD. I suggest you will cry your eyes out if you don’t book at least 3 nights here, or 2 here and 2 at another lodge. A problem Is that people seldom leave enough time to enjoy their gorgeous accommodation properly at the Select game reserves.

The head chef at Vlei  is aptly called Happiness and was very typically happy  to get personal instructions from Stuart at Forest Lodge, regarding how to create delicious fare even for vegetarians and vegans. We were so touched at this caring invovlement by Stuart in a special visit to instruct Happiness. And we enjoyed also the greeting at the gate by British manager Sara. Generally the hands on feel at Vlei and Forest lodges is wonderful, warm, silken…

Click through the gallery at the top to see more pictures of Vlei Lodge…

Sole use lodges

Zuka is nestled into a parkland area, oh so colonially thatched and spreading with old style verandas under cover. With only 4 bedrooms, it is the most delightful place to rent if you have an extended family, along with your own safari vehicle, ranger, tracker, cook and butler. If you occupy 3 bedrooms they do not wedge in another couple, but leave the bedroom empty. Six is a good number as you will all fit on the safari vehicle together. The modern feature is an open kitchen – but you don’t have to work in it as you have your private chef to watch at work instead.

Homestead is a manor house also perfect for sole use – the one we missed seeing due to the elephant visitor.
A site inspection was scheduled for around noon. But when we met our ranger on the deck at Forest Lodge he told us the hot news.
An elephant bull in musk had ‘trashed’ Homestead. He put his tusks through the windows, threw a chair and attacked the planks of the deck. Our tracker suggested that he had seen his own reflection in the windows and thought it was competition for the cows he was desiring. Now no guests were to approach the area…hence our site inspection was cancelled.
The bull had escaped from neighbouring Mkuze game reserve and made its way into Phinda. The last we heard of him was that he had come upon the big herd of Phinda elephants and was traipsing along behind them, hoping to get a lookin at some of the cows. Nick told us they were waiting hoping that Mkuze would come to fetch him (no easy task).

 

Rock Lodge is on a clifftop with sight of birds wheeling. Also exclusive with only 6 self standing suites.


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