An honest review
Mountain Lodge in Phinda Private Game reserve would be our home for the duration. Unbeknownst to us, we had also accidentally booked a villa that was meant for 8 people #oops.
Like Ngala tented camp, Mountain Lodge is also an &beyond property. I must say, I haven't got any complaints about &beyond properties thus far (except for maybe the price, hurhur); in our 8 nights with &beyond I must say that service has been seamless and they did try their best to cater to our needs.
I didn’t take any photos of the property when I was there because I am an idiot. So I grabbed these off Phinda Mountain Lodge’s website. This is the living room which was adjoined by two rooms, which were then adjoined by another room each. Yes, you heard it. We were staying in a villa with 4 rooms and a living room. I’m not quite sure how this happened but yay. Our luggage had one room each and pa, ma and I squeezed into one room. Because, logic.
This was the room we stayed in, I squeezed in between Pa and Ma just to make sure that I will not have any more siblings.
Yay to baths!
The mountain lodge was definitely quite a nice place to stay in, as you can see from the photos. There were also surprise outdoor dinners where you could have dinner in the wilderness (every alternate day). If I’m not wrong there is also an option to sit outside with the wild animals so that you can truly be with you wild side yknowwhatimsaying.
We also had the benefit of a private vehicle that comes with a ranger and a guide. So it was just the three of us and two armed professionals against the world, yay! I’d really recommend spending on the private vehicle especially if you’re in South Africa for a special occasion. With a private vehicle, you can take your time and decide to spend more or less time with certain animals. You can also tell your ranger which animals you are interested in seeing and he will find said animals for you. Most importantly, you determine the hours for the game drives. Certainly, dawn and dusk are the best times but you can choose to stay out for a longer time (which I chose 100% of the time) because it’s essentially your schedule.
Here’s a photo of us that the camera took on self-timer mode. Thanks technology.
There was also a pool that we did use for contemplative reflection which my dad is pictured doing but not swimming because it was too cold.
The views from the lobby that we see every morning before heading out to our game drives at 6am. It looks amazing now but everything looks bleak and miserable at the ungodly hour of 6am.
There were also lots of wildlife that you could see on the property as well. Nyalas (a type of antelope) were present more often than not and they were SO cute.
I managed to snag this photo because ridiculously photogenic nyala here thought that I had food.
The game reserve itself was huge with 23000 hectares, which is 230 square km, which is about 1/3 Singapore. So, can you imagine Serangoon, Tampines, Changi, and Bedok overrun with wildlife? Yup.
Food was adequate. Fair warning though, on some occasions, game meat is served (think wildebeest).
I’d definitely recommend the mountain lodge on the basis that our ranger for the duration was just so, so, SO helpful. At that time, I only had a 150mm lens which is clearly not enough for wildlife photography. So he lent me his 400mm lens from his personal collection, FREE OF CHARGE. Service everywhere else could be improved, we were left standing at the restaurant entrance for 15 minutes before getting seated, but the amazing service from our ranger really allowed us to overlook that. If you’re interested in Phinda private game reserve but not in the mountain lodge, they do have other properties available in the area. I heard that elephants sometimes frolic around the pools in the rock lodge.
1, Go during the low season (May-July), prices would be significantly cheaper. It is likely to be temperate in South Africa (16 degs?), but it will be sunny which could heat things up a bit.
2, I would really recommend doing both a private game reserve and a national one (Phinda is a private one, Kruger is a national one). The reason being that a private game reserve is essentially a glorified zoo. Don’t get me wrong, the animals are still wild and WILL decapitate you if given the chance but they are highly accustomed to humans and there won’t be much thrill of the chase or anything like that. Groups of animals tend to be smaller, so the spectacle points might be taken off. However, the animals are used to vehicles and humans so are less likely to run away, you get to know a deeper backstory too since these animals have been here for a while.
3, In the winter (May-July/August), you are more likely to get better glimpses of the animals because all the trees have withered away and water is scarce. That makes watering holes a great place to camp out to see some game! In summer, you do get to see babies but there is more foliage which makes it more difficult to spot animals. Also, the rich white people would also be on vacation, driving up safari prices.