Set in a thriving private game reserve at the heart of Zululand in South Africa, Phinda Rock Lodge is a hotel on the edge of wilderness—a fact immediately apparent even before I landed. As our Airlink flight was making its final approach, I spotted a giraffe peering from the treeline and a herd of impalas skipping towards the bush. On the 15-minute drive to the hotel, I was greeted by a throng of zebras, nyalas, wildebeests and warthogs—it already felt like I was on a safari even before the first game drive.
Blink and you will miss Phinda Rock Lodge's stone grey facade, which emerges like a natural rock formation atop a cliff. Its strategic location offers a great vantage point to take in the panorama of the bush, including a clear view of Leopard Rock that is home to a troop of baboons. The viewing deck is one of the areas that was improved in its recent renovation—it was expanded to house a new seating space where one can observe the flourishing bird life and the passing animals below. Another addition is a rooftop area on the main building, where guests can eat, drink and stargaze. Find out what else is in store at this well-loved signature property of andBeyond.
1. First Impressions
Exhilarated after all the wildlife I encountered on the drive up, the gregarious hotel manager Obed, who has been with the company for 22 years, gave me a warm welcome to my home in the bush. As he was showing me around the hotel, I was immediately impressed by how it's luxurious but not pretentious, considered but not overdone—just the kind of place perfect for a safari holiday.
The renovation builds on the distinctive character the hotel has developed over two decades, and the interiors are just as you’d expect. The spartan stone and adobe shell are filled with a rich tapestry of earthy hues and natural materials. From the hippopotamus skull that greets guests at the entrance, the furniture pieces swathed in animal hide, and the smattering of Zulu-inspired decor touches, it embraces a decadent yet down-to-earth aesthetic.