Another award winning property from the Phinda &Beyond stable, Phinda Forest Lodge is located north of Durban, in the Phinda Private Game Reserve, at the centre of the area’s sand forest.
Often favourably compared with Vlei Lodge, Forest has played a significant role in the area’s transformation from motley crew of underperforming farms to leading light in southern African wild conservation. Managed now by &Beyond, who were instrumental not only in the area’s recovery, but also in engineering the return of the land to its rightful owners, the Makhasa and Mnqobokazi communities, Phinda has been set aside for wildlife for perpetuity. A win-win situation, &Beyond are guaranteed lease holders for the next 70 years, while in 2008, after just a year of ownership, the Makhasa and the Mnqobokazi received R17 million.
A glass and wood construct, and consisting of a main lodge and 16 suites, Phinda Forest Lodge is described by its owners as Zen-Zulu, which covers very well the combined effect of a minimalist architectural building design (open spaces, glass fronts, raised platforms, stumped A-frame roofs) with an interior spotted with KwaZulu sculptures, paintings and traditional folk instruments. The shared areas include a lounge, dining room, extensive decking, a bar, reception, gallery and pool. Beautifully thought through, modern, just right, everything is designed to both relax and stimulate.
Returning guests are full of praise for the food, &Beyond’s signature pan-African cuisine, which is excellent, and for the service, which – from floor to guide – is outstanding. Be advised: the food just keeps coming. Dining consists of an early morning pre-game drive snack, followed by brunch or lunch, day long snacks, tea and a 3 course dinner – outside or in. Bush picnics and dinners receive special mention, and equally popular are the game drive amarula coffees and the apres drive sundowners.
Just as fine, the suites are accessed by a small set of steps, sit on raised wooden platforms, and are protected by glass walls, sliding doors and Japanese collapsed A-frame roofs. Each consists of extensive decking, out and indoor seating areas, a bedroom (large double bed) and separate bathroom. Characterised by white moulded plastic chairs, with stainless steel legs, and by slumber seats, blonde polished floors, plenty of space and simple functional objects that double as art, the overall feel is one of restraint, which – when offset by the dark wood door frames, furniture, uprights and skirting boards – is warm and welcoming and comfortable. The bathroom – twin sink, stand-alone double bath, shower and flush toilet – is a delight.
Activities at Phinda Forest Lodge include game drives, guided walks, rhino tracking, bird watching, river boat trips, canoeing, deep sea fishing, cultural visits, scuba diving, scenic flights and beach adventures.
At &Beyond we believe in taking shared responsibility for our futures and those of our children. You may be surprised to know that we have a small physical footprint in terms of buildings and guests. Our entire group of lodges comprises less than 800 beds, smaller than a medium-sized city hotel, but we have a disproportionately large positive impact on the more than 3.5 million hectares (8.5 million acres) of wildlife areas we help sustain and the communities whose lives are interwoven with our business.
Our values are and always have been: “Care of the land. Care of the wildlife. Care of the people.” They have become an intuitive part of the way we operate and are increasingly part of the reasons why our guests find their experience with us so rewarding.
We believe that all businesses can “take less” and “give more,” and we apply this philosophy every day through actions big and small at the group’s 46 lodges. Whether it’s pioneering the re-introduction of an endangered species such as black rhino, facilitating the establishment of an income producing sewing co-operative in a local community or simply managing the vegetable peelings from our kitchens, we consciously look for ways to leave a positive legacy.
Education helps to break the cycle of poverty, allowing communities and individuals the opportunity to enhance the quality of their lives, which is why the building of schools and classrooms, training, bursaries and adult education are all key areas for the &Beyond Foundation.
The rangers at Phinda host conservation lessons for an average of 350 schoolchildren and their teachers every year.
Because &Beyond’s most valuable asset is our staff, in 2003 the company launched the Positive Health programme across the group. A preventative health programme, it trains staff members to become counsellors on health, nutrition and psychological wellbeing, and caregivers for people living with life threatening illnesses such as HIV/Aids.
The &Beyond Foundation has boosted the level of medical care at two facilities through the building of a clinic and nurse’s accommodation at Mduku, and the renovation of a second facility, the Cezwane Clinic.
Through a simple innovation, we have helped address one of the challenges of water supply for local families with the introduction of Hippo Water Rollers. These are drums that hold 90 litres (25 gallons) of water and are easily rolled along the ground by means of a stainless steel holder, as opposed to the usual five litre (one gallon) containers that are traditionally carried on the heads of women and children.
Recycling is right on track at Phinda. Every month the Reserve recycles three tons of glass, three tons of tin cans, and four and a half tons of plastic and paper.
Earthworm farms have been introduced at seven locations on the Reserve to decompose organic wet waste and produce vermin compost and worm wee, which is cultivated back into staff vegetable gardens.
Improved consumption levels of water, energy and power have been achieved through the installation of 25 water meters and other water-saving devices on Phinda.
Following the launch of a major leopard conservation programme in 2002, the leopard population at Phinda has bounced back in a big way.
Phinda protects the greatest number of Pepper-Bark trees in KwaZulu-Natal – 1 400.
In order to further reduce our impact on the environment at Phinda the sustainability team is currently investigating ways to: increase rain water-capturing capabilities and fit water tanks with filtration systems, install solar panels in staff villages to substantially cut back on electricity consumption and introduce an organic biodigestion power plant.