Exclusive, small and beautifully serviced, Phinda Zuka Lodge is located in KwaZulu, in Maputaland, in the north-western sector of Phinda Private Game Reserve.
Once a collection of rundown farms, Phinda is a wilderness rescued from years of poor land practice, by Africa CC (now &Beyond). Following many early successes, it has since been added to, and is today one of Africa’s leading examples of stakeholder conservation. Now returned to its historical owners, the Makhasa and Mnqobokazi communities, who have in turn agreed to commit the land to wildlife in perpetuity, Phinda will be managed by &Beyond for the next 70 years or so.
The recipient of unfailingly good reviews, a wood, stone and thatch build, Phinda Zuka Lodge is situated at the foot of a forested hill, overlooking a well attended waterhole, and consists of a main house and 4 separate bush cottages. The main house includes a kitchen, dining area, lounge, pool, verandah, boma and library.
Easily distinguished by its size and huge white chimney, the house’s interiors are characterised by Phinda’s trademark mix of retro lighting, chic seating and an artistic take on traditional Kwazulu utililities. Cosy, welcoming, arranged around an open log fire, its seats deeply comfortable, the lounge functions as a retreat, a place to while away time, digest the evening meal and exchange notes. The verandah, on the other hand, is much more self-conscious, its stylised design perfect for coffee, lunch, a sundowner, the view something else.
With a staff-to-guest ratio of 1:3, the level of attention and care at Phinda Zuka Lodge is first rate, as is the food, which is prepared in what &Beyond call an interactive kitchen. While the cuisine is pan-African, menus are readily adapted to suit diets and tastes, and meals are taken outside, on the verandah, in the boma, as a bush picnic, or inside, at the dining table. The atmosphere is relaxed, flexibility being the key.
The lodge accommodates up to 8 guests. Each cottage is at least 15 metres apart, overlooks the lawn and waterhole and includes a double bed, seating area, private verandah and ensuite bathroom. Simply styled, the sleeping area is beautiful. Muted colours – off-white bed-heads, pale green walls, dark woods – compliment functional and well made furniture, geometrically arranged gourdes serve as wall art and seventies style bedside lamps hang suspended from the ceiling. The bathroom – bath, shower, toilet, twin sinks – is just as fine, the circular stone bath chamber a real highlight.
Phinda Zuka Lodge comes with it’s own guide and vehicle, and itineraries are movable feasts. Activities 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.