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Phinda Private Game Reserve

Blessed with seven distinct ecosystems, Phinda Private Game Reserve is amongst the most iconic safari destinations in South Africa. Situated between the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park and the Mkuze Game Reserve in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, it covers 170 sq kilometres of land.

The stunningly beautiful and diverse ecosystems include grasslands, marshes, mountain ranges, pans, rivers, wetlands & forests and woodlands. The park’s name ‘Phinda’ comes from the Zulu word whose strong symbolic meaning ‘the Return’ highlights the park’s re-introduction process.

A brief history of Phinda will help you understand why they had to re-introduce wildlife to the park.

History‌ ‌of‌ Phinda Private Game Reserve

Before the establishment of the Phinda Private Game Reserve, the land was neglected farmland and lacked any substantial wildlife.  The neglected farmland was bought up and restored to its initial wild glory by &Beyond – an eco-tourism company that has developed a low impact tourism model which facilitates local economic growth.

  • 1991: &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve was established. Upon the reserve’s establishment, &Beyond successfully reintroduced species such as cheetah, caracal, buffalo, elephant, lions, rock hyrax and serval to the game reserve.
  • 2016: To stop poachers from killing the rhinos, &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve de-horned all the adult rhinoceros, which significantly decreased the poaching activities in the area.

Wildlife in Phinda Private Game Reserve

Phinda Private Game Reserve is known to many as a land of discovery. Apart from its unique eco-friendly management style, the seven distinct ecosystems and healthy wildlife numbers it is home to two rare tiny antelope species – red duiker and suni – whose sightings anywhere other than Phinda are a rare occurrence. It is also well-known for its large populations of the endangered black rhino and vulnerable cheetah.

After the successful reintroduction of several original species, &Beyond has time and again actively implemented conservation and rehabilitation efforts for wildlife on the brink of extinction.

✔       Pangolin Rehabilitation Program

One such instance is pangolin rehabilitation and research. In the last few decades, the Temminck’s ground pangolin experienced a localised extinction, so &Beyond partnered with the African Pangolin Working Group to reverse the pangolin extinction, the results of which can be seen in the growing pangolin population.

✔       Rhino Conservation Program

Another instance of conservation in action is the rhino conservation program. Phinda Private Game Reserve may boast a healthy population of rhino, but desperate measures had to be implemented to protect them against poachers. &Beyond decided to de-horn the rhinos, which can decrease the risk of poaching.  &Beyond hasn’t shied away from answering questions, such as how dehorning the rhinos might affect their life. The rhino conservation efforts also involve a Live Show.

Big Cats

  • Apart from rhinos, some lion prides have also become a prime attraction.  First is the mountain pride in the mountainous woodlands led by a 10-year old lioness, who has an adult daughter. Both lionesses have to handle their four offspring who are yet too young to hunt.
  • Next are the Bayala prides and Bayala males. The Bayala pride consists of 3 lionesses – two of whom have five cubs, and the Bayala males composed of two adult lions which preside over both the mountain pride and Bayala pride.
  • The Bayala male cheetahs consist of two orphaned cheetahs who survived harsh situations. They have now established a territory in the west of Phinda Private Game Reserve.
  • The south male cheetahs are two ageing big brothers who reign over more than half the reserve’s territory that they regularly patrol keeping other males out and looking out for a female cheetah in heat.

When to visit Phinda Private Game Reserve

For wildlife viewing, May to September is the best time to visit Phinda Game Reserve. These winter months have sparse vegetation, making it easier to spot the animals that gather around the perennial water sources. Summer arrives after these dry months bringing torrential rains that make driving off-road an impossibility, thereby reducing the chances of animal sightings.

Not unlike the numerous national parks in South Africa, November to April is the best time for bird watching. It is the time when large flocks of migratory birds arrive at the Phinda Game Reserve and its surrounding national parks/game reserves.

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