Sitting in the FedAir lounge at OR Tambo airport, it was hard not to feel a sense of anticipation. The thatched lodge is there filled with local arts and crafts and safari gear, and as I enjoyed the complimentary refreshments in the garden, my appetite was whet for things to come. The flight to Phinda is a short one, but my safari seemed to have already begun as I glimpsed a grazing giraffe from the runway.
At The Phinda Lodge I was instantly immersed in the culture and landscape, sipping a cosmopolitan cocktail on the expansive deck whilst the buffalo also enjoyed a drink at the local watering hole below. Sharing this wilderness with such magnificent creatures was awe-inspiring, and I was often reminded that I was a guest in their home rather than a visitor in a theme park. An angry parade of elephants ensured that I knew my place, whilst some non-plussed lions ushered me on during my afternoon drive. At sunset, a welcome sundowner was served along with biltong and dried pineapple, before we were treated to a Braai (a traditional BBQ) back at the lodge. Under the vast expanse of stars, I couldn’t help but feel of very small significance in this powerful natural setting.
My second day began with an early morning drive, where I saw the ever elusive Black Rhino. Phinda is renowned for sightings of the Black Rhino and the Cheetah, and of course the Big Five along with some resident lion prides. The guides and rangers often go above and beyond to arrange special sightings of these. After breakfast, I started my journey to Durban, breaking for a two hour cruise down the St.Lucia Estuary, the largest in Africa, where hippos, sharks and crocodiles meet. As I travelled down the breath-taking coastline to the Umhalaga suburb I reflected for a moment on the meeting of cultures in Durban – just like in its estuary – before reaching the charming Oyster Box Hotel.