&Beyond&Beyond have the biggest geographic range of any of the safari operators; they take hospitality very seriously with very impressive decor and food, and have been in the business long enough to secure some seriously good sites. Their largest number of camps is in South Africa with a range of options well suited to your first safari. Branching out from there, they have camps in Botswana, Namibia and have reopened in Zimbabwe, and have a variety of superb camps in Tanzania and Kenya. If you like their style, there's enough choice here for 2 or 3 safari trips.
Phinda Private Game Reserve
Phinda is one of those heartwarming conservation stories – a large area of land which was restored to wildlife. The premium safari operators &Beyond manage the entire reserve, including all camps.
It’s an attractive area, with a variety of ecosystems supporting a variety of wildlife – all the Big 5, and more. I love the trees – giant African figs and hauntingly yellow fever trees. The climate is pleasant – mild winters and hot summers – and it’s close to nearby mountains and sea. It’s technically a malaria area, although I hear that malaria there is rare now.
Forest was the original camp which caught the media’s attention with its fresh design – glass boxes scattered amongst the sand forest, so you can lie in bed and watch the birdlife and antelope.
Subsequent camps vary significantly in setting and architectural style – a clever strategy as it encourages guests to combine different Phinda camps for a longer stay. Both Forest and Vlei are favourites amongst my friends.
The downsides are that herd numbers are not as big as say in Kruger, and the high number of camps on the Phinda reserve means a lot of vehicles are out on the reserve every day. But it is exclusively their land, so you won’t see vehicles from outside, unlike in the nearby provincial parks.
But it’s an excellent choice for a first safari, end great if you’re traveling with kids.