It’s possible to stumble across leopard during game drives in Phinda Private Game Reserve.

South Africa & Mozambique | Safari & Beach | 7 Nights Phinda Private Game Reserve & Ponta Mamoli

This carefully planned luxury safari and beach break is South Africa and Mozambique’s twist on a ‘surf and turf’ menu. Phinda Vlei Lodge’s inland bush location ticks all the game-viewing boxes, while White Pearl Mozambique is an idyllic ocean retreat that couldn’t be closer to the beach.

Three nights at Phinda Vlei Lodge

As we entered the Phinda Private Game Reserve, we instinctively felt we’d come to a place of sanctuary. We didn’t spend too much time on our introduction to Phinda Vlei Lodge, as we knew we’d have time to enjoy its simple elegance and superb views later. Instead, we had to go and see a man about some cats. Our guide, André, had found lion on a giraffe kill that morning, and took us to where they lay, panting and replete in the shade. One lioness greeted us with a yawn, displaying a broken canine that gave her a piratical air. After a second visit to the recumbent pride, still sleeping off their giraffe carpaccio, we spent the afternoon lounging by our private plunge pool, letting the wildlife come to us. For the full safari and beach experience, André drove us in the cool of the late afternoon to a secret beach location near Sodwana Bay. He’d heard on the bush grapevine that for several nights now, leatherback turtle had been nesting. I’d never been to the beach at night before, and what a thrill to see this ancient ritual played out by such a massive, calm creature operating purely on instinct. After our late night, a change of pace. Our butler, Bongani, delivered fresh coffee and we spent a few moments listening to the birds gossiping about the new day before meeting up with André and his tracker for a bush walk with a purpose: to find rhino. The tracker’s uncanny skills soon saw us hot on the trail, and we were handsomely rewarded. Black rhino spend much of their time in thick bush; ‘our rhino’ was returning from a wallow and standing in plain view, clearly greatly enjoying a rub against a dead tree. Our first rhino: an itch scratched for us too!

As we entered the Phinda Private Game Reserve, we instinctively felt we’d come to a place of sanctuary. We didn’t spend too much time on our introduction to Phinda Vlei Lodge, as we knew we’d have time to enjoy its simple elegance and superb views later. Instead, we had to go and see a man about some cats. Our guide, André, had found lion on a giraffe kill that morning, and took us to where they lay, panting and replete in the shade. One lioness greeted us with a yawn, displaying a broken canine that gave her a piratical air.

After a second visit to the recumbent pride, still sleeping off their giraffe carpaccio, we spent the afternoon lounging by our private plunge pool, letting the wildlife come to us. For the full safari and beach experience, André drove us in the cool of the late afternoon to a secret beach location near Sodwana Bay. He’d heard on the bush grapevine that for several nights now, leatherback turtle had been nesting. I’d never been to the beach at night before, and what a thrill to see this ancient ritual played out by such a massive, calm creature operating purely on instinct.

After our late night, a change of pace. Our butler, Bongani, delivered fresh coffee and we spent a few moments listening to the birds gossiping about the new day before meeting up with André and his tracker for a bush walk with a purpose: to find rhino. The tracker’s uncanny skills soon saw us hot on the trail, and we were handsomely rewarded. Black rhino spend much of their time in thick bush; ‘our rhino’ was returning from a wallow and standing in plain view, clearly greatly enjoying a rub against a dead tree. Our first rhino: an itch scratched for us too!

Four nights at White Pearl Mozambique

A farewell herd of elephant arrived as we ate breakfast, before the three-hour drive north to White Pearl Mozambique. Our guide shared some wonderful stories with us on each side of the easily crossed border.Arriving at White Pearl Mozambique, I was happy to learn that the range of activities on offer was enticing enough to keep us busy in between spells of lazing by the pool and enjoying the views. For our first afternoon though, lounging by the pool was exactly what we did! Later, we enjoyed tapas and a cocktail before a barefoot sunset stroll along the white beach. We weren’t the only pedestrians on the sand that evening, but as we’d enjoyed Phinda Vlei Lodge’s turtle nesting adventure, we let them lay without us, while we simply enjoyed each other’s company over a romantic meal of lobster and oysters. With so many choices in this itinerary, we’d decided to focus on ocean activities here (although naturally we’d been tempted by the Indian Ocean safari on offer at Phinda Vlei Lodge. Our sea legs weren’t tested on the calm ocean, but our ability to absorb beauty was. The pinnacle reef diving at nearby Ponta Mamoli was the best we’d ever experienced, with excellent visibility in the clear water. The overall impression was of a treasure chest having been spilled out. A small hammerhead shark gave us a thrill, and we were fascinated by the fabulously-named and garishly coloured nudibranch. With the staff telling us that they quite often saw pods of dolphin close to shore, we were keen to meet these marine acrobats. We’d assumed a boat was the answer, but the divemaster surprised us by suggesting sea kayaks instead. It felt good to use our muscles after a couple of days of pure indulgence, and while the dolphin eluded us, we did find ourselves in the midst of a shower of flying fish, and watched rays ‘fly’ through the azure water beneath us. We challenged each other to a race home, paddled furiously and then ran giggling up the beach. The next day I did meet Flipper, only he turned out to be a rather fine stallion. As we galloped along perfect beaches, hooves kicked up salt spray to the delight of both steeds and riders. Seabirds wheeled above as we alternately glanced at the casuarina trees around the lodge, and the small breakers rolling in. Later, as we walked along the same sand as night began, the stars above were mirrored by the bioluminescence in the water. As I swept a hand through the twinkling shallows, a shooting star flew overhead. At that point, however, I had nothing left to wish for.

A farewell herd of elephant arrived as we ate breakfast, before the three-hour drive north to White Pearl Mozambique. Our guide shared some wonderful stories with us on each side of the easily crossed border.

Arriving at White Pearl Mozambique, I was happy to learn that the range of activities on offer was enticing enough to keep us busy in between spells of lazing by the pool and enjoying the views. For our first afternoon though, lounging by the pool was exactly what we did! Later, we enjoyed tapas and a cocktail before a barefoot sunset stroll along the white beach. We weren’t the only pedestrians on the sand that evening, but as we’d enjoyed Phinda Vlei Lodge’s turtle nesting adventure, we let them lay without us, while we simply enjoyed each other’s company over a romantic meal of lobster and oysters.

With so many choices in this itinerary, we’d decided to focus on ocean activities here (although naturally we’d been tempted by the Indian Ocean safari on offer at Phinda Vlei Lodge. Our sea legs weren’t tested on the calm ocean, but our ability to absorb beauty was. The pinnacle reef diving at nearby Ponta Mamoli was the best we’d ever experienced, with excellent visibility in the clear water. The overall impression was of a treasure chest having been spilled out. A small hammerhead shark gave us a thrill, and we were fascinated by the fabulously-named and garishly coloured nudibranch.

With the staff telling us that they quite often saw pods of dolphin close to shore, we were keen to meet these marine acrobats. We’d assumed a boat was the answer, but the divemaster surprised us by suggesting sea kayaks instead. It felt good to use our muscles after a couple of days of pure indulgence, and while the dolphin eluded us, we did find ourselves in the midst of a shower of flying fish, and watched rays ‘fly’ through the azure water beneath us. We challenged each other to a race home, paddled furiously and then ran giggling up the beach.

The next day I did meet Flipper, only he turned out to be a rather fine stallion. As we galloped along perfect beaches, hooves kicked up salt spray to the delight of both steeds and riders. Seabirds wheeled above as we alternately glanced at the casuarina trees around the lodge, and the small breakers rolling in. Later, as we walked along the same sand as night began, the stars above were mirrored by the bioluminescence in the water. As I swept a hand through the twinkling shallows, a shooting star flew overhead. At that point, however, I had nothing left to wish for.

What sets it apart

One of the most striking features of our luxury safari in South Africa and Mozambique was the wonderful juxtaposition between the calm, tranquil surrounds of each of the luxury lodges we stayed at, and just how ‘busy’ they were with wildlife. Whether we were on land or under the waves, the diversity of colours and forms was breathtaking.From the viewing deck of our thatched suite at Phinda Vlei Lodge, we overlooked a wetland that was a magnet for game. We particularly enjoyed seeing groups of different species intermingle, and how they seemed to observe unwritten rules of hierarchy and access to resources. Diving on pinnacle reefs, not far off shore from White Pearl Mozambique, there was less apparent order, but the teeming schools of fish were dazzlingly entertaining. We even survived an encounter with a small shark that was far more curious than dangerous. We particularly enjoyed the variety of ways in which we could explore, and come close to animals. It was not simply a question of two daily game drives. We also walked, tracking rhinos in the Phinda Private Game Reserve (or, if we’re honest, walking while our tracker did the actual work!); and stealthily crept up a midnight beach to witness a female leatherback turtle lay her eggs. It’s a short step from the beach to the ocean (and at White Pearl Mozambique, from our beach pool suite to both) so it was only natural that we should find ourselves both on and under the surface whenever we could.

One of the most striking features of our luxury safari in South Africa and Mozambique was the wonderful juxtaposition between the calm, tranquil surrounds of each of the luxury lodges we stayed at, and just how ‘busy’ they were with wildlife. Whether we were on land or under the waves, the diversity of colours and forms was breathtaking.

From the viewing deck of our thatched suite at Phinda Vlei Lodge, we overlooked a wetland that was a magnet for game. We particularly enjoyed seeing groups of different species intermingle, and how they seemed to observe unwritten rules of hierarchy and access to resources.

Diving on pinnacle reefs, not far off shore from White Pearl Mozambique, there was less apparent order, but the teeming schools of fish were dazzlingly entertaining. We even survived an encounter with a small shark that was far more curious than dangerous.

We particularly enjoyed the variety of ways in which we could explore, and come close to animals. It was not simply a question of two daily game drives. We also walked, tracking rhinos in the Phinda Private Game Reserve (or, if we’re honest, walking while our tracker did the actual work!); and stealthily crept up a midnight beach to witness a female leatherback turtle lay her eggs.

It’s a short step from the beach to the ocean (and at White Pearl Mozambique, from our beach pool suite to both) so it was only natural that we should find ourselves both on and under the surface whenever we could.

Day 1–3

Phinda Private Game Reserve is home to cheetah. © &Beyond

You’ll be met as you disembark from your international flight at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, and assisted through customs and immigration. After a scheduled flight to Richards Bay, you’ll take a transfer to Phinda Vlei Lodge in Phinda Private Game Reserve, where you’ll spend three nights.

Day 4–7

White Pearl Mozambique is set along a pristine beach. © White Pearl Resorts

A transfer will take you from Phinda Vlei Lodge to the South Africa–Mozambique border at Kosi Bay, where you’ll be assisted through customs and immigration. You’ll then continue on to White Pearl Mozambique in Ponta Mamoli, where you’ll spend four nights.

Day 8

South Africa is famous for its big-cat sightings. © Andrew Schoeman

A transfer will take you from White Pearl Mozambique to the Mozambique–South Africa border at Kosi Bay, where you’ll be assisted through customs and immigration. You’ll then continue on to Richards Bay and take a scheduled flight to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, to connect with your ongoing international flight.

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