When Phinda Homestead was damaged in a fire in December 2016, it closed for renovations and has emerged more alluring than ever before. Each of the six luxury lodges on Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal is imaginatively curated, indulgent, intricately detailed, yet soft and comforting in its beautiful natural environment. It could only have been expected that after the fire, Homestead – Phinda’s sole-use luxury villa – would rise like a phoenix and leave us all agog at the next level luxury and well thought-out features that now characterise this exclusive safari destination.
There are four bedrooms making it just right for families or a small group of friends looking to get away into pristine wilderness with no one but themselves and the lodge’s elite team of staff making sure everything you need or want is not more than an arm’s length away. The extensive use of glass in the form of large sliding doors and floor-to-ceiling windows ensures that everything you’ve come to see outside is represented indoors. Being able to watch the birds from your bathtub is certainly an elevating experience, and to see and feel organic textures indoors is grounding and connective. In each bedroom, the use of wood, bamboo, and Swazi grass come together to set a natural tone to each room. A floating headboard, highly textured scatter cushions and curtains, giant glass lampshades, and local Nguni hides tie the elements of these bedrooms together in perfect harmony.
Raw timber has been treated only so slightly as to smooth the edges and refine the look, but the evidence of its previous life is represented in its wrinkles and lines which decorate its surface. The dining table is an enormous slab of pale wood, patterned with natural grain and celebrated as the centrepiece of every meal. It glows gently under a handful of large, hanging basket lights which hover above it, and it matches the incredible double sliding doors, which themselves are singular slabs of the same wood extending from ceiling to floor. Behind them: the interactive kitchen with edgy cork bar stools lined up along the preparation counter to invite company into the cooking area. The ceilings throughout the lodge pulls in organic material once again: bamboo poles laid side by side cover the ceiling above your head. The dining chairs and carpet bring a traditional shade of ochre to the scene, which is cut with a pale stone hue of the painted brick walls.
The Homestead’s living spaces are about togetherness and community, bringing together the family in comfort and style that matches the mix of Zulu celebration and identity with refined concepts borrowed from nature. Rich, burnt orange fabrics collide magnificently with intricate geometric designs, massive table tops of raw wood, and an abundance of sofas, ottomans, and armchairs complete the cosy and inviting sitting areas.
Just as there is a wood burning fireplace inside for chilly winter evenings, there is a summer pool deck with all the appeal in the world. A long, rim-flow swimming pool shimmers in the afternoon sun and glows by the gentle lights at night. It is surrounded by plenty of wooden decking, and a collection of sun loungers poised in the sunshine. Along the opposite side of the pool is a sunken, square-shaped fire pit which is encircled by cushioned seating, sure to be the place where each evening winds down with the embers of the fire. A traditional boma brings this iconic element of a safari experience home. Under the stars, a sheltered, circular dining area where food is cooked on an open fire and served, alfresco, to your own round table in the centre.
It’s safe to say the re-opening of Phinda Homestead has been nothing short of remarkable, bringing this luxury safari retreat into a new league. Next year it’s on offer on an exclusive-booking basis for about US$ 9300 for the villa for the night, and comes complete with a flawless team consisting of private chef, guide, housekeeping, butler, and of course, a private game viewer and a selection of available activities that range from the bush to the beach thanks to Phinda’s unique coastal location. You can build sand castles with the kids, watch turtles nesting in the moonlight, and see cheetah, lion, rhino, and elephant thriving in a flourishing environment, all in exclusive privacy.