Elfie goes on Safari

Spending quality family time over Christmas while on Safari

Ever thought about doing something different for Christmas? For one thing, besides it being about the birth of Jesus, giving and receiving gifts, decorations, joy to the world and the like, Christmas time is about family and being able to spend quality time together.

So if you’ve had enough of the crowds and the rush around Christmas, what better way to avoid all that, with a safari in the African bushveld?

Kids have the best time with the &Beyond rangers and trackers while on Safari

We decided to do just that, well actually it was just a little before Christmas, but in our family the whole of December feels like Christmas. My husband, myself and our 2 kids left Nelspruit for &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve on an epic little road trip where we spent 3 nights at Phinda Mountain Lodge and 3 nights at Phinda Forest Lodge.

Story time for Elfie on the road trip

Being parents of young kids, 10 & 6 at the time, it was of great importance that Elf on the Shelf (very originally nicknamed in our family as “Elfie”) be included in the adventure. After all that seems to be the modus operandi of Elfie – full time adventurer with some added naughtiness.

Now one thing that all &Beyond lodges are renowned for, is their WILDchild Program. Taking your kids to our lodges is never short of fun and excitement for the little ones. The WILDchild will make-up a blog post all on its own. For now I’ll give you just a small glimpse of what we experienced as a family on this trip.

The kids chillaxing with their new WILDchild bags

Arriving at Phinda, like any magical destination, is always exciting. After checking in at the gate there is a short drive to Phinda Mountain Lodge. Jackson and Sophie were having a competition to see who will be the first to show Elfie his first wild animal.

Needless to say I spotted the first warthog, but that didn’t matter, the kids were so excited to show Elfie everything anyway. On arrival at Mountain Lodge we were greeted by a few staff members glowing in their usual &Beyond friendliness and enthusiasm. Immediately the kids were given their WILDchild bags and we were made to feel very welcome.

In the 3 nights we spent at Mountain Lodge we saw some great game, including Elephants, Rhinos, lions and a whole hyena clan. We also spent a lot of time relaxing around our private plunge pools, where we could see impala being harassed by a leopard. Of course Elfie was included in all the activities every day.

Elfie on Safari seeing his first lions

Arriving at Forest Lodge you pick up a completely different vibe. I find it to be very relaxed and quiet. It’s almost like you can hear the trees whispering to you in the gentle coastal breeze. Here the rooms are nestled in the forest with a myriad of birds around you all day. And with the glass walls the scenery is nothing short of spectacular.

One thing I loved about Forest Lodge is the times you drive through the beautiful sand forests (520 hectares of only 2000 in the whole world). The game viewing here through these short stretches of forests isn’t as plentiful as the more open areas but the beauty and the birdlife surely makes up for it.

Clive discussing the top 10 interesting items to discover with Jackson & Sophie

Here our guide Clive was an absolute gem to us and a hero to the kids. He sat them down during the sundowner stop on our first game drive. They made a list of ten unusual things they had to find, like a specific feather, spider web, frog etc. This on top of trying to find all the star birds and the obvious big game we were all interested in.

Sophie making sure Elfie knows what to look for on the tracker’s seat

Luckily Elfie was with Jackson and Sophie to help them find all these weird and wonderful items over the next three days. They managed to find 8 of the ten on that list. We also had draw-droppingly beautiful cheetah sightings, along with amazing rhino interaction and lions again. Clive showed us (almost) everything we wanted to see, but we will have to go back for the leopard next time.

Jackson showing Elfie a family of cheetahs

Elfie enjoying the best seat in the house

Suffice to say we had a 6 night break that relaxed us almost into a coma – thanks mostly to the wonderful staff that looked after us, and especially the children, and gave us the opportunity to be spoilt and to enjoy all of our time we spent there.

I can highly recommend Phinda Mountain and Forest Lodges for a wonderful family holiday where you, your family ….and your Elf on the Shelf will always want to return to.

The rooms at Phinda Mountain and Forest Lodge are a wonderful place for Elfie to getup to all kinds of mischief.


I love travel and can’t wait to bring your dreams come to life

Tiffany Steyn

&Beyond Travel Specialist

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