&Beyond was launched with the creation of Phinda Private Game Reserve in 1991, on a model that is widely regarded as one of the most ambitious and successful blueprints for international ecotourism.
Overgrazed agricultural land was purchased and rehabilitated before the reintroduction of all the large mammal species that originally inhabited the region. Neighbouring Zulu communities were – and continue to be – consulted in all aspects of development, ensuring that their expectations and aspirations could be met in a sustainable way. The land selected for &Beyond’s first game reserve was identified as key conservation land. At the time it consisted of cattle, pineapple, sisal and game farms. Most importantly, it was considered as significant because it formed a link between the Mkuze Game Reserve and, what was then known, as the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park.
It was also home to a small area of the critically endangered sand forest, as well as a number of other threatened or endangered species. Today, the reserve neighbours the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, one of South Africa’s first World Heritage Sites, and the vision of dropping fences to preserve links between wildlife areas remains alive. Equally significant, &Beyond Phinda was the first Big Five private game reserve to be established in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, successfully demonstrating that dedicating land to wildlife had the potential to produce better returns than cattle farming in marginal rainfall areas. Phinda’s name, which means ‘the return’, has been prophetic in more than one way.
Not only was the wildlife returned to the land but a significant portion of the land has since been returned to its ancestral owners in a ground-breaking agreement between &Beyond and the Makhasa and Mnqobokazi communities, making a marked difference in the lives of local communities. This partnership has been so successful that, as additional pieces of land have been handed back to the communities, they have requested that this land be included in &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, believing that their best financial return would be gained through the use of the land for conservation tourism.
For 25 years, &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve has successfully showcased our ability to care for the land, wildlife and people through our offering of extraordinary guest experiences. Now one of the most sought-after safari destinations in South Africa, the success of our model has seen &Beyond Phinda grow into a thriving commercial enterprise. And, through our relationships with the communities surrounding the reserve and our affiliation with Mun-ya-wana Conservancy, &Beyond Phinda has grown from 13 000 hectares to over 28 000 hectares of pristine wilderness.