Durban & Tala Private Game Reserve Safari
A brilliant rainbow seemed to guide Silversea’s intimate Silver Wind into the port of Durban, South Africa this morning. It was an excellent precursor to the sun, blue skies and warm temperatures that would greet guests after several days of rain and unseasonably cool temperatures.
I was up and having breakfast on the terrace at La Terrazza on Deck 7 this morning, watching intently as we came alongside the passenger terminal here in Durban, my cup of coffee rattling slightly on the saucer as Silver Wind’s thrusters were applied to move us into place.
Over 3.5 million people live in the Durban (pronounced like turban) area, the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. It is South Africa’s busiest port city, and third largest city after Jo’burg and Cape Town. Nearly one million of those are of Indian descent, having settled here originally in the late 1860’s. On sail-in, it looks like you’re coming into a major metropolis, with the city’s massive soccer stadium easily visible off-shore. It reminds me a bit of Halifax, London and industrial ports like Brooklyn all rolled into one, bathed in fabulous weather. It’s easily the first “city” that we’ve visited on this trip.
By ten after eight in the morning, I was off the Silver Wind and standing pierside, boarding the motorcoach that would whisk me to the Tala Private Game Reserve for a two-hour game drive. After all, I came 10,000 miles from Canada to see some of Africa’s famed wildlife, and I’m going all-out to ensure I see as much as possible!
The Tala Game Reserve spans 7,500 acres set amongst the pristine, rolling hills of KwaZulu-Natal province. There’s no shortage of game here, with plenty of zebras, hippos, kudu, giraffes, and the rare sable antelope.
When we arrived, we piled into a converted Iveco truck that was high on viewing space but short on leg room: my kneecaps were pressed against the metal roll-bars in front of me, compounded by the fact my feet wouldn’t touch the ground – and I’m five foot nine. This became a bit of a problem when the truck would move, as it would rattle those of us in the back around quite a bit, resulting in some very sore ankles and banged-up knees.
Still, once you round the corner and see five giraffes grazing lazily by the side of the road, your personal discomfort tends to evaporate. They were having a little drink and a snack when we encountered them: tree branch with just a hint of leafy greens. I swear I heard one of them grunt with satisfaction at having eaten a particularly good branch of tree. Or was it the massive, orange bumblebees that roared like weed-whackers nearby? I can’t be sure.
During our two-hour game drive, we passed by numerous zebras, ostriches, impalas, warthogs, wildebeest, rhinoceroses, and even a few disinterested-looking hippopotamuses. The backdrop for all of this was a countryside that was as lush and green as the hills of Ireland; if you picture a Zebra ambling around the Ring of Kerry, you wouldn’t be far off.
Here’s the problem: my Safari excursion yesterday was, by all accounts, absolutely superb; one of those rare days that transcends a pleasurable experience and becomes something of a cherished memory and conversation piece for years to come. So I was expecting today to be a bit of a let-down. Did I enjoy it? Yes. But it felt very…zoo-like. Staged, in a way. In truth, that’s what it is: the reserve was created a few years back, and even the Silver Shore Journal lists a disclaimer stating that the reserve is in a populated area and may not feel as though it is deep in the African Bush.
Still, there were some magnificent photo opportunities: