Sunny Afternoon Safari at Tala Game Reserve

Vasco de Gama landed on the Durban coast on Christmas in 1497 and named the area Natal, or Christmas in Portuguese.
The Port of Durban in South Africa is one of the few natural harbors between Port Elizabeth and Maputo, but it has been dredged several times and much of the city is built on the sand deposits from maintaining and enlarging the harbor waterway. We encountered rough seas in both approaching and leaving Durban and learned that this physical location on the globe has a particular weather and underwater- current phenomenon, which can cause extremely violent seas including rogue waves.

Currently the Port of Durban is the busiest port in South Africa, but Durban and Maputo, Mozambique are in competition with each other for dominance and handling the mining and industrial trade from Johannesburg, which is not located on any navigable body of water.

Durban is a major tourism center due to the city’s warm climate, Zulu culture, and nearby game parks. Artists from all over the country display and sell their wares in this vibrant city. Painting, pottery, woodworking, wire sculptures are all popular items and can be found in many handicraft markets – like the one we visited called Shaka Marine Market.

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Surprisingly the first shop we entered near the entrance was the best one in our eyes and where we each bought a beaded necklace. We were also fascinated by some of the small telephone-wire baskets, but couldn’t make up our minds on which one to buy so we bought none. We get another opportunity in Cape Town.

The complex included many small shops, lots of restaurants, an aquarium, a lovely beach and water park in conjunction with large hotels and condominiums composing a significant part of “The Golden Mile.”

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We also strolled down the beach walk and Mary Jane enjoyed a ride is a colorful Zulu rickshaw. She had a great time while Barb tried to keep ahead of them and take pictures.

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Lots of people were on the beach and in the surf having a fun in the sun and water. Surfboard lessons were also being given as the gentle waves moved shoreward, with many young people trying to master the challenge of riding the waves while standing upright on the board. Not an easy feat from all the dunkings we saw. Shark nets protect the harbor so the swimmers can be worry free from the great white sharks that roam the sea outside the harbor.

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In the afternoon we went on a wildlife game drive. Our spirits soared when we saw giraffes and zebra grazing soon after entering the park, which is an indigenous acacia thornveld, open grassland, and sensitive wetlands that provided an excellent environment for game and bird watching.

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We climbed into our open safari 4 x 4 vehicles that carried 10 passengers and the ranger. MJ was in one vehicle and Barb was in another so we saw different animals and had different experiences today at the same location.

We saw mature and young animals throughout the park, which included about 7,500 acres. The park owner, who has the KFC franchise for South Africa, is a man of vision. He wanted to have a game reserve and bought up bush land and overgrazed cattle farms to develop Tala into a game reserve, which is also a popular wedding venue, convention center, and resort.

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He employs 80 people to man and maintain the facility and the animals. The animals are all wild. The perimeter fences are carefully maintained and the grounds and herds are managed to prevent overgrazing and erosion. A stream was dammed and is maintained to provide a year-round source of water for the animals and home for the hippos. Several other streams and natural waterholes plus undulating terrain make this a beautiful piece of property that has been used in making several movies. Mary Jane was able to capture some pictures of two hippos quarreling in their watering hole.

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It is a lovely facility and all the animals are in good flesh and healthy that we saw. In general the animals are not afraid of the vehicles so we were able to get up close to a number of them for photographs. Three hundred bird species have been identified on the reserve and we saw lots of butterflies. Our group was not that interested in birds so our guide only pointed out a few of them to us and did not go in search for more.

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We saw Zebra, Giraffe, Warthogs, Ostrich, Egyptian geese, Long-crested Eagle, White Egret, Cattle Egret, Redknobbed Coot, White Rhinos, Hippopotamus, Kudu, Blesbok, Blue Wildebeest, and Impala. The habitat is not suitable for elephants and the larger cats as they could present problems for local livestock operations so they are not part of the animals that call Tala home.

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The ranger told us that, unless the extensive poaching of rhinos is not stopped, they would become extinct within eight years. The demand for rhino horn for its “supposed curative powers” (that has no basis in medicine) is driven by Vietnam, China, and Korea. Basically, the composition of the rhino horn is the same as our own fingernails. What a shame it will be if we lose these magnificent creatures.

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However the game manager explained to us that Tala is in the process of being sold to a trust of Zulu ancestors and the directors of the trust will appoint one individual to work with the current staff. Some of the Zulu people’s ancestors are buried on the grounds of Tala and the federal government has required the present owner to sell his property to the Zulu trust.

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However, the trust has five years to prove that they can maintain and operate a profitable enterprise or else they will be forced to re-sell the property back to the man who developed the enterprise originally. All of the current employees will retain their jobs. The members of the trust board have to be able to prove their direct lineage and the existence of their ancestor’s graves.

It is always good to see the wild animals. This reserve has made dedicated efforts to keep the animals healthy and in their natural habitat. We hope the new owners can keep up the high standards.

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One Response to “Sunny Afternoon Safari at Tala Game Reserve”

  1. Wonderful pictures! Thanks for sharing.

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