If you were a tour guide in Durban, then this day trip from Durban would be particularly familiar to you. Every year from December though to April (and hopefully 2020 will be the same) cruise ships plying their trade in the Indian ocean, disgorge friendly visitors from around the world into the small cruise terminal in Durban where upon they’ll head out in droves to Tala Game Reserve and PheZulu Safari Park.
It’s a perfect day trip from Durban from those seeking a little something different, wildlife in the morning and some culture (and a little more wildlife) in the afternoon. It’s a trip I do often (so often that I offer it as a guided tour) that I definitely miss doing it. So when I discovered that both Tala Game Reserve and PheZulu Safari Park were once again open for business, well I didn’t hesitate.
Tala Game Reserve
Tala started off as a sugar cane farm many years ago before ending up as the game reserve we know and love today. At only 3000ha (roughly 30 square kilometers) Tala is perfect for an afternoon or mornings exploration and being only 45 min from Durban, perfect for a day trip.
Looking for more detail on Tala Game Reserve? Click on this link for my detailed review on how to get there, what you can see and do when there.
I wasn’t sure if the restaurant would be open so decided to pack a simple lunch with a thermos of coffee. I was flying solo today (meaning I can spend all the time I want watching birds without “I’m bored” being groaned into my ear over and over again) so a simple lunch would be perfect.
I’m fortunate to be able to visit mid-week; friends who visited over a weekend spoke of a 30 min delay getting in the park. I got there on a Tuesday and for a large portion of my time didn’t see any other vehicles. By 9am I was in the park and breathing in the crisp winter air tinged with the typical smells associated with game reserves.
The next three hours just flew by as I explored all the roads (there are maps available) focusing mostly on birds but keeping a keen eye out for any of the rarer animals at Tala Game Reserve like the Black Backed Jackal (I’ve seen one in like 5 years), Porcupines and Mongoose.
I spotted the usual suspects in pretty quick order, Giraffe, Rhino, a plethora of antelope as well as a pretty brave warthog (I got close enough to touch him but he wasn’t giving way). And then there was all the birds I could wish for, from the the Cranes to Weavers, African Fish Eagle to Darter; just a spectacular display of colors and a cacophony of sounds – exactly what I came for.
A Picnic Lunch in the Tala Game Reserve
It was kinda around 12:30pm when I decided on a break. One of the real draw cards of Tala Game Reserve is the picnic area. It’s got plenty of braai areas, tables and benches. If it were summer, I may have even had a dip in the swimming pool; that’s right, a small swimming pool in the picnic area in the game reserve -mind blown.
I did have my heart set on a braai of some sort for lunch, but I had no idea if visitors were allowed to yet; this was just after the announcement of level 3. So I erred on the side of caution and had myself a French provincial styled lunch of baguette, salad, cheese and ham along with my thermos of coffee. How much better could this be? Chilled out in shade watching the wildlife saunter past and pretending the rest of the would didn’t exist.
My friend “T” asked that she and her son come with next time, I’ll probably forgo a braai then and use the restaurant which I’m sure has opened up (call ahead before you just pitch). Their meals are really affordable for the size of the portions offered – they are not small meals.
I still wanted to head on over to PheZulu Safari park so I packed up all and made my way along the earthen dam wall to the main gate and got a final fix of birding done; a great Darter photo was my reward.
PheZulu Safari Park
Next up, some 30 minutes away was PheZulu Safari Park. This is another of the sites I tend to visit quite frequently, usually it’s with foreign visitors who are keen to learn a little about Zulu culture. Unfortunately the Zulu dance show was still on hold thanks to covid19 but I got to do a few other things.
Looking for more detail on PheZulu Safari Park? Click on this link for my detailed review on how to get there, what it costs, what you can see and do when there.
First up was the Crocodile park. It’s often quoted that the Hippo kills more people than any other animal (apart from the mosquito) but the truth is, the Crocodile is responsible for far more deaths than Hippos – more correctly Hippos are the most dangerous land mammals. This makes sense if you stop and consider that the chances of coming across a Crocodile in a river in Africa are far greater than a Hippo.
I find Crocodiles fascinating, they started off millions of years ago with large brains and then as time went on their brains shrunk as the shed things they didn’t need, like sympathy and empathy and feelings (and so on) until they ended up with a brain the size of an acorn, perfectly retaining only what is necessary to hunt, ambush and kill.
You have to admit, that is impressive (if not terrifying).
Next up I checked out the snakes including Cleo, a resident Burmese python that has become popular in the park thanks to her birthday being celebrated and kids being invited to the party (to be clear, the kids are safe). Snakes are not my favorite creatures but they play an incredibly important role in conservation so it’s best we just leave them be.
Usually I would go watch the Zulu dance show at around this point but as mentioned before, no Zulu dancing scheduled yet, so instead and went and shopped a little at the well stocked curio shop. All this took around an hour and I was ready for a final coffee (and cake if I’m honest) before calling it a day. I bought a coffee to go from the restaurant at PheZulu, said “Hi” to Tristan, the general manager and then headed for home.
Good to Know
All told I drove around 150km in total; about 70km to Tala from Durban, then about 45km to PheZulu from Tala and then back to Durban. I left at 8am and was back at home by 4pm and really felt I had a good day out.
A word of warning; Tala Game Reserve does not accept cash, so make sure you have a credit / debit card handy.
Other Places to Visit on this Day Trip
There were many other places I could have stopped at for lunch or even activities I could have experienced. If you’re looking for examples, the list below gives more options.
- 1000 Hills Village for lunch and shopping.
- Gwahumbe Game Reserve
- African Bird of Prey Sanctuary
- The Mushroom Farm