We were up early and heading towards Himeville, South Africa, a little town at the base of the Sani Pass, our entrance to Lesotho. Hannah and Brennan had limited time in Africa and we decided a stop at a game park was a must. Tala Private Game Reserve was on the way and seemed a great place to give them just a little taste of Africa's amazing wildlife.
Tala is a small, private game reserve about 90 minutes southwest of Durban. It claims to be “Durban's finest game reserve”, but it was hard to find out much information about it. Though game drives and luxury accommodation are available, we were interested in a self-drive tour and I resorted to TripAdvisor to find out entry fees and what animals to expect. Only one of the Big 5 was in residence … white rhinos ... but there were plenty more critters to see as we drove along the gravel roads, rarely seeing another vehicle. We had no sooner cleared the gate than a flock (or herd or pride or flush … take your pick) of ostrich came strutting over the hill to greet us. Brennan's comment … “Man, they're bigger than I thought!” kind of sums up close and personal encounters with most African animals.
Bontebok and wildebeest came into view next … grazing peacefully on the green grassy hillside.
The roads in Tala are better than many reserves we've driven in, but still not all that great. The park map provided at the entrance was a poor photocopy with unreadable detail. Our free Maps With Me iPad app, however, was brilliant and we used it for navigation throughout the park.
We headed towards a waterhole and were rewarded with lots of stripes! Hannah is an excellent photographer and took lots of pix. Between the two of us … it was dueling cameras ... no zebra was safe from a lens.
The birdlife was interesting and varied and we added several new species to our Africa bird checklist including the very unusual-looking, colorful crowned crane.
We drove a circuitous route through bush and thornveld and spotted three rhinos very close to the road.
Not far away, giraffes crowded the narrow road before us. They ambled along, munching on trees, aloof and clearly not bothered by our presence.
Hannah chanced a quick exit from the car to photograph a dung beetle rolling a dung ball across the road. Then suddenly, one flew in the open window of the car and landed on Brennan's lap. Not exactly sure what this indicated, but it provided significant amusement and innuendo for the next few miles of the trip.
A vervet monkey caught our attention and had us chuckling as dozens more monkeys descended from the tree. It reminded us of the mini-car at the circus, full of emerging clowns.
We ended our Tala experience at the hippo hide where we spotted several submerged hippos, their tiny ears and eyes barely protruding from the water, their snouts coming up for air every few minutes. A bit of trivia about hippos … they produce their own sunscreen. Like us, hippos are susceptible to sunburn. Hippos secrete a thick red, mucous-like sweat which not only lowers their body temp, but also acts as a sunscreen and antibiotic.
We never tire of watching animals, but the day was waning and we still had a couple hours drive to our backpackers' lodge in Himeville.