Serenity and luxury in bush breakaway

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iol travel may 26 nt tala10 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS I made a new friend, a giraffe called Nduna. Pictures: NABEELAH SHAIKH

Durban - Spanning 3 000 hectares of pristine natural plains and grassland, Tala Private Game Reserve in Eston, Camperdown, is set against an amazing backdrop of African bush. My visit exceeded my wildlife expectations.

Arriving there late on a Saturday, reservations woman Noma Khanyile welcomed me to the wildlife sanctuary in a heart-warming way.

“Great to have you with us, I imagined you to be a lot older. We will do everything we can to make your stay as amazing as possible,” she said after a warm handshake.

Shortly afterwards, we were driven by another friendly staff member to the Leadwood Lodge, where we spent the night.

I was impressed by the immaculately crafted wooden furniture, the scent of the fresh linen and the king-size bed.

My mother and I soon settled into our room and because it was chilly we were delighted with the welcoming fire that had been lit for us.

iol travel may 26 nt tala room The well-appointed rooms at Tala, for a peaceful and relaxing experience. INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Not long after we settled in, it was dinner time. We were again escorted from our room to the magnificent La Tala Restaurant at the entrance to the reserve.

The restaurant is a spectacular thatched venue where a tree strung with fairy lights is the main feature.

The views from the restaurant are magnificent – of the bush and any passing game.

There was a variety of food to choose from on the menu which was specifically designed by Tala’s executive chef, John Hillhouse.

He loves to play with flavours and his food was definitely to my taste. My favourite dish was the creamy garlic Thai mussels – delicious.

Being Muslim, I was concerned that Halaal food would be a problem, but Hillhouse went out of his way to ensure that he catered for my dietary needs and prepared the most scrumptious vegetarian and seafood dishes for my mother and I.

After dinner, we headed back to our lodge, where I was soon lulled to sleep by the sound of distant animal noises. It was peaceful and relaxing.

Waking up on a Sunday morning to the sight of the African bush was wonderful.

We began the day bright and early with a breakfast buffet, which was so substantial that it kept me going for the whole morning.

Then it was adventure time. I got to meet Jean Naube, a young game ranger with a world of knowledge about the animals under his care.

It was when we were about to set out on safari that Jean informed us two rhinos had been poached the day before.

Although three had been darted and then dehorned, one had survived the terrible ordeal.

The carcasses of the two that were not so lucky were still at the scene and even though this was terrible, I was interested to see what they looked like.

When we drove to the site and I saw what had been inflicted on the animals, it was heart-breaking.

With a heavy heart, we continued our drive through the reserve. We spotted beautiful zebras, other rhinos and kudu. I made a new friend, a giraffe called Nduna.

Nduna is 30 years old and is one of the friendliest animals I have ever met. He gracefully approached our car and allowed us the opportunity to step out and take pictures next to him.

Driving around the reserve, we spotted some incredible plant species such as acacia as well as some of the 380 species of birds that are to be found in the reserve.

At the end of the safari it was time for lunch, a buffet , and then we had to return home.

Back in the city I was able to appreciate the serenity at the reserve. It’s a good place to de-stress, especially for those who like a little luxury.

* Tala Private Game Reserve can be contacted on 031 781 8000 or e-mail [email protected] to make a booking for your next holiday. Visit the website on www.threecities.co.za. - Sunday Tribune

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