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Making a plan for winter holidays

Josh Da Silva, taking you on a mystery quest.

Josh Da Silva, taking you on a mystery quest.

Published Jul 3, 2021


GO ON a quest to solve an ancient mystery, sit quietly and listen to the call of the iridescent purple-crested turaco or stop by a pop-up café for your favourite latte.

While these are three great to-do options during the July holidays within your own family “bubble”, they are also examples of the Saffer “make a plan” attitude, especially as the reintroduction of strict level 4 Covid regulations hit the tourism industry this week, just before the winter holiday season.

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Salt Rock-based Josh da Silva, 27, created his business, Evolva Games, towards the end of 2019 to offer real-life adventures with a story and a mystery to solve.

Da Silva was born in South Africa, raised in Mozambique and has lived in Australia, Brazil, England and Wales. He trained in the British Royal Marines and worked as an instructor of outdoor activities such as rock climbing, canoeing, abseiling, survival skills and team building.

He has also worked in operations management in London and KwaZulu-Natal, having completed a first-class business Honours in business management in London.

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“I came back to South Africa in 2018. I had been dabbling in the concept for the games, which is a mix between escape room puzzles and scavenger hunts, when I made a decision to start the business.

“There have been tough times in lockdown, such as the period when the beach was banned, and one of my games uses the beach. But you have to adapt and diversify your product so it doesn’t breach Covid regulations. I came up with other options. Everyone talks about the tourists, but there is also the local market,” he said, adding that his quests could be done safely within a “bubble” group.

He grew up being enthralled by the likes of Laura Craft (Tomb Raider), Nathan Drake (Uncharted), Ben Gates (National Treasure) and, as he got older, Myst: Riven, Rose Da Silva (Silent Hill) and Ralph Sarchie (Deliver Us from Evil).

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For anyone who has played the games or watched movies such as Indiana Jones or the Survivor series, Da Silva said: “If you have thought ‘I wish I could have an adventure like that’, my mission was to make that a reality. I want to create experiences that make you feel like an adventure hero solving an ancient mystery. The feeling of walking through nature or an unknown place and discovering something unique, like a very old box which is part of a lost secret, which you have the chance to uncover.”

Tour guide Thulas Luthuli says time in the bush provides a breath of fresh air from the pandemic

Accredited tour guide, Thulas Luthuli, 46, from Mnini Dam, says getting out into the bush is the perfect escape from pandemic stress.

Mnini Dam is close to Umgababa on the South Coast and about a 30-minute drive from Durban. He takes visitors on guided walks, birding, mountain bike trails and canoeing, as well as “pop-up” camps which are ideal for a “bubble” holiday experience.

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Describing the impact of Covid as “huge”, Luthuli said there was a growing awareness of Mnini Dam as an “off-the-beaten-track” destination.

“I grew up in the bush and the bush is life. During these pandemic times, people come out here where they can breathe the fresh air and feel healed. You come back from the bush as a different person, refreshed,” he said.

Also at the dam is Mnini Dam Tourist Resort with hosts Mlu and Sphiwe Shezi-Mqadi. They offer catch-and-release bass fishing, as well as overnight camping. They recently added four en-suite rooms with a full breakfast for those wanting a little more comfort.

Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, marking Youth Month, said this week that “more and more young people are leaving their cookie-cutter nine-to-five jobs to venture into entrepreneurship” and blazing the way in the tourism and hospitality industry.

One of them is Philile Nzimande, the founder of Travelling Cheapskates, which creates group travel experiences for millennials in KZN with the motto “Travel first, think later”.

Mbali Khumalo, of Taste KZN, opened her pop-up café using an old food truck, and Nelisiwe Nzimakwe, the owner of The Homestead in Munster, renovates old furniture, as well as transforming waste into decorative items and co-owns WOWZulu which offers sustainable community tourism in the province.

To join Thulas’ Adventures, go to [email protected] or call 031 322 6026/7 and get in touch with Evolva Games at

The Independent on Saturday

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