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Durban & Tala Private Game Reserve Safari
A brilliant rainbow seemed to guide Silversea’s intimate Silver Wind into the port of Durban, South Africa this morning. It was an excellent precursor to the sun, blue skies and warm temperatures that would greet guests after several days of rain and unseasonably cool temperatures.
I was up and having breakfast on the terrace at La Terrazza on Deck 7 this morning, watching intently as we came alongside the passenger terminal here in Durban, my cup of coffee rattling slightly on the saucer as Silver Wind’s thrusters were applied to move us into place.
Over 3.5 million people live in the Durban (pronounced like turban) area, the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. It is South Africa’s busiest port city, and third largest city after Jo’burg and Cape Town. Nearly one million of those are of Indian descent, having settled here originally in the late 1860’s. On sail-in, it looks like you’re coming into a major metropolis, with the city’s massive soccer stadium easily visible off-shore. It reminds me a bit of Halifax, London and industrial ports like Brooklyn all rolled into one, bathed in fabulous weather. It’s easily the first “city” that we’ve visited on this trip.
By ten after eight in the morning, I was off the Silver Wind and standing pierside, boarding the motorcoach that would whisk me to the Tala Private Game Reserve for a two-hour game drive. After all, I came 10,000 miles from Canada to see some of Africa’s famed wildlife, and I’m going all-out to ensure I see as much as possible!
The Tala Game Reserve spans 7,500 acres set amongst the pristine, rolling hills of KwaZulu-Natal province. There’s no shortage of game here, with plenty of zebras, hippos, kudu, giraffes, and the rare sable antelope.
When we arrived, we piled into a converted Iveco truck that was high on viewing space but short on leg room: my kneecaps were pressed against the metal roll-bars in front of me, compounded by the fact my feet wouldn’t touch the ground – and I’m five foot nine. This became a bit of a problem when the truck would move, as it would rattle those of us in the back around quite a bit, resulting in some very sore ankles and banged-up knees.
Still, once you round the corner and see five giraffes grazing lazily by the side of the road, your personal discomfort tends to evaporate. They were having a little drink and a snack when we encountered them: tree branch with just a hint of leafy greens. I swear I heard one of them grunt with satisfaction at having eaten a particularly good branch of tree. Or was it the massive, orange bumblebees that roared like weed-whackers nearby? I can’t be sure.
During our two-hour game drive, we passed by numerous zebras, ostriches, impalas, warthogs, wildebeest, rhinoceroses, and even a few disinterested-looking hippopotamuses. The backdrop for all of this was a countryside that was as lush and green as the hills of Ireland; if you picture a Zebra ambling around the Ring of Kerry, you wouldn’t be far off.
Here’s the problem: my Safari excursion yesterday was, by all accounts, absolutely superb; one of those rare days that transcends a pleasurable experience and becomes something of a cherished memory and conversation piece for years to come. So I was expecting today to be a bit of a let-down. Did I enjoy it? Yes. But it felt very…zoo-like. Staged, in a way. In truth, that’s what it is: the reserve was created a few years back, and even the Silver Shore Journal lists a disclaimer stating that the reserve is in a populated area and may not feel as though it is deep in the African Bush.
Still, there were some magnificent photo opportunities:
The other guests who accompanied me on the tour seemed thrilled with it, and certainly, Tala’s surroundings are absolutely magnificent. If you haven’t done other safari excursions along the way, hit up Tala – the proliferation of animals is well worth it. But if you experienced the massive Hluhluwe-Umfolozi tour in Richards Bay, you may want to give this one a pass.
Back at the ship, I could have gone into Durban proper and spent some time utilising the free shuttle to the Ushaka Marine World, but I really just wanted to come back onboard and spend some quality time on the Silver Wind while I can, as I realize this trip is all too quickly coming to a close. But it’s not just the beautiful ship and the wonderful crew that I look forward to seeing; it’s the passengers that I’ve become fast friends with over the past week onboard. I don’t know what it is, but I just don’t meet people on other lines like I meet aboard Silversea, and to me, that’s one of the best reasons to recommend them.
Even though this cruise (sorry – experience!) is far from over, I can honestly say I would come back here. In fact, the voyage that I think would be a spectacular companion for anyone who’s experienced these Eastern coast cruises is Silver Wind’s December 3, 2013 Voyage 2336 that sails from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria down West Africa to Cape Town. It even calls at another port of call that has fascinated me since I first experienced it last year aboard the Silver Spirit: Porto Novo in the Cape Verde Islands.
Here’s a look at what’s happening this evening onboard the Silver Wind:
6:00pm – Silver Wind sails for East London, South Africa 6:45pm – Perry plays Guests’ musical favorites – The Bar (5) 6:45pm – The Silver Wind Quartet plays for Guests’ listening pleasure – Panorama Lounge (8) 8:00pm – Dinner Dance. Dine to the music of the Silver Wind Quartet – The Restaurant (4) 9:30pm – The Silver Wind Quartet plays for Guests’ dancing pleasure – Panorama Lounge (8) 9:45pm – Perry returns to play Guests’ musical favorites until late – The Bar (5) 10:00pm – GAME SHOW – Silversea Presents “Liar’s Club” – Panorama Lounge (8) 10:45pm – Silver Wind Quartet plays for Guests’ dancing pleasure – Panorama Lounge (8)
Now, if you read the above list, it sounds like music, food, music, game show, music – and you’d be right! But I can’t seem to take in half of what’s on offer here aboard the Silver Wind, for the simple reason that dinner is a true event. It’s a chance to socialise and chat with your fellow guests and crew, and that frequently spills over into drinks and music. There’s not fifteen different Broadway productions, a juggler, a merry-go-round and a midnight buffet to keep guests entertained onboard Silversea, simply because the guests don’t need it.
The Silver Wind is a very social ship.
Tonight, departure from Durban was a true event: not only was it the occasion of the most spectacular sunset so far this voyage, but it is one of the only ports I have ever been to, anywhere in the world, where the pilot disembarks the ship via helicopter. Silhouetted by the Durban skyline and the fading sun, the pilot was plucked from the aft section of Deck 9 and hoisted aboard the helicopter in a bit of action-hero-esque maneuvering.
I was tired tonight, so I ordered a light dinner from room service, which my butler Ronaldo promptly delivered with a smile. I hadn’t ordered any dessert, but he kindly suggested a little ice cream to finish off the meal, which I agreed to. While I was having my dessert, my attendant Grace turned down the room in a flash, and I enjoyed a relaxing evening in.
That’s true luxury.
Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind will continue tomorrow as we spend the morning at sea and an afternoon of safari adventure docked in the port of East London, South Africa!
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