Dusk was descending as we entered the Tala Collection Private Game Reserve gates. We had driven a short way when a lanky giraffe strode up to welcome us …

He stood and watched us for a while and then ducked his head and disappeared into the trees, once he had ascertained that we were safe.

Situated in a 3 000-hectare malaria-free wildlife conservancy, amid the hills of a peaceful farming community, Tala Private Game Reserve is close to Durban and Pietermaritzburg. I had last been there about eight years ago when my husband’s company hosted a delightful family day there.

Tala often hosts weddings, conferences and photographic shoots in its beautiful reserve and day visitors are welcomed. There is a picnic venue and a pool in which to cool off.

Wide range of accommodation

The lodge has a wide range of accommodation types ranging from luxury cottages to rustic rondavels, in order to cater for different budgets and groups. The different types of rooms are spread out over the reserve in clusters. We stayed in Aloe Lodge which is the main hub of Tala.

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This is where you will find the Tala Restaurant, the boma, the conference venue and the well-stocked curio shop. Aloe Lodge has 10 comfortable en-suite rooms arranged around a garden containing its namesake, the aloe, in abundance.

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Our accommodation consisted of two inter-leading rooms – so my husband I shared one room while there was a separate one for the kids. The rooms were spacious and had large beds, ample wardrobes and stone floors.

A range of hand-painted wooden vases adorned the walls. The large sliding doors overlooked the grasslands and made us feel as though we were immersed in the bush. The small table and chairs on the patio were perfect for relaxing outside. Complimentary wi-fi was available and there was no television or telephone to distract one from nature.

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Dinner was served in the barn-style Tala restaurant

The hearty fire crackling in the fireplace and the soulful country music playing in the background created a cosy ambience. We feasted on warm butternut soap, creamy mussels, crusty Dorado fish, with a decadent crème brûlée and chocolate tart for dessert.

Breakfast consisted of a cold buffet and eggs made to order. We had scrambled eggs and mushrooms with grilled tomatoes out on the lawns overlooking the bush.  Later, we treated ourselves to scones with fresh cream and jam. My kids enjoyed it too. There were several families with children proving that Tala is indeed a family friendly destination. When they had eaten their fill, the kids were kept occupied by the jungle gym while the parents finished their breakfast at leisure.

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Two-hour game drives

Tala Game Reserve offers two-hour game drives in large game vehicles several times a day. Self-driving is also permitted. The terrain is a combination of acacia thornveld, open grassland and wetlands. We went on a 90-minute game drive and I had lots of fun using my new TomTom Bandit Action Camera.

We saw giraffes scratching each other’s necks, zebras playing, ostriches doing a mating dance, and rhinos relaxing. The rhinos had been recently de-horned in order to protect them from poachers. They are also protected around the clock by a dedicated anti-poaching team, showing Tala’s commitment to protecting its rhinos.

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Tala is home to several species of plains game all co-existing peacefully side by side

The reserve doesn’t have predators apart from jackals and caracals which occasionally hunt the plains game at night. Our guide, Milton, was very experienced and imparted useful information and anecdotes to us about the animals we were viewing. We spent some time gazing at the waterhole. Sunlight glistened on the water and the birds, as hippo heads emerged from the water occasionally. We enjoyed the solitude, tranquillity and picturesque beauty. The air was fresh and even the tap water tasted much better than Jo’burg water.

We left Tala Game Reserve feeling much more relaxed than when we had arrived.

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