Encounters with Wild Animals Close Up

8th March,2009
On arrival at the Tala entrance (Tal means “Land of Plenty” in Zulu) it became clear that security is very lax inspite of the establishment having experienced a serious robbery. There was along line of cars and the security guard did not check details or note names and car numbers.

At reception the car park was chock a block with mainly 4×4’s. We were in fact early as check in was 2.00pm although no one had made us aware of this. The receptionist was very perfunctory and instructed us to meet her at Paperback Lodge at 2.00pm. She seemed very intent on getting us to have the buffet lunch at 164 rand!! She praised the variety of the fare letting us know that there were oysters etc. etc. I had hope to treat everyone to lunch but by common consent we decided that this was not a good idea. Aiden eats mainly chips and River (Clarissa) and Donnette are picky eaters.

Instead we enquired if we could have a coffee. We were entertained for quite some time by a number of antelopes who stood close by watching us with interest.The Nyala is one of Africa’s rarest and most beautiful antelopes. The coffee when it came was first class.

Afterwards we drove around for a bit on roads full of visitors. We saw large herds of zebra, some ostriches, wildebeest and warthogs.Donnette remarked that because the wildlife in the reserve was “managed” there were much higher densities of animals than one would see in the wild.Clearly things were hotting up for the mating season. The bird life is astonishing.

We drove to Paperbark Lodge. Paperbark trees are not indigenous but have been planted here to lower the water table. Each tree absorbs sixty eight liters of water per day.

One lodge was occupied by a crowd of raucous crowd of South Africans of Indian ancestry who were apparently using the conference facilities. Music was blaring and the guests were throwing one another into the swimming pool. We were wandering around looking lost when a lovely young man directed us to a reception area and offered us coffee and juice. When the receptionist finally appeared on time she marched way ahead of me to my room. I refused to be hurried along.

To my great delight I have a very nice room indeed. It is totally secluded and private with a little Patio surrounded by vegetation. The furnishings are made from beautiful hard woods and with hand printed and naturally dyed fabrics used on the headboards of the beds.The wardrobe doors have bamboo insets and the front door opens in two parts as in a stable.The bathroom has a free-standing claw-foot bath shower, .The bathroom door opens onto an enclosure with an outdoor All the ceilings are lined with bamboo. It’s really enchanting.

I was just beginning to feel settled when to my surprise there was a knock at the door and there stood the receptionist. She said she wanted to talk to me as she had had so little time earlier. She turned out to be both friendly and charming. Apparently my room is quite exceptionally well suited to seeing the animals as they all pass close by my window on the way to the water morning and evenings. I should get very good photos just leaning out of the window.

My night drive was incredible. I saw a rhino with her baby as well as a hippo and her baby swimming in the lake. There were a group of young giraffes who watched us with interest. Apparently if you see a giraffe standing with its’ head hanging down it’s dead. I also saw many varieties of antelope including a rare Reed Buck.

My guide was a very knowledgeable man who had apparently been a cabin steward with South African Airways some years back. He also hold a private pilots license. He was lamenting the fact that most guides are white as few “black” South Africans have any interest in a career in wildlife.He had also worked as a counsellor helping people with HIV/AIDS. Tala donates a large part of its profits to a nearby orphanage.

Plants and their properties were explained to me. I was the only person on the game drive. Getting into the Land Rover is like getting onto a horse for e – not easy any more. There were raincoats and blankets in the vehicle.

At sunset we stopped at the lake and high quality refreshments were produced. I returned to the lodge to find that my picnic supper was awaiting me. Everything was contained in a smart specially fitted basket. There was an impressive array of tasty dishes and a selection of fruits in a special cool box.



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