South Africa - East Coast
After two weeks on the west coast, we flew from Cape Town to Durban, rented another adorable car (this time a bright blue Ford Figo), and drove about 2.5 hours up the coast to the Zulu Nyala Game Reserve for a week of animal watching! We "won" this safari at an auction for dirt cheap last year and had pretty much planned our entire time in South Africa around it and were very excited to get outside and see some animals!
Disclaimer: We had read tons of reviews about this place before coming so we knew exactly what to expect. Other people who we met there had paid MUCH more than we did and had not read any reviews so they were pretty disappointed. For us, it is what got us to Africa in the first place and we had a great time. That being said...
Zulu Nyala is a private game reserve. That means that it is NOT a national park and is not cared for by the government. It is MUCH smaller than the national parks in the area (Zulu is about 8 sq miles, Kruger National Park to the north is almost 8,000 sq miles) and because of that has a lot less game than most parks (no lions). It is also fenced in- and the fence is very noticeable. You definitely don't feel like you're out in the bush while on the game drives. BUT, we had a really great guide, a good group (3 fun couples from London and an older couple from CA who had us laughing quite a bit), and we did get to see 3 of the big 5- cape buffaloes, elephants (my FAV), and rhinos, as well as tons of zebra, giraffes, warthogs, hippos, nyala, baboons, vervet monkeys, and lots of cool birds. And a cheetah! Just one, but it was pretty cool.
So you're assigned a guide and a group and you go out on 2 game drives a day- one in the morning and one in the afternoon. After the first day we had pretty much seen it all. The drives definitely got a little repetitive but we did get to see the animals behaving differently each day, so it was worth it.
The fence made the reserve feel very gimmicky. Also, there has been a crazy drought for the last few years so they have been feeding the animals and filling the watering holes. I mean, I'm glad the animals are getting fed, but it did make it feel a bit like a zoo.
We did a side trip one day to Bayete Zulu Game Reserve where we saw a female lion. We also got to interact with some elephants that were rescued from a culling operation years ago. They grew accustomed to humans after they formed a relationship with the people who saved them and supposedly they like interacting with humans. They have free range of the park and come up to the area where we got to see them on their own, so it didn't feel too zoo-like. We even got to touch an elephant tongue! It was crazy and really weird.
One day we took our car and drove to the town of St. Lucia where we went to the beach at Cape Vidal. It was our first time swimming in the Indian Ocean! Well Dennis swam, I just dipped my feet in. Waaaay too cold for me!
After our week at Zulu we spent a night in Durban before flying to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to hang out for a night before heading to Botswana for a week of camping!