Silver Wind Live Voyage Report – Day 8

Durban &  Tala Private Game Reserve Safari

A rainbow guides Silversea's Silver Wind into Durban, South Africa this morning. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
A rainbow guides Silversea’s Silver Wind into Durban, South Africa this morning. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

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.

Durban is the third-largest city in South Africa. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Durban is the third-largest city in South Africa. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
The city has many Indian influences. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
The city has many Indian influences. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

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.

All aboard. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
All aboard. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Giraffe's at the Tala Private Game Reserve. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Giraffe’s at the Tala Private Game Reserve. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

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.

The rare Toytoa Tundra. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
The rare Toytoa Tundra. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

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.

I never get tired of seeing these. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
I never get tired of seeing these. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

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.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

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.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

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:

"I'm ready for my close-up." Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
“I’m ready for my close-up.” Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
The proximity of animals to the visitors of the park is excellent. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
The proximity of animals to the visitors of the park is excellent. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Adults protecting the little ones. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Adults protecting the little ones. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

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.

Sun, South Africa and a "Yellow Cab" served poolside - now that's relaxing. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Sun, South Africa and a “Yellow Cab” served poolside – now that’s relaxing. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Back at the ship, I could have gone into Durban proper and spent some time using 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.

Silver Wind Tour: the Reception area on Deck 6 also houses the International Hostess' desk and the Future Cruise Consultant. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Silver Wind Tour: the Reception area on Deck 6 also houses the International Hostess’ desk and the Future Cruise Consultant. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

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 socialize 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.

Action on the High Seas: preparing to disembark our pilot via helicopter. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Action on the High Seas: preparing to disembark our pilot via helicopter. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

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.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Our Durban pilot is lifted off the deck of the Silver Wind. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Our Durban pilot is lifted off the deck of the Silver Wind. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
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A beautiful sight. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

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.

A few tasty Canapes earlier in the day...a great compliment to dinner. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
A few tasty Canapes earlier in the day…a great complement to dinner. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Silver Wind, South Africa

Day 1Cape Town, South Africa
Day 2Cruising The Indian Ocean
Day 3Addo Elephant Park
Day 4Day at Sea
Day 5Maputo, Mozambique
Day 6iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Day 7On Safari
Day 8Durban & Tala Private Game Reserve
Day 9East London & an Inkwenkwezi Safari
Day 10Day at Sea
Voyage Recap

Join the Conversation

Gloria says:

I have good friends onboard with you, perhaps you have met them? Loretta and Ralph from Tucson AZ. I have enjoyed reading your every day messages. I feel I am cruising in Africa with you!

Aaron Saunders says:

Hi Gloria,

I never did bump into them, sadly. It’s amazing that with only 200-something guests onboard it is still not possible to meet everyone! I do hope they had a great time, though.

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