Durban and surrounds – Tala Game Reserve

About the Birding

Tala Game Reserve comprises 3200 hectares in the Tala Valley, part of the Mlazi River system just outside Pietermaritzburg. The ranch was purchased in 1988 by Mr Stuart Hilcove and was initially run as a cattle ranch. It has subsequently been turned into a game ranch and an assortment of mammal species have been reintroduced to the area including White Rhinoceros, Southern Giraffe, Cape Buffalo, Blue Wildebeest, Greater Kudu, Common Eland, Nyala, Sable Antelope, Waterbuck, Southern Reedbuck, Common Duiker and Common Warthog.

A variety of habitats are included including several dams, a large river, riparian thicket, thornveld, mixed woodland and grassland. Given the large habitat diversity, a high number of bird species also occur.

Birds of prey abound including the Wahlberg’s Eagle (summer), Lanner Falcon Long-crested Eagle, and occasionally Black Harrier. In the mixed woodland and grassland look for Yellow-throated and Cape Longclaws, Black-winged Lapwing, Acacia Pied Barbet, Red-throated Wryneck, Cape Rock-thrush and Southern Tchagra. The shy Shelley’s Francolin is regular and is best detected by its loud call, frequently given in the mornings. Wetlands support a healthy number of waterfowl, as well as African Snipe and both Grey Crowned and Wattled Cranes. The threatened Orange-breasted Waxbill is regular in marshy vegetation and the best approach to seeing this scarce species is to watch for small flocks flying in to roost in reedbeds in the late afternoon. Riparian thicket supports an several interesting forest species including the Red-capped Robin-chat, Purple-crested Turaco, Crowned Hornbill, and Olive Bush-shrike.

Key species:

Wattled Crane, Shelley’s Francolin, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Black Harrier

About the Birding Site

The eThekwini Metropolitan Area (Durban) is a major harbour city situated on the east coast of South Africa. It serves as the most accessible port of entry into the KwaZulu-Natal province with daily flights to all other major cities in South Africa, and further afield (e.g. Mauritius, Dubai). The city and surrounding towns are popular among holidaymakers, given the sub-tropical climate and extensive beaches along the rich waters of the Indian Ocean. Moreover, the city falls within a global biodiversity hotspot – the Maputaland-Pondolona-Albany (MPA) Hotspot.

This region is home to more than 7000 species of plant, more than 25% of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The variety of landforms and sub-tropical climatic conditions, combined with its unique biogeographical position, have resulted in a range of aquatic (wetlands, rivers, estuaries) and terrestrial (mainly forests and coastal grasslands) environments which additionally support a plethora of interesting bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian species. The eThekwini area contains three of South Africa’s eight biomes (namely savanna, forest and grasslands), and supports more than 2000 plant species, 82 terrestrial mammals, 69 reptiles, 25 endemic invertebrates and well over 500 bird species – making it South Africa’s most biodiverse city, by far. To be expected then, the region offers a variety of prime birding spots featuring a number of South Africa’s most sought-after bird species. Top among these are the Spotted Ground Thrush, Mangrove Kingfisher, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Green Malkoha, and Knysna Woodpecker. Durban is also well known for its variety of waders and marine species, often turning up rarities such as the Lesser Black-backed Gull. Key sites within the eThekwini Metropolitan Area include Tala Game Reserve, Pigeon Valley and Krantzkloof Nature Reserves, Durban Bay Head and the Durban National Botanical Gardens.

In addition, as a further attraction to this rich region, the eThewkini Natural Science Museum has world-class ornithological displays and collections.

Key species:

Wattled Crane, Shelley’s Francolin, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Black Harrier

Other Related Information

From the N3, heading north, take the Camperdown off ramp and turn left. Travel for approximately 3km to the T-junction. Turn left onto the R603 and travel in the direction of Umbumbulu. Follow this road for 12km. The entrance to Tala Game Reserve is well sign-posted on the left of this road.

Notable points of interest include the:
Main entrance: -29.8352, 30.5238
Main lodge: -29.8256, 30.5415

Other related information:

The nearest towns to the Tala Game Reserve are:
Pietermaritzburg: 67km
Durban: 73km

Access and facilities:
Tala Game Reserve is accessible by day visitors and a nominal entrance fee is payable at the main gate. Gate times are from 07:00 to 19:00 in the summer months (September-April), and 07:00 to 17:00 in the winter months (May-August). A picnic site and restaurant are provided.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
Tala Private Game Reserve is listed as a Birder Friendly Establishment, offering down-to-earth luxury accommodation in a mix of rooms across a collection of lodges and houses. These include both catered and fully-equipped self-catering options suitable for couples and solo groups, as well as larger groups. Tala offers a range of activities including guided game drives, bush walks, fishing and outdoor dining.

For more information, or to make a reservation, contact:
Physical address: R603 Umbumbulu Road, Camperdown, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal
Tel: +27 (0)31 781 8000
Fax: +27 (0)31 781 8022
Email: or

Local guide information:
Experienced guides are available with prior booking for both guided game drives and bush walks. No community guides are currently available for this area.

Text prepared by:
Daniel Keith Danckwerts (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours)

Key species:

Wattled Crane, Shelley’s Francolin, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Black Harrier

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

Tala Game Reserve
Stuart Hilcove – Manager
Tel: +27 (0)31 781 8000
Fax: +27 (0)31 781 8022