Nestled in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal, 3 and a half hours from Durban International airport, in the heart of Zuka private Game Reserve, Bayala Private Safari Lodges offer an unforgettable experience for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. Each day at this remarkable lodge is a unique adventure filled with animal and bird sightings and wilderness delights. For the early risers, the day at Bayala starts early, just as the African bush awakens. Its 5:30am and the guests, many now friends, having spent time together in this beautiful place, get together in the lounge for a quick cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate and freshly baked rusks, before getting on their game vehicle with their dedicated game ranger. The crisp fresh bush air filling your nostrils, an insect orchestra playing softly in the background and the morning sun just rising over the hills to the east.
The rangers are all in communication with each other on radio and this ensured we didn’t miss a thing! We were rushed from a sighting of 3 white rhino, to a Cheetah and 2 of her cubs hiding in a hole near a massive acacia tree. We tracked leopard spoor along the road for a while, but were able to find the predator. After 2 hours or so we stopped on the side of a dam and enjoyed tea and coffee with our ranger and fellow guests while watching the animals come down to the waterhole to drink. We then slowly made our way back to camp. We had a beautiful sighting of a pink throated Twinspot (waxbill family) and a tawny eagle surveying the land.
The mid-morning offered us a chance to unwind and enjoy the lodge’s amenities. The sparkling pool was very welcoming, as was a game of Boule on the lawns. Many guests lay on the deck chairs, book in hand, with great intentions to get through a few chapters, but many landed up napping and recharging after their early start that morning. Families with kids kept the young ones entertained in the secure dedicated children’s area. Here there is giant chess, putt-putt, a slide, swings, a wendy house and plastic bikes. All set inconspicuously amongst the trees, surrounded by birdlife and a few Nyala wandering around.
At 2pm a light lunch was served. There was a dedicated children’s menu too.
At 3pm the adventures of the bush continued with another game drive. This is an excellent opportunity to witness the behaviour of animals during different times of the day. The African bush never ceases to surprise, and the afternoon drive often reveals new and exciting sightings. We were so fortunate to see 2 lion sightings, one having just made a kill had the lioness trying to teach her cubs how to tuck in to their meal. They really struggled with the concept and seemed to enjoy rolling over the buffalo and chasing each others tails rather than getting stuck in as their mother wanted.
We then spent some time outside under the clear skies star gazing and listening to the chorus of insects. What a way to end a day. Back in the room, the air conditioner keeps the room cool as you slip into bed and enjoy a wonderful rest dreaming of the day that has been.
The true magic of Bayala unfolds on the morning game drive. With knowledgeable rangers at the helm, you embark on a safari through the pristine wilderness. As the vehicle winds its way through the diverse landscape, your heart beats fast with anticipation as you encounter Africa’s magnificent wildlife in its natural habitat. Most days we were fortunate enough to encounter 4 of the big 5, as well as antelope and a myriad of bird species, every sighting is a testament to the beauty of nature. As an avid bird lover, I was exposed to so many species I had not seen before. Our rangers knowledge of birds was incredible. The amount that was shared about trees, and natures incredible way it adapts to situations left us speechless. We were shown a balloon thorn, which is under normal circumstances, by all accounts a normal thorn tree. However these trees go all out to attract and support its resident ants. The usual slender stipular thorns at the base of their leaves appear standard, however the trees produce swollen hollow thorns on their branches. Ants use these oversized thorny structures as shelter and nesting space. The benefits of residence don’t stop with shelter. Not only do they live comfortably within these thorns, glands near the base of the tree’s leaves secrete a carbohydrate-rich nectar which the ant colonies can use as food.
At 9:00 AM we were welcomed back to the lodge by a friendly face asking about our drive, and handing out warm towels to wipe our hands before tucking in to a hearty Breakfast. Fresh fruit, yoghurt and granola is just the start as they cook up your hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and many other delicious breakfast choices. With the weather as perfect as it was, we sat outside on the patio, overlooking the pool area and enormous trees, listening to the birdlife, while watching the resident Nyala grazing on the grass in front of the rooms, while hearing fellow guests recount their morning sightings with detailed enthusiasm.
As the sun sets, it’s time to gather for dinner. The lodge’s chefs craft a diverse menu that celebrates local flavours. Guests dine under the stars or in a warm and welcoming dining area, recounting their day’s experiences and sharing stories of the incredible wildlife encounters.