Travel | 17 Dec 2014 | By Sun International
It’s True – Durban has a Zoo!
You might know Durban as the city of sunshine and beaches but did you know it's also home to a zoo? Situated right in the heart of Morningside, one of Durban's most prestigious suburbs, you'll find an incredible place – the country's second oldest zoo. While you're staying at Sibaya Casino and Entertainment World for your family holiday, you've probably been looking for things to do in Durban.
Durban's very own strip
Undoubtedly, someone will suggest you drop in to the city's famous hub of activity and entertainment – Florida Road. This renowned strip of street buzzes around the clock and has some of Durban's very best restaurants and nightclubs.
At the top of the hill
Walk a little up the hill from Florida Road and you'll discover a secret jungle, located right in the middle of the city's busiest zones. Surrounded by the lush, landscaped gardens and blazes of colourful flowerbeds, lies the Mitchell Park Zoo, home to a wide range of interesting and exciting animals, birds and more.
The zoo includes a children's playground, a walk-through aviary, and the Blue Zoo tea garden, plus a large lawn area for picnics. It is next door to Jameson Park, which was once a pineapple plantation and now displays 200 species of roses.
An enchanting history
Originally established as an ostrich farm in 1910, and named after Sir Charles Bullen Hugh Mitchell, Mitchell Park is a favourite family spot perfect for picnics, play time and a little learning expedition to discover interesting facts about a whole bunch of cool creatures. Looking back into the history books, Mitchell Park Zoo once housed lions, leopards and even elephants but its inhabitants nowadays are made up of smaller animals.
Did you know? The Mitchell Park elephant was famously known as "Nellie the Elephant" and was a gift from Maharajah of Mysore in 1928. Nellie was much loved for her skills with a mouth organ, and it was said she could crack coconuts with her feet.
Pay your nominal (no really, we mean that – it's ridiculously cheap!) entrance fee at the gate and begin meandering through the cobbled pathways that take you past all the animal enclosures, and you'll spy wallabies, monkeys, tortoises and an array of bright birds.
Tip: keep your eyes peeled for the peacocks as they strut their stuff along the way – they're a beloved sight at the Mitchell Park Zoo and kids just love to watch them as they parade their feathers for all to see.
Admiral the Awesome
Some of the animals housed at Mitchell Park Zoo have been living there for as long as many Durban residents can remember. Admiral, the Zoo's oldest resident, is over 100 years old and was left at the Zoo in 1915. Admiral is an Aldabra tortoise and he lives with a bunch of other giant Aldabra tortoises that originally hail from the Seychelles. Admiral's owner, a naval officer, brought these tortoises with him to Durban from the Aldabra Islands, and Admiral is the only one still living today. He was made an honorary member of the Durban naval base in 2001. Admiral is a neighbourhood legend for Durban residents, and you'll be hard pressed to find someone who hasn't met him at least once in their lives.
But beyond the long and lovely paths that let you spy a blue duiker or two or swoon over the families of flamingos, there's a beautiful park just waiting to be explored.
Stop, sit and eat!
If you're not in the mood for a picnic, pop in to Mitchell Park's restaurant, the aptly named Blue Zoo. With a well-rounded menu and elegant specialties, you'll find something to suit everybody's tastes as they enjoy a lazy lunch under the shade of trees. Blue Zoo also caters for weddings and events – I can't think of a better place to celebrate a special day!
The sand-filled playground just beyond the Mitchell Park Zoo is packed with fun activities for the little people, so let them loose on the swings and yes, the roundabouts too.
After a stroll through the zoo, a hearty lunch under the trees and a romp through Mitchell Park, there's only one thing left to do – figure out when you'll be visiting again!