If you grew up in Durban, you definitely visited Mitchell Park Zoo on a school outing. You also probably have not thought about it since you were in about Standard Five. That needs to change.
Mitchell Park, which includes the lawns, gardens, Blue Zoo restaurant and the zoo itself is 108 years old. The zoo has always been part of Mitchell Park and it is amazing to think that if you grandparents or even great-grandparents grew up in Durban they probably also have fond childhood memories of the mammals, birds, reptiles and fish which inhabit the “animal garden.”
Today, the zoo is, to be honest, looking a little neglected but the animals are all well-cared for and it is reassuringly obvious that the little money that the Mitchell Park Trust has is put into the welfare of the animals. It is no wonder that money is tight as the entrance fee is the princely sum of R5 for adults!
The zoo boasts several rare animals and we were enchanted by the ethereal beauty of a flock of white peacocks. On our first walk past, they were all at rest, but as we meandered by again on our way out, they had their tail feathers open in full glory and I couldn’t tear my eyes away. The meerkats sit up, on watch, just like you see in the encyclopeadia and the little members of the lemur family are so cute you’d love to take one home as a pet. The giant tortoises were also fascinating to watch as they made their way around their enclosure, dodging errant free-to-roam (ordinary but just as spectacular) peacocks as they went.
The gardens in Mitchell Park are magnificent and it must be very pleasant to have an early morning Sunday picnic on the lawns. We were not so prepared and instead had something to drink on the verandah of the Blue Zoo restaurant, looking out over green lawns, tall trees and colourful, manicured flower beds. As my husband said, we felt like we were sitting in an English park, rather than in Durban. A different way to spend a day in Durban and a definite addition to anyone’s to-do list.