As the busiest port in Africa, and a vital manufacturing hub for South Africa, Durban has long been an important city. It has always been a popular holiday destination for locals, and is now gaining increasing interest from foreigners as well.
With an abundant variety to see and do in this coastal city, the biggest in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, it is little wonder that it is rising in the ranks of top international travel destinations.
Durban is one of South Africa’ top surfing spots, due in large part to the excellent conditions of the weather and water which includes consistent and regular waves; favourable wind directions; a variety of reef, point and beach breaks; warm water and good weather all year round. Many of the country’s best surfers hail from Durban such as Shaun Tomson and Jordy Smith.
You may, in fact, find yourself facing fierce competition from locals in the water who, despite their easy-going and laid-back natures, take surfing very seriously. That also means there are plenty of instructors and schools, such as Learn 2 Surf, where you can discover the art of riding waves.
Excellent surf breaks to try out include New Pier, Cave Rock, North Beach, Dairy Beach and Baggies. On a competitive note, Durban hosts many renowned surfing events such as the Billabong Gromcomp, the Kushay Igagasi Surf Contest and the Durban Surf Carnival.
Spice it Up
The motto on South Africa’s coat of arms is “unity through diversity”, attributed to the multiracial melting pot of history and culture. Durban is a fine example, having witnessed an influx of Indian emigration, first as indentured servants under British rule and then as traders.
A merry stroll along Bertha Mkhize Street will awaken your senses as you take in the splashes of bright colour and intoxicating smells, along with the exuberant chatter of shoppers bargaining with stall owners, at the Victoria Street Market. Here you will find gorgeous traditional kurtas and saris, all accompanied by the scent of incense and aromatic spices. Most important, is the incredible Indian cuisine which you can’t go home without trying, such as rotis, samoosas, crushed sugar cane and deliciously messy bunny chows.
Walk Up the Golden Mile
Revamped in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the famous Golden Mile has been resurrected to its glory days. Along the mile you will find joggers, cyclists and rollerbladers, making their way to the south end.
Here you will find South Beach, a much-loved beach and surf spot, particularly for beginners. It is well protected by lifeguards and shark nets and is very popular with families. The coastline is crammed with restaurants, bars, and curio stalls, and you find plenty of accommodation – just keep a wary eye out for pickpockets!
There is plenty to keep children busy as well. Besides the beach, there is also Funworld, made up of freshwater pool and showers.
Spend a night on the town and catch the hottest music acts at Live – The Venue. Chart-topping bands and musicians from Durban such as Gangs of Ballet and Farryl Purkiss have played at this renowned entertainment and events’ venue. There are also many other local acts from across the country who book gigs at this amazing spot, doing its part to grow and develop the local live scene.
For an entirely different night out, take in a performance at the theatre by heading to The Playhouse Company. Arising from a merger of the 1926 Prince’s Theatre and the 1935 Playhouse, The Playhouse Company is funded by the national and provincial governments, producing a repertoire of live theatre which spans across the genres of music, drama and dance, and encompasses all the cultural groups of KwaZulu-Natal.
Soak Up the Sun
Durban is renowned for good weather all year round. Pair it with some of the country’s finest beaches, awash with the warm water of the Indian Ocean, and you have an idyllic beach holiday destination.
Some of the best spots include the afore-mentioned South Beach, as well as Addington Beach and the Bay of Plenty. On the North Coast you will find the ever-popular Umhlanga Coast and Umhlanga Rocks. But the numerous beaches are not the only way in which you can soak up the sun’s rays. Sightseeing is the perfect opportunity for a sunlit stroll as you explore the Victoria Embankment or, as it is known locally, the Esplanade. It has many fine dining options, and it will even afford you a glimpse of the charmingly tacky Vasco da Gama Clock, erected in 1898 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s sighting of Durban.
There is a lot more to Durban, not just around the city centre, but further afield as well.
Explore the rich heritage of the Zulu kingdom by taking a trip to Shakaland, about a two-hour drive north of Durban. Here you will learn all about the tribe’s customs and ceremonies, as well as its most celebrated leader: Shaka Zulu. You will be able to sample traditional beer, witness impassioned Zulu dances and consult with a sangoma (a traditional healer), all within an umuzi, a traditional homestead replicated between Phobane Lake and Mhlatuze Valley. They even offer accommodation!
The experience does not end here, as you can include a trip to the breathtaking Drakensberg; go on safari at one of numerous game reserves, or meander along the Midlands, taking in the boundless natural treasures of KwaZulu-Natal.
Featured image by SA TourismFlights to Durban