There is no city in South Africa quite like Durban. Because of its subtropical coastal climate, warm seas, safe swimming beaches, its variety of restaurants and nightlife and many sporting facilities, Durban has always been a holiday city, popular with both domestic and international visitors. It helps that Durban also has the excellent King Shaka International Airport, great transport infrastructure and a variety of accommodation to suit all tastes and pockets.
Durban’s rich cultural diversity is what gives it a vibrancy enjoyed by few other South African cities. By far the largest section of Durban’s population is Zulu speaking, and evidence of Zulu culture is everywhere – in the markets, in art galleries and theatres, on the streets where vendors sell Zulu and African crafts and curios, and in the sprawling townships that surround the city. It is fascinating to visit sites where people such as Mahatma Gandhi, John Dube and other heroes of the South African struggle once lived.
The wonderful food, ceremonies and festivals of the city’s Indian residents has greatly enriched Durban’s cultural landscape, as has the architecture and lovely gardens, developed by the city’s early European settlers. Durban’s harbour, around which the city developed, is one of the most important, and certainly the busiest in Africa, serving the hinterland and landlocked countries to the north.
Durban is perhaps best known for its lifeguard protected swimming beaches, its world- class pedestrian promenade, the iconic Moses Mabhida stadium, the uShaka Marine World aquarium -the 5th largest in the world, and great surf. Many world-renown surfing champions grew up in Durban and there is an enormously successful surfboard manufacturing and related industry based here. Just a block back from the beachfront are the premises of more than nine surfboard shapers, many of whom welcome visitors to watch surfboards being made. Alternatively, of course, you could take a few surfing lessons yourself!
If that’s not your thing, you can simply enjoy a day on the beach, swimming, building sandcastles or playing beach volleyball. It is wonderful just to take a stroll, or take a rickshaw ride, out onto one of the six piers between Blue Lagoon and the Moyo Pier – a beautiful place to enjoy a sundowner cocktail. If you hire a bicycle, you can ride to one of the laid-back outdoor coffee shops along the promenade from where you can enjoy watching the lively beachfront activities such as Durban’s famous sand sculptures. You could even cycle as far as the Green Hub, which shows off numerous sustainability concepts, and on along a designated cycling path which follows the Umgeni River to the Umgeni Bird Park, for some real exercise!
For a city the size of Durban, it is perhaps surprising to find so many natural, green parks and gardens such as the Botanic Gardens, Mitchell Park and Zoo, the Beachwood Mangroves, and nature reserves such as Shongweni and Kenneth Stainbank within easy walking and driving distance.