Durban's VibeDurban is a mnemonic for a sensual assault. The main vibe is very African - the vast majority of residents being descendants of Zulu King Shaka's great military nation, but it is overlaid with a British colonial visual veneer and saturated with the heady aromas of India: coriander, cardamom, turmeric and all the other spices that flavour Durban's famously hot curries. There's something about the subtropical heat and humidity that give rise to a well-documented malaise known as Natal Fever: everyone seems to move slowly, as though through water.
Durban's ComebackIn the 1960s and 70s Durban was the most popular holiday destination in South Africa, but then it seemed to go to sleep while Cape Town emerged as the leisure destination of choice. But in recent years the famous The Golden Mile beach front has been revamped and the string of hotels once again offer beach-side value for money across all price points. The harbour area - East Africa's busiest port - has also seen something of a renaissance in recent years with restaurants, cafés, clubs and bars offering late-night attractions around The Point area.
Durban's BeachesBut the focus of Durban has always been the sea, or more specifically what surfers the world over will more easily recognize as the Bay of Plenty - nursery for world class surf acts including former world champ Shaun Tomson . You go to Durbs, as the locals call it, for one thing and that is the warm sea, simple. While Durban Bay itself offers a variety of beaches, arcs of golden sand stretch off north and south until land runs out ... somewhere. Between the Golden Mile hotels and the beach is a promenade several kilometres long with shops, cafés, formal and informal trading areas, parks and always abuzz with people strolling, jogging, skate-boarding and cycling.
Spice HeavenOther than the search for the perfect wave, the other search you can undertake is the search for the perfect Durban curry. It has proved to be a bit of a holy grail to curry lovers over the years, but we'll help to put you on the heady trail to spice heaven.
The Sharks ...Sports-wise - other than for excellent surfing - the city is best known as home to the Sharks rugby team, the most widely supported rugby team it the country; their home stadium at Kingsmead on the northern edge of downtown is known as the 'shark tank'. All of the city's the Fifa 2010 soccer World Cup matches will take place in a completely newly built 'tank'.\
And speaking about sharks, all the popular swimming beaches on the KwaZulu-Natal coast are protected by shark nets so no worries there. The place to see sharks though is at Ushaka Marine World, together with other marine beauties. We rate Ushaka is our number one tourist attraction in Durban (after the beach of course, maybe when you've overdosed on sunshine), so whatever else you do don't miss it.
Durban's Cultural AttractionsIn Durban itself, and within a half day's drive of the town, there are other cultural attractions, illustrating various facets of the region's tumultuous history. First, this is where Mahatma Ghandi formulated his politics of peaceful resistance to British imperialism. Beyond that there are battlefield routes of Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer war sites that have extremely well guided tours. The local tourism authority bills itself the Kingdom of the Zulu and there are also various tours with more African flavor.
Durban's Top Attractions at a Glance
- Swim or surf at any one of innumerable safe beaches; you can hire a board and a coach
- Visit Ushaka Marine World oceanarium - have a meal in the Cargo Hold at the oceanarium
- If you're in town during the soccer/rugby season, catch a live game at the 'sjhark tank
- Shop for souvenirs
- Go mountain biking at Ciba Gorge mtb park
- Go walking in the D-Moss green beltway of natural parks
- Do a religious pilgrimage - there are impressive cathedrals, mosques and Hindu temples
- Swim with sharks - tigers, ragged-tooth and others - at Aliwal Shoal
- Do a tour of the Sharks Board facility at Umhlanga Rocks
- Visit one of the local big-game reserves
- Visit the Valley of 1,000 hills for a very African experience
Best Time to Visit DurbanDurban is a year-round destination, although mid summer (December to February) might be too hot and especially humid for people coming from ice-bound climes. This is also the rainy season, and boy it can rain monsoon style! April to July is by far the best, with warm days, cool nights and the ever-warm Indian Ocean. Click here for more about Durban's climate ...