Bustling Durban is the hub of the province’s business and industry and pulses with all the energy of a major port city. Luxury hotels abound on Durban’s beachfront, and this city is often referred to as South Africa’s Miami Beach.
Durban is one of the fastest-growing urban areas in the world. Its port is the busiest in South Africa and also one of the 10 largest in the world. Durban is blessed with balmy weather all year round, making it a perfect holiday paradise. The beachfront is bordered by five star hotels and luxury apartments, all of which have an idyllic view of the Indian Ocean.
The Central Business District, a hive of activity, is within easy reach of all hotels and convention venues. If however, you wish to travel further afield, there is a very competent public transport system running throughout Durban, as well as an abundance of taxis. Durban is a major gateway to Africa and is also the largest and busiest port city on the continent. Due to this, there is an extensive road network leading to and from any destination in South Africa. Durban International Airport, is only a 10 minute drive from the City and is serviced daily by domestic flights, as well as international flights. The International Convention Centre, centrally located, is an innovative, world class convention centre which can cater for conferences of up to 5000 people.
Durban is a sporting paradise. The sunny climate combined with a wealth of facilities makes for a year round sporting extravaganza. Watersports such as surfing, body boarding, sailing and scuba diving are obvious favourites given Durban’s proximity to the warm Indian Ocean. Rugby, soccer and cricket are also very popular with Durban boasting world class stadia for all major sports.
Durban Botanical Gardens, Durban
Durban’s Botanical Gardens on the eastern slopes of the Berea ridge that began as a site for growing experimental tropical crops, today offer a herbarium, an orchid house, a Cycad collection, a garden for the blind and a charity tea garden. The Durban Botanical Gardens are famous for the original specimen of a Cycad (Encephalartos woodii) that is still widely acknowledged as probably the rarest plant in the world, as well as for its extensive collection of South African Cycad species. A highlight of the Gardens is the Orchid House which is named after Ernest Thorp, who was resonsible for building it up to its position of world renown as the first “naturalistic” Orchid display house. The Orchid House is at its best during the spring months and is open daily from 09.30 am to 17.00.
The Botanical Research Unit, incorporating the Natal Herbarium is at the corner of St. Thomas Road and Botanical Gardens Road. The major aims of the unit are the provision of an information service regarding identification of the indigenous flora of KwaZulu Natal and continuing research into the flora of South Africa with the aim of compiling an authoritative study of its findings.
The Natal Herbarium contains an impressive collection of over 100,000 specimens of dried, pressed and catalogued plants, most of which originate in KwaZulu Natal. The charity tea garden offers teas and light refreshments from 09h30 am to 16h15 daily. Of note, there is also a garden for the blind. The Durban Botanical Gardens car park is in Sydenham Road, and the gardens are fairly easily accessible from the centre of town. Guided tours are offered every month but must be booked well in advance to avoid dissapointment. For your safety and assistance there are Park Rangers on duty between the following times: 09.00 – 18.00 Daily and security guards on 24 hour duty, and car guards in the car park area:08.00 – 17.00 Daily.
The Millenium Tower, Durban
Built to commemorate the new millennium on the Bluff headland near the entrance to Durban’s harbour, the Millenium Tower is not officially a lighthouse, nor does it fall under the National Ports Authority. However, when lit up at night it is a truly impressive sight, and ships use it as a landmark. The Tower does, however, operate a vessels tracking service system, or VTS, of all shipping movement inside the port’s limits. All navigation in and out of the port from a point of three n.miles northeast of the port entrance is governed by compulsory pilotage. Ships and boats are piloted by helicopter, backed up by a pilot boat service should the helicopter not be available. The Millennium Tower is thus part and parcel of port control, providing those in the tower with a 360-degree panoramic view of the port, city and sea approaches to Durban. The operations room is 27 metres up, whilst a central floor is available for Search and Rescue operations. The tower in its entirety stands 37 metres high with a rotating cowl and wind vane to reflect the direction of the wind. What is interesting is the computer driven sunscreen that automatically adjusts a series of horizontal and vertical blinds, keeping track of the movement of the sun. In the process, the external appearance of the tower regularly changes through the day, making it, for those who can see it, an indicator of thetime of day. At night there is a beautiful change of lighting colours within the cowl driven by a random computer algorithm that is driven by the tide, wind direction and humidity.
Durban Natural Science Museum, Durban
The Durban Natural Science Museum is dedicated to the earth, it’s history, it future, its life and the life forms that live and have lived on it. The worldly home of this historic earth collection is housed in a 2200m² interior of Durban City Hall (pictured) which although historic in its own standing – impressing with its modern renaissance architecture since 1910; never seems to get as much attention as the earth whose architecture dates back 4.55 billion years. Founded in 1887 this museum is the most popular of its kind in Southern Africa with an average of 295 000 human mammals visiting annually. The educational backbone of young scientists is fossilised amongst displayed skeletons of extinct species. A visit presents an opportunity for a future bright spark to come face to face with a past Dodo and for a current full-scale adult specimen to feel insignificant alongside the life-size reconstruction of the Tyrannosaurus-Rex dinosaur.
See stuffed insects, birds, fish and reptiles that echo evidence of their earthly existence. Explore the Hall of Earth Sciences Gallery, meet Peter Amen the authentic Egyptian Mummy and journey back in time with innovative exhibitions informing on the origins of Africa. This museum parts with knowledge through fascinating visual displays contributing to the conservation of natural heritage. Spend some time letting research entertain you on this planet that was here before you and will leave after you.
Moses Mabhida Stadium
Located in KwaZulu Natal in the beautiful City of Durban, Moses Mabhida Stadium is named after a hero of the working class. The Moses Mabhida Stadium is located adjacent the ABSA Stadium in the Kings Park Sporting Precinct – a site located in Stamford Hill, is a world class multi-purpose stadium set to make possible successful history in the making of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
To make way for this prestigious contribution Kings Park Stadium was demolished in late 2006 to develop a new stadium complex set to comprise of an adjoining indoor arena, sporting museum, sport institute and a new transmodal transportation station in preparations ahead of the world showpiece. Scheduled to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup five group matches, one second round match, one quarter final and a semi-final match; the catering capacity is set to comprise of 70 000 spectator seats. There are plans and allocations to increase the capacity of the stadium to 84 000 seats in the future to further accommodate major events such as Olympics.
To the west of Durban, virtually around the corner from Westville, lies Sherwood, known as the little ‘garden suburb’. Sherwood has always had a green resonance particularly attributable to the number of nurseries and the wonderful gardens that grace the suburb.
An interesting history lies behind the origin of Sherwood. It is named after the Sherwood Foresters, a nickname attributed to the 45th Regiment of Foot of the British army, stationed here during the middle of the 19th century. The cutting through a hill, valiantly carried out with pick and shovel for which they were responsible, is still called ‘45th cutting’ today. Interestingly Sherwood is only now beginning to feel the effects of the quest for property, having managed to escape the expansion that affected the areas to the north of Durban. Sherwood is perfectly positioned to serve as a feeder suburb into the centre of Durban and, whilst many of the homes in the area are old, buyers are following a very strong trend to transform these by renovating and upgrading.
Bothas Hill, Durban
Not only are the views from up on Botha’s Hill some of the most spectacular in the country – it overlooks the Valley of a Thousand Hills – but Botha’s Hill is one of ‘those’ hills that invariably gets a mention when it’s time for the Comrades Marathon.
From the top of Botha’s Hill to the base of Cowies Hill, there is a drop of more than 500 metres in less than 22 kilometres – small wonder that the down run is such a challenge. Botha’s Hill was named such after Cornelius Botha who opened a wayside inn known as Botha’s Halfway House for many a weary wagon driver who made his way into the hinterland from Durban. Today in much the same position is the former Rob Roy Hotel, now an old age home.
A trip up here would be incomplete without a stop to look out over the Valley of a Thousand Hills, one of KwaZulu Natal’s best kept secrets, as it lies sprawled out beneath you in a carpet of undulating hills that invite at least a moment of silent contemplation. This part of the world is always cooler than Durban. The air and the tranquil beauty of the surrounds a consistent attraction to artists and crafters, hence the new 1000 Hills Experience Route, which follows the same route as the Comrades Marathon, taking one through valleys, gorges, forests, rivers and over a succession of rolling hills.
There are no fewer than six driving routes through the area – T1 to T6 are all well sign- posted – that take you through leafy towns and quaint little villages, whilst off-shoots of the route wind through Krantzkloof Gorge and Inanda Dam. The entire route is dotted with pubs and tea gardens, as well as gracious hotels and guest houses.
uShaka Marine World, Durban
uShaka Marine World in Durban is a world-class entertainment and tourism destination. At the end of Durban’s Golden Mile is the beginning of uShaka Marine World – spanning over 15 hectares of prime beach front, uShaka Marine World is Africa’s largest Marine Theme park.
uShaka incorporates fresh and sea water, lush vegetation, natural materials and the re-creation of a wreck of a 1940’s cargo ship. With the 5th largest aquarium in the world by volume of water, the park is tatesfully themed with a focus on family entertainment. No matter what the occassion, you will always find something to do a uShaka Marine World. Enjoy fun at Sea World, have a memorable meal at any one of the many restaurants (including the amazing Shark Restaurant, situated in the themed shipwreck with a window into a shark tank), go shopping in over 11,250m² of retail space featureing clothing boutiques, outdoor gear, ats and crafts as well as indigenous and tourist-focused goods, information and services.
Located in the centre of uShaka Marine World you can experience the salt water aquarium with indoor and outdoor displays and exhibits, a 1200 seater dolphin stadium where you’ll be entertained by the world-famous Dolphins, the seal stadium and penguin rookery. In addition, Sea World offers edutainment tours behind the scenes and special interactive activities such as snorkelling through reefs and grottos and scuba dives. Durban is famous for its beaches and that’s exactly what you’ll find at uShaka Marine world. Bell’s Beach, adjacent to uShaka Marine World, has been set aside for adventure seekers and offers perfect all-year non-stop fun. Activities include windsurfing, beach volleyball, and beach rugby, surfing, jet skiing, kite surfing, paddle boat rides, dolphin viewing charters and national and international beach sports events.
Then there is Wet ‘n Wild World. A fresh water entertainment wonderland, Wet ‘n Wild World offers exhilarating fun and safe entertainment for the whole family. It features separate swimming pools for kids and adults, relaxing river rides and high speed chutes for the adrenaline junkies. This is the place where the wild at heart are set free to experience adrenaline pumping action while the rest of us can merely sunbathe on sandy beaches, grass or decks.
There is a mini-super tube (for “kids” f all ages), the play Area with water cannons and water mushrooms will keep “kids” busy for hours and ensure your visit to Wet ‘n Wild World is fun-filled. And a “must-experience” is the tunnel ride – a roller-coaster enclosed ride not for the claustrophobic. Speeding round the curves at a gut- wrenching four metres per second in the dark makes for a thrilling experience and you’ll definitely come back for more. Sea World also incorporates the research facilities of the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) which manages and protects scientific and environmental credibility of Sea World and SAAMBR as a whole. These research facilities also offer classrooms for lectures to school and other groups on marine and other coastal matters as well as a research and reference library.
Durban City Hall
The Durban City Hall was built in the early 1900s in classic neo-Baroque-style architecture. Aside from the city’s municipal chambers, the building houses a public library, auditorium, the Durban Art Gallery and the Natural Science Museum behind its gracious façade.
With its flamboyant neo-Baroque architecture and coppered dome, you can hardly miss the impressive Durban City Hall (also known as the eThekwini City Hall).Despite being more than a century old and dwarfed by surrounding modern skyscrapers, the building remains a grand example of Edwardian neo-Baroque architecture and well worth a morning’s visit.The City Hall was built in the early 1900s due to the rapid growth of Durban. City centre changes resulted in the original town hall taking on a new mantle as the Durban post office.The city fathers commissioned a new town hall in 1903, choosing what they termed a ‘bold and progressive’ design submitted by architect Stanley Hudson.Hudson set about creating a replica of the Belfast City Hall in Northern Ireland, which served as his inspiration.His legacy is a stone-coloured structure adorned with sculptures portraying the arts, commerce, music, literature and industry, while the main pediment sculptures are representative of unity, patriotism and Great Britain.
In addition to the mayor’s parlour and municipal chambers, the building houses a public library, auditorium, and the Durban Art Gallery and Natural Science Museum behind its gracious façade, which makes it a multifaceted attraction.
The art gallery showcases an array of South African and international artworks, while the museum displays a selection of fossils – including that of a dodo – animals, birds, reptiles and insects.In keeping with its imposing exterior, the building’s interior décor features wooden flooring, stained-glass windows, wrought-iron balustrades, marble pillars and classic arches.
Durbs by the sea’ as South Africans have referred to Durban for years is essentially all about her beaches. Practically every office and hotel block in the vicinity of the Durban Beachfront boasts a sea view and people head down here, particularly during the colder winter months when Gauteng and the Western Cape are each suffering their seasonal maladies, to warm currents and sensational waves.
Durban’s Golden Mile, also known as ‘the mile’, runs the length of the Durban beachfront in the city. It includes the promenade and starts roughly at South Beach and uShaka Marine World ending at the Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World to the north. It includes Battery beach, Snake Park, Bay of Plenty, North Beach, Dairy, Wedge, South and Addington and the added safety assurance of shark nets and life guard patrols.
It is the promise of gorgeous stretches of golden sands, separated by artificial piers, sub-tropical sunshine and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, together with the reputation as a surfer’s haven that draws thousands of people year upon year. Add to this the array and fusion of international-class, ultra-modern and colonial-style accommodation that lines Durban’s beachfront and you can understand the attraction.
Amusement arcades, fleamarkets, numerous quality restaurants and fast-food outlets mean you are never far from your next meal, and other attractions like uShaka Marine World – with the world’s fifth largest aquarium, a water slides amusement park and the re-creation of a cargo ship wreck – the Snake Park and Mini Town combine to make a visit pretty much a whirlwind of activity and fun.
Vasco Da Gama Memorial
In the heart of the Victoria Embankment (now known as Margaret Mncadi Avenue) stands the VASCO DA GAMA CLOCK, there to memorialise Vasco Da Gama’s first sighting of Durban, which happened on the eve of Christmas in 1497 (Natal is derived from the Portuguese word for Christmas). It was given to the South Africans by the Portuguese government, where it originally stood in Point Road, before moving to the corner of the Embankment and Aliwal Street.
Most Durbanites hardly seem to notice the beautiful piece of architecture but the regal Victorian piece is well worth a second glance, its cast-iron, dome shape and intricate design a fine example of Victorian baroque design that almost resembles a very small wedding chapel.
Da Gama was the first person to discover Durban and the Portuguese were the first colonialists to come to the region. The clock was recently spruced up ahead of the World Cup, its restoration a necessity as the structure was already undergoing serious deterioration due mostly to the sea air that had begun to corrode the memorial. Restoring it meant dismantling and reassembling the clock.
Hare Krishna Temple of Understanding
Centre your being at the Hare Krishna Temple of Understanding in Durban’s Chatsworth suburb, where golden exterior and interior opulence are juxtaposed with the simplicity of beautiful gardens. Don’t leave without sampling a dish of vegetarian delights for which the temple restaurant has become justifiably famous.
The Hare Krishna Temple of Understanding – the largest Hare Krishna temple in the southern hemisphere – glows like a beacon in the early morning sun, drawing worshippers and travellers from around the globe.
Before you enter the temple by crossing its castle-like moat, take time to admire its stunning gold-tipped steeples and silver roof. The opulence continues inside, where marble tiles, gold-tinted windows, crystal chandeliers and gold statuettes add to the splendour of the temple. Overhead colourful ceiling frescoes portray the pastimes of Lord Krishna, while Chinese lanterns and gold plating add to its overall beauty.
Take time to centre your consciousness in the octagonal, beautifully appointed meditation room that is dominated by three towering pillars.
Apart from the obvious attraction of its lavish architecture and iconic status, the temple is also renowned for its outstanding vegetarian restaurant and take-away. A visit would not be complete without sampling a variety of the tasty vegetarian delicacies and sweets after a tour of the temple. In summer a kaleidoscope of freshly squeezed fruit juices complements meals.
The temple was built in 1985 and its beautiful surrounding gardens – recently revamped – were added six years after completion of the building.Also known as the Sri Sri Radhanath Temple of Understanding, this Hare Krishna temple is a popular attraction among devotees and visitors alike.