If you’re looking to go a little bit further afield on your holidays this year, well you could do worse than heading to the East Coast of South Africa, Kwa Zulu Natal.
Affectionately known as “Durbs” by the locals, Durban is quite simply the coolest city in South Africa (in my opinion). The vibe in the city is really laid back and there is lots to do.
What can I do?
There’s loads to do in the City. If you like marine life you’re in the right place. uSharka Sea World is a great place to go. You enter through a sunken boat and get to experience all the local sea life has to offer from sharks and rays to the dolphin and seal shows. For some the jury’s out on this kind of entertainment and if that’s the case then the sister park – Wet ‘n’ wild – might be more up your alley. This is a water park with plenty to do for all the family.
On a Saturday morning there’s a craft market at Essenwood on the Berea between 9am and 2pm. If you want to experience some of the local cuisine, get yourself some of the local handmade beadwork knickknacks or indeed the latest in personal weaponry (as I have noted in the past), then this is the place to come. It’s set in a tranquil park and boasts an amazing array of stalls for the eagle-eyed bargain hunters!
Back along the beach there’s lots of stalls to continue your shopping trip. Perhaps a few drinks at Moyo uSharka Pier which sticks out into the Indian Ocean for an off-the-shore Long Island Ice tea or watch the ships go out of the harbour. There’s always something to eat and drink along the strip.
Further up the beach a few kilometres you’ll fund Sun Coast Casino and Entertainment World, where you can fritter your hard earned away, have something to eat, walk along the boardwalk and take in a movie – worth it if you’re there on a summer afternoon trust me on that one!
Sun Coast is in the shadow of the Moses Mabhida Stadium – one of the national stadiums used in the 2010 world cup. If you’re a thrill seeker then opt for the Big Rush Big Swing officially named as the tallest swing by the Guinness Book of World Records! If that’s a bit too much adrenaline for one afternoon then why not try the Segway Tour or the Skycar to the top of the stadium for a 360 view of the city!
Even further up the coast you will come to “Millionaires Row” aka the suburb of Umhlanga Rocks – officially one of my favourite places in the world. If you thought Durbs was laid back then this place is practically horizontal!
Why not take in the Stake and Ale for a lunchtime chow or The Oyster Box Hotel if you
fancy something a little more upmarket for supper. The beach at Umhlanga is one of the premier beaches on the east coast and is always clean and tidy and a trip to this part of the world wouldn’t be complete without look at the iconic red and white lighthouse that stands 21 metres above the beach!
Drive out of the city about 40 km you will come to The Valley of a Thousand Hills, aptly named because the view towards the great Umgeni river does appear as you though you are looking at 1000 hills. There’s plenty to do this far out of the city including PheZulu Cultural Village where you will be treated to the centuries old local culture and customs.
Whilst you’re there you can take in the delights of the Pot and Kettle, which has a very rustic charm about it, as well as some of the most AMAZING views.
Back in the city no trip to Durban would be complete without sampling the local delicacy – Bunny Chow. For the uninitiated this is a curry in a hollowed out loaf of bread. The reason for the unorthodox method of serving a curry is because Durban has the largest concentration of Indians outside of the Indian sub-continent and when they first arrived across the Indian Ocean there was no rice to serve the curry with. The next best carbohydrate rich alternative was a loaf of bread, and voila the Bunny Chow was created. In Durban today almost every street food vendor and some restaurants will have it on the menu. You can’t leave Durban without trying it!
Tips for staying safe
Durban, like any city in SA, has its fair share of crime and you do need to be careful when you’re out and about make sure you keep your jewellery to a minimum and don’t flaunt your cash. The more understated you are the better. If you’re driving keep your windows wound up and the aircon on. Make sure all the doors are locked. If you are ever flagged down by anyone, drive to the next safe place and call the local police.
What’s the weather like?
In the rainy season – summer – between December and March it’s hot and humid. Durban has a subtropical climate which means bright sunny mornings, clouds building through the afternoon, peaking in evening thunderstorms. These can be spectacular over the sea – and worth a watch if you experience them! Average temps are around 30c but couple that with the humidity level and you’re looking at nearer 40c.
The dry season (winter) is between May to September and it can get ‘cold’ of an evening, but that’s ‘locals’ cold which in my part of the world is still pleasantly warm. Mid-winter you would be looking at highs of about 23c and there is little or no humidity that time of year so it’s pleasant!
What’s the exchange rate like?
Depending on where you are coming from the exchange rate is a very favourable and you get a lot of bang for your bucks. For example the Sterling equivalent for an adult ticket to uSharka Sea World and Wet ‘n’ Wild set you back almost £12. Eating and drinking out is very reason able per person too with a fillet steak costing you around £15 and Sushi starting at around £6. A decent bottle of 2015 Chenin Blanc would set you back around £4.
So there you have. One of my go-to places when I want to have some warm hospitality, catch a few rays and generally enjoy some R & R!
Until next time.