Africa’s biggest port is a lively city and a cultural (and culinary) melting pot
See and do
Durban conjures up images of sultry weather, warm waters, days spent surfing and nights spent partying. And that’s not far off. This city has the biggest port in Africa, and the city’s strong cultural influences can be seen from proud Zulus bedecked in beaded headdresses to Indians dressed in richly embroidered saris.
Durban’s beachfront has had a makeover thanks to the 2010 World Cup, so you can hop on to a colourful rickshaw for a ride on the beachfront. ‘Durbs’ and the nearby coastline are excellent surfing territory, mostly protected by shark nets. If you want to get closer to marine life, uShaka Marine World is loads of fun, with dolphin shows, an aquarium and water slides. 1 King Shaka Ave, Point. +27 31 328 8000. Rates $13 adults for Sea World.
Eat and drink
Durban has the biggest Indian population outside India, so take advantage and dine out on curry. Dig into street food of bunny chow (a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with spicy curry) or up the stakes and head to Jaipur Palace. Here you can feast on a vast buffet of excellently prepared dishes – with a varying heat. The Indian staff are known for their excellent service too. 131 Waterkant Rd, Durban North. +27 31 563 0287. For fine dining, 9th Ave Bistro has been wowing locals for years. Avonmore Centre, Morningside. +27 31 312 9134. Billy the Bum’sis a local favourite which is always pumping with pretty people. Happy hour specials and diner-style food keep punters happy.504 Lilian Ngoyi Rd, Morningside. +27 31 303 1988.
One of the most exciting venues in Durban is the Oyster Box Hotel. After a $62.5-million facelift, this grande dame is a glamorous place to stay. Pop in for high tea at the Palm Court or go to the Grill Room for innovative cuisine; the Oyster Bar is a sophisticated space and the oysters served are from the hotel’s own oyster beds. 2 Lighthouse Rd, Umhlanga. +27 31 514 5000. Another accommodation with gourmet leanings is Hotel Izulu, a charming, tranquil boutique hotel just up the north coast. Rey’s Place, Ballito, +27 32 946 3444.
Durban: out of town
Heading north from Durban, you’ll drive past masses of sugar cane fields, and truly tropical countryside. At the northern end of KwaZulu-Natal province you’ll find the Isimangaliso Wetland Park (St Lucia, +27 35 590 1633), Africa’s largest estuarine system with ancient coastal dunes. Westward lies big game country, with the Hluhluwe Game Reserve (Zululand, +27 35 590 1555), the oldest game reserve in Africa.
For a slightly more sedate trip out of town, the bucolic charms of the Midlands Meander (+27 33 330 8195), about an hour to the east of Durban, are the perfect antidote to a stressed city-dweller. Pop in to local crafters, cheeseries, boutiques and breweries along the way. A stop at Hartford House (Hlatikulu Rd, Mooi River, +27 33 263 2713) is a must, not only for chef Jackie Cameron’s award-winning cuisine but also just to recharge in exquisite surrounds – the splash pools on each suite’s deck overlooking the trout dam do help.
Head further east to the majestic Drakensberg Mountains (+27 36 448 1557). Hikers will be in heaven with these spectacular peaks just begging to be conquered.