Heather Richardson
Heather Richardson



Nine reasons to visit Durban

Durban and the wider region of KwaZulu-Natal, really does have it all – from tropical beaches and scenic mountains to Big Five safaris and some of the most important historical sites in the country. South African resident and travel writer, Heather Richardson, takes us through the best bits

It’s sunshine central

With year-round sunshine, it really doesn’t matter when you travel to Durban. The sub-tropical summers are hot and humid, whilst winters are cooler, though still with plenty of sunshine. Durbanites take full advantage of the cheerful climate and can be found on the beach, strolling along the promenade or catching a wave most weekends.

01 Sunshine

A moment in history

Durban has seen some of the most significant historical events in South African history play out right on its doorstep. Perhaps the biggest of these is Mandela’s vote in the country’s first democratic elections, which took place at Ohlange High School in Inanda, Durban in 1994. There’s even a small museum which commemorates the event. Meanwhile, Mandela’s capture site – where he was arrested before spending 27 years in prison – is just over an hour outside Durban, in Howick.

02 History

Gandhi’s legacy

Another of the world’s most famous activists, Mahatma Gandhi, developed his philosophy of Satyagraha (non-violent resistance) here in South Africa. As a young lawyer, Gandhi moved to Durban in 1893 and ended up staying for 21 years. His former home in the town of Phoenix has been converted into a museum, documenting how his time in SA shaped his attitude to peaceful protest. Or, further out in KwaZulu-Natal, there are plenty of expert-led tours through the Anglo-Zulu Battlefields, detailing the twists and turns of the war between the British and the Zulus.

03 Gandhi

Ocean treasures

Flanked by the Indian Ocean, it’s no surprise that Durban is an excellent place to spot marine wildlife. You can go stand-up paddleboarding or kayak with dolphins (which can be spotted intermittently in the always-warm waters) just off Durban’s Golden Mile. If marine conservation is high on your agenda, hop on board a morning boat tour run by the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board to learn all about sharks and how the team keep them safely away from Durban’s lush beaches.

04 Ocean

Nature’s most famous event

If you visit during May to July, you’re in the prime spot for spotting the annual sardine run – filmed for many a BBC and Nat Geo documentary. Here, you can witness huge shoals of sardines migrating along the coast, attracting hundreds of marine birds, dolphins, sharks and whales along the way.

05 Nature

Underwater adventure

Families might want to book in at uShaka Marine World – an amazing interactive theme park at the end of Durban’s beachfront Golden Mile. It has the fifth largest aquarium in the world with behind-the-scenes tours and touch pools, a Wet ‘n Wild World with chutes and river rides (including Africa’s highest slide), plus shark dives and a breeding colony of African penguins.

06 Underwater

Sports galore

Durban’s most famous sporting claim is that it hosts the world’s oldest organised ultra-marathon, the Comrades Marathon, which is also the largest with 25,000 runners. The route connects Pietermaritzburg and Durban over the KwaZulu-Natal’s ‘Big Five’ set of hills, at a total distance of around 55 miles. It’s also a major surfing city (the Ballito Pro is held in July) and is the finishing line for the largest canoe race in Africa, the Dusi Canoe Marathon.

07 Sports

Thriving foodie scene

Did you know Durban is where one of SA’s most famous dishes, the bunny chow, was created? Bunny chows are hollowed-out loaves of bread filled with curry; you eat them by tearing off chunks of bread and scooping out the insides. It was invented by the Indian indentured labourers working in the sugar plantations as a lunch they could easily transport. While you’re there, try fine-dining at Chef’s Table; get your smashed avo brunch fix at popular breakfast spot Bellevue Café, and make sure you stop at Afro’s Chicken – something of a Durban institution.

08 Foodie

Springboard into KwaZulu-Natal

As well as being an awesome city in its own right, Durban is a perfect jumping-off point to explore the rest of KZN – arguably South Africa’s most beautiful province. Go hiking or camping in the Drakensberg mountains or take a Big Five safari in Zululand, just three hours’ drive from Durban. There’s the scenic Wild Coast to the south and tropical beaches in the north where you can watch tiny turtles hatching under the cover of dark.

09 Springboard

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