Durban Destination Guide

Durban Destination Guide Overview. Delightful Durban is the largest city of the vast and varied Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa. A coastal port with a more than equable sub-tropical climate and wide golden beaches washed by the warm Indian Ocean, Durban is a holidaymakers paradise and gateway to the dozens of seaside resort towns of the coast to the south and north of the city. The ‘Golden Mile’ central beach area, flanked by numerous high-rise hotels, stretches for four miles (6km) and is fronted by promenades and entertainment facilities, flea markets and colourful traditionally clad Zulu rickshaw pullers. A fleet of ‘tuk-tuk’ type three-wheelers has augmented public transport in the city.

Although much of Durban is characterised by British colonial architecture, the city is actually an exciting mix of cultures. There is a large Indian community, descendants of indentured labourers who came to work on the Natal sugar estates in the 1850s and who provide the city with an intoxicating oriental flavour enhanced by their shrines, bazaars and tantalising curry restaurants. There are also the Zulu people, whose proud warrior ancestors inhabited the province before the coming of the European colonial powers. The heritage of the amaZulu is very evident in the region north of the Tugela River, known as Zululand, where legendary King Shaka once ruled supreme and today is where most of Kwa-Zulu Natal’s game parks are to be found.

Durban is the gateway not only to the coastal beach resorts of the province, but also to the rolling hills and plains of the Natal Midlands and their backdrop, the majestic, jagged peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains, which border the province in the west.

Durban Destination Guide Attractions

Francis Farewell Square

This historic square in the middle of Durban is the spot where the city originated as a tiny settlement of itinerant traders and hunters in the early 19th century. It is named for Henry Francis Flynn, one of the prominent inhabitants of the time. Around the square are some interesting sights, particularly the 1910 City Hall on the south side, which is an exact replica of the City Hall of Belfast, Ireland. On the first floor of the City Hall is the Natural Science Museum with an interesting insect section; on the first floor is the renowned Durban Art Gallery. Various musical, song and dance performances are held on the City Hall steps every Wednesday at 1pm. Alongside the City Hall is Durban’s local history museum housed in the Old Court House, which was the first public building ever erected in Durban, in 1866.

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uShaka Marine World

In January 2004 Sea World closed its doors to the public and reopened as uShaka Marine World, which has become the largest marine theme park in Africa. The park is tastefully themed with African imagery and has five zones offering entertainment, dining, a retail village, water slides and access to uShaka Beach. The Sea World zone incorporates an aquarium, dolphinarium, a seal pool and penguin rookery, as well as interactive activities in the dive tank, snorkel reef and touch pool, while Wet ‘n Wild offers heart-stopping, adrenalin-pumping rides as well as water-based activities for the less adventurous.

Location: 1 Bell Street, Durban
Phone: 031 328 8000
Email: mkt@ushakamarineworld.co.za
Website: www.ushakamarineworld.co.za
Opening Times: Sea World: Daily 9am to 6pm, closing at 5pm in winter (Island activities closed Mondays). Wet ‘n Wild: Wednesday to Sunday 9am to 6pm, until 5pm in winter; open daily on public holidays and during government school holidays
Admission: Combined tickets: R130 (adult), R85 (children). Sea World: R87 (adults), R57 (children); Wet ‘n Wild: R65 (adults), R50 (children); other concessions available
How to get there: Marine World is on the main Point Road bus route and is serviced by Greenline and Mynah buses

KwaMuhle Museum

The notorious building that was once the ‘Department of Native Affairs’ where every black South African in Natal was required to register in the days of Apartheid, now houses a museum dedicated to tracing the history of racial laws in Durban, including memorable video and photographic exhibits. Despite this the building is known to all as KwaMuhle, meaning ‘place of the good one’, the name honouring a white man who ran the department but did his best to fight the system within its constraints.

Location: 130 Ordinance Road, Durban
Phone: 031 311 2237
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Opening Times: Monday to Saturday 8.30am to 4pm; Sundays and public holidays 11am to 4pm
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Juma Masjid Mosque

The magnificent Juma Masjid Mosque, the largest mosque in the Southern hemisphere, dominates Durban’s central Indian district. It’s gilt-domed minarets tower over the bustling commercial area, but inside the marbled worship hall is peaceful and boasts a simple elegance. Tours of the mosque can be arranged. Around the mosque, on Grey Street, are several Indian food outlets, most offering the uniquely Durban ‘bunnychow’ (half a loaf of bread scooped out and filled with curry). Off of Grey Street is the Madressa Arcade bazaar. Also in the area is the brightly painted Victoria Street Market (on the corner of Queen and Russell streets) offering incense, henna tattoos, spices and other exotic goods.

Location: Grey Street, Durban
Phone: 031 306 0026
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Opening Times: Weekdays 9am to 4pm and Saturday mornings. Tours are recommended
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Botanical Gardens

Durban’s botanical gardens are renowned for having the finest collection of plantlife anywhere in Africa. Established in 1851 the gardens, on Sydenham Hill Road west of the Greyville Race Track, are the city’s oldest natural attraction, providing a relaxing spot to stroll among huge indigenous and exotic trees, and the stunning orchid house display. The gardens are also abuzz with birdlife and boast a lovely tea garden.

Location: 70 St Thomas Road, Durban
Phone: 031 2011 303 or 031 309 1170 (tour bookings)
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Opening Times: Daily 7.30am to 5.45pm (16 September to 15 April), 7.30am to 5.15pm (16 April to 15 September)
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The BAT Centre

On the Victoria Embankment beside the Durban harbour is a haven for traditional artists known as the BAT Centre (an acronym for Bartle Arts Trust). The centre features an enormous studio where artists work, a theatre, exhibition galleries and a restaurant serving authentic African dishes. There are stunning views of the harbour from the restaurant deck. Nearby is the Maritime Museum, which details the history of the harbour and houses a restored tugboat and other interesting exhibits.

Location: SAS Inkonkoni Building, 45 Maritime Place, Small Craft Harbour, Victoria Embankment, Durban
Phone: 031 332 0451
Email: info@batcentre.co.za
Website: www.batcentre.co.za
Opening Times: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm; Saturday 10am to 2pm
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Zululand Battlefields

Zululand, ancestral home of the Zulu people and site of many a bloody battle between the British, the Boers and the Zulus during the 19th century, is best explored as a self-drive adventure, although many tours are available from Durban. Every town in this area of northern Kwa-Zulu Natal has a story to tell or an event to commemorate and tourism offices throughout the region provide maps and guides to assist visitors in making the most of the history, culture, scenery and wildlife. The landscape varies from plains, to rolling hills, river valleys and lush forests. This land once encompassed the Zulu kingdom led by legendary Shaka Zulu, who clashed with the British and the Boers in many epic battles. Centre of the Zulu nation is the small town of Eshowe. King Shaka was born close to the town, and it was also the site of a 10-week siege during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. Other towns of note are Ladysmith and Dundee, near which were fought the historic battles of Rorke’s Drift, Blood River and Isandlwana. There are numerous ‘living museums’ in the form of Zulu cultural villages open to visitors in the area.

Location: , Durban
Phone: 031 366 7500 (Tourism KwaZulu-Natal)
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Website: www.battlefields.kzn.org.za
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Greater St Lucia Wetland Park

In the far north of Kwa-Zulu Natal are a string of nature reserves and game parks, of which the largest and most exciting is the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, dominated by the fascinating St Lucia estuary and lake system. It covers five distinct ecosystems varying from dry thorn scrub to tropical forest and is bordered by giant dunes, beaches and tropical reefs. Big Five game viewing is on offer, and this is the only place in the world where you will see hippos, crocodiles and sharks co-habiting in the same lagoon. There are comfortable rest camps in the park. The Wetland Park has been delcared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Location: , Durban
Phone: 033 845 1002 (KZN Wildlife)
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Opening Times: Open 24 hours daily, office hours are daily 8am to 4.30pm
Admission: Free
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Midmar Dam

North-west of Durban in the Midlands of Kwa-Zulu Natal is the Midmar Public Resort Nature Reserve, offering accommodation, picnic sites and recreational opportunities around the huge Midmar Dam. At the main entrance is the Midmar Historical Village, a reproduction of a 19th century redbrick village with tree-lined streets, a village church and Hindu Temple. Many of the buildings are originals that have been relocated to the site from towns and villages elsewhere in the province. There are also vintage steam train rides on offer and Shire horse carriage rides, as well as several shops, restaurants and exhibition halls. Midmar is also the centre of the Midlands Meander arts and crafts route, which winds through the Midlands along the R103 road, taking in more than 65 participating attractions dotted across the countryside, ranging from herb farms to antique shops and artists working with stained glass. The huge dam stages the annual Midmar Mile, the world’s largest open water swim.

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Drakensberg Mountains

The jagged peaks of the Drakensberg (Dragon Mountains) tower over the eastern border of Kwa-Zulu Natal with Lesotho, providing a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The mountains abound with hiking trails, climbing routes, 4×4 trails, pony treks and adventure pursuits, all accessible from numerous resorts in the lower reaches. Some of the more popular resorts are Champagne Castle, Cathkin Peak and Cathedral Peak, while Giant’s Castle and its game reserve are famed for the more than 500 rock paintings left behind by the San people on cave walls. Eagles soar around the peaks in the Royal Natal National Park in the north, where the dramatic scenery includes the Amphitheatre, a five-mile long (8km) curved basalt wall. The region is largely untamed, and criss-crossed by lengths of rugged dirt roads. The only road that breaches the mountain range and crosses the border to Lesotho is the hair-raising Sani Pass, which is topped by the highest pub in Africa.

Location: , Durban
Phone: 031 366 7500 (Tourism KwaZulu-Natal)
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Website: www.drakensberg.kzn.org.za
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