Visiting Durban - What to See and Do
(Durban International Airport DUR, South Africa)
THIS AIRPORT CLOSED IN APRIL 2010
No African port is busier than the one in South Africa's third-most populous city, Durban
, also home to Africa's oldest botanical gardens, as well as the largest Buddhist temple, mosque and shopping centre in the Southern Hemisphere. The surrounding 'eThekwini' municipality boasts nearly three and a half million people.
Water is involved in a large percentage of Durban attractions, from the sprawling Indian Ocean beaches along this laid back city's Golden Mile, to the Sea World and Wet n' Wild theme parks within the uShaka Marine World. Shark nets safely protect ocean swimmers, scuba divers and surfers in Natal Bay's year-long warm waters.
The city's former rail station, a red brick building with a roof that was supposedly originally created for the much colder Canadian city of Toronto
, has now become this subtropical city's main tourism information centre. A Mahatma Gandhi statue greets visitors at the building entrance, since this Indian freedom fighter boarded a train in Durban while heading for Johannesburg
Ten things you must do in Durban
- Explore a cargo shipwreck and an underwater aquarium at the uShaka Marine World, where boundaries include both the Wet n' Wild and Sea World theme parks. Visitors can also watch seals and dolphins perform impressive tricks, enjoy eight thrilling rides, take scuba diving classes or simply lounge on uShaka Beach.
- Relax amongst the fragrant tropical flowers and soothing tea garden at the Durban Botanic Gardens. These gardens, established more than a century and a half ago, are the oldest horticultural attraction of their kind in Africa. Highlights include an orchid house, rare cycad collections and frequent live, open-air concerts.
- Stroll, swim, or simply sunbathe along Durban's famous Golden Mile, the wide and sandy stretch of Indian Ocean beach which begins in South Beach and ends at the Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World complex. Nets and lifeguards help protect swimmers and surfers from shark attacks. Visitors who dislike crowds should come during the low season and avoid the busy Christmas holidays.
- Tour the distinctive lighthouse and breathtaking coastline at nearby Umhlanga, just 15 km / 9 miles north of Durban. Friendly cafés, affordable accommodation and a wide variety of festivals throughout the year are just a handful of reasons why Umhlanga has fast become a popular tourism attraction in its own right.
- Look up at the gigantic Ferris wheel at the entrance of the cinema and shopping complex also called the Wheel. Nearly 150 shops and restaurants are situated within this popular shopping centre adjacent to the Marine Parade.
- Dare to get up close and personal with more than 120 species of slithery snakes at the Fitzsimons Snake Park. Visitors can feed the snakes or watch workers collect venom from some of the park's deadliest snakes, like cobras and mambas. This snake park is also home to tortoises, iguanas and crocodiles.
- Gamble, shop or simply cool off at the Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World at the end of Durban's Golden Mile. Palm trees grow next to the Waterworld theme park's wave pools and water slides.
- Board a rickshaw to the Golden Mile, but be sure these unusual means of transportation don't tip back far enough for spare change to fall into the hands of drivers.
- Enjoy all the senses available at the Glenholme Nature Reserve. The walking trail is especially designed for disabled visitors, with plaques in Braille, guide rails and wheelchair-accessible elevated walkways. However, all visitors can enjoy the reserve's cascading waterfall, picnic facilities and rustic camping hut, which can accommodate up to a dozen people.
- Barter with the lively vendors at the Essenwood Craft Market, where visitors can purchase unique soapstone sculptures, South African jerky called 'biltong', and a number of other unique items found in few other places in Durban. Visitors should check local listings in advance, as this market is not held every weekend.