Rising to glittering heights along six sweet kilometers (four fine miles) of soft, golden sand, the picturesque port city of Durban has long been a festive holiday escape. While visitors from Johannesburg and elsewhere around South Africa come for the sun, surf and family-friendly attractions, international travelers will also find the resort town a very comfortable beachfront base for exploring the region's fantastic cultural and natural destinations.
For more than 100,000 years, people have been visiting what is now known as Durban (called "eThekwini" in Zulu, for its deep, natural harbor), and it's easy to see why. The mild subtropical climate, 299 days of sunshine annually, and fantastic beaches have a universal appeal. To that splendid swath of sand, the centuries have added all the modern amenities, from a rollicking nightlife and enormous theme parks, to fine colonial buildings such as Emanuel Cathedral that are well worth visiting. If you need a break from tanning, there are several popular day trips from Durban, into the Zulu heartland, sweeping safari parks, and the "Kingdom in the Sky," stunning Lesotho.
Day 1: Relax along the Golden Mile
While the city's cultural milieu offers all sorts of enriching destinations, such as the famed Indian market selling pungent "Durban curry," you're probably here for fun in the sun. Welcome to the Golden Mile, actually six kilometers (four miles) of wide beaches, touristy piers, overpriced restaurants and attractions that range from the Suncoast Casino, with shopping, gambling, and a private beach; to one of the world's largest marine parks, uShaka Marine World, with dolphin shows, 32 tanks, and Africa's highest waterslide. There's no end to the smaller attractions in between, not the least of which is world-class surfing. Grab a "Zulu rickshaw" and enjoy.
Day 2: Enjoy Local Culture
Of course, Durban has plenty of
urban offerings, including a surfing museum at North Beach, and
first-rate football (soccer) at striking Moses Mabhida Stadium. But the
real cultural attractions lie outside the city's sprawl. Just up the
KwaZulu-Natal coast is the birthplace of Shaka Zulu, where a huge kraal
(rural village) still honors the legendary Zulu king. Book an eight-hour
tour into Zululand that visits a traditional kraal, where you'll sample
the local cuisine, including homemade beer. Or, climb to the
mountaintop Kingdom of Lesotho, on a 13-hour tour through independent
villages and past sweeping vistas over peaks and waterfalls.
Day 3: Get out into the Wild
itself is home to its own wildlife attractions, including the vast
aquariums at aforementioned uShaka Marine World, and fabulous Umgeni
River Bird Park, overlooking the river. Set into beautiful, shady
gardens, this enormous aviary is home to some 300 bird species, and
offers low-key shows and other family fun. But this is Africa. If you
want to see white rhinos, giraffes, leopards, elephants, cheetahs,
wildebeests, and other creatures of the wild African savannah, book a
12-hour trip to fantastic Hluhluwe Game Reserve.