Just a two-hour flight from Cape Town, and one from Johannesburg, this enchanting coastal city is a great place to visit because of its largest shopping mall in Africa, fifth-largest aquarium in the world, and the Zulu nation. Located on South Africa's eastern coast, Durban is the capital of the KwaZulu-Natal province and the country’s third-largest city.
If it’s nature you’re after, there are more things to do than you’d imagine. Search for Africa's “Big Five” on safari tours or get into the marshes near St. Lucia to see hippos; visit Ushaka Marine World to play in the water park and learn about local marine life. After that, walk through the sandy beaches at Golden Mile, which is along the warm Indian Ocean.
Don't forget to find a guide who can tell you about the storied past of historic Zulu heritage at Shakalan or spend a full day traveling to the Drakensberg mountains to visit the independent country of Lesotho. The delicious, unique mix of cuisines incorporates Malaysian and Indian influences are present there. And of course, your tour would be incomplete without bungee swinging at Moses Mabhida Stadium or gliding through the Durban Point Waterfront Canal on a gondola ride.
If you find that there are too many things to plan, here are my suggestions for your list:
Victoria Street Market
Go through the nine markets in central Durban, which have over 640 stalls with vendors selling fresh produce, live poultry, spices, and flowers, to experience the pulse of the city. Especially, you will be attracted by the pastel pink stucco exterior of the Victoria Street Market.
This two-story building, which is called The Vic, is essentially an indoor farmer’s market with more than 150 lively retail and wholesale vendors. Along the way, you can see butchers, fishmongers, and fruit and vegetable vendors set up shop on the first level, while clothes, luggage, kitchen utensils, wholesale products from China, and carved trinkets on walkways of the second level.
In the mix, visitors will find silken saris, incense, spices, and Indian handicrafts from colorful and fragrant barrels. Through the market’s vendors and shoppers, you can see the city’s multicultural tapestry because the Vic is a popular shopping hub of the Indian community. All you need is your bargaining skills and you can bring hone some unique souvenir finds.
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is South Africa's oldest game reserve and there are more lions, leopards, buffalo, rhinos, and elephants than anywhere else in the KwaZulu Natal. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is also known for its White Rhino densities. So keep your binoculars on hand, you’ll get to see what these animals look like from the car.
I suggest joying one of KwaZulu Natal’s premier private game reserves: Manyoni Private Game Reserve! With Manyoni’s most experienced ranger and an authentic open safari 4x4, you will get to have a 4-hour drive through this pristine wilderness, track down Africa’s iconic Big Five. Your ranger will help you understand the ecosystem here. And you can stop for lunch at Hilltop Camp.
Remember to hit the road bright and early —05h00. Wildlife animals, especially predators, are most active around dawn and dusk.
Durban Botanic Gardens
Durban's Botanic Gardens is founded in 1850, it is known as Africa's oldest surviving botanical garden and has the responsibility to raise global awareness of potentially valuable plants.
Minutes from central Durban, the gardens are more than 37 acres and have a collection of orchids, ferns, and cycads. Otherwise, several events take place in the gardens throughout the year, such as tea parties, concerts, and an indigenous plant fair in September. You will have wonderful relaxing moments in the fantastic Orchid house or affordable coffee shop, restaurant.
If this doesn't sound attractive enough, the Durban Botanical Gardens are also renowned for their rarest cycad collection in the world. Wood’s Cycad is regarded as the world’s rarest plant. Although Cycads are in danger of extinction now, they have been around before the dinosaurs and have survived after three mass extinction events. You still can find it growing peacefully near the old reservoir.
A historian guide will lead you to learn about the great battle between the Zulu warriors and British troops in 1879. British military history's one of the worst defeats occurred on January 22, 1879, on Isandlwana Battlefield. A 20,000-strong Zulu army attacked a British invasion column of some 1,300 soldiers, who are under the command of General Lord Chelmsford, resulting in the British military's humiliating defeat. Historian guide will help you to explore the detailed happenings of this major upset battle
Now Isandlwana Battlefield is dotted with stone cairns indicating the soldiers' resting places. Without a guide, you can also learn about the battle by coming through the small on-site museum and visitors center showcasing background information, artifacts, and relics about the battle. You can also stop at Buffalo River for lunch and refreshments.
Sani Pass, the gateway between the landlocked mountain Kingdom of Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal, is a 33km gravel road that is nearly 10,000 feet above sea level. It stands between Drakensberg's rough cliffs, making it become a Zig-Zag curve.
Consider a cycling trip up to the top of majestic Sani Pass, at a height of 9900 feet, or visiting the mistbelt grasslands and forests. Along the route, you will be overwhelmed with the bumpy adventure along with spectacular views such as vast skies and rolling hills. The “Highest Pub in Africa” lies at the end of the trip is where you can enjoy a warm pub meal. Visiting a local’s home near the pub is a great idea to explore how the Basotho people of Lesotho live in a local village. Or you can go along and enjoy the Giant's Cup trail through the Cobham State Forest and Garden Castle. It consists of five sections and offers overnight tourist accommodations at the end of each section.
Finally, making your way down Sani’s Pass and crossing the border back into South Africa is how you head back to Durban.
Ushaka Marine World
Ushaka Marine World is one of the most attractive destinations in Durban. This theme park and aquarium is about 16-hectare and comprises eight different attractions, including Ushaka Sea World, Ushaka Sea Animal Encounters Island, Ushaka Beach, Ushaka Wet 'n Wild, Ushaka Dangerous Creatures, Ushaka Kids World, Ushaka Village Walk, and Chimp & Zee. Ushaka Wet 'n Wild water park has the highest slide in Africa with massive water slides, white-sand beaches, and impressive sea life. And Ushaka Sea World is the world's fifth-largest aquarium.
To not miss any enjoyable experience, consider observing sea life in the aquarium, racing down slides, challenging yourselves on a ropes course,... in the morning. After that, stop at Ushaka Marine World's Hawaiian-vibe beach-side restaurant to enjoy the laidback atmosphere, beer, and fresh, tasty meals among the palm trees. Keep an eye out for water rides, sharks, seals, penguins, and dolphin shows around you while you eat dinner and an extensive shopping walk at the end of the day. Believe me, this surely is a wonderful day-trip destination for locals and tourists alike.
Durban Golden Mile
The Golden Mile or "The Mile" is the popular coast in the city of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Most visitors to Durban regard a trip to the Golden Mile as obligatory. It runs roughly from uShaka Marine World's uShaka Beach to Entertainment World and Suncoast Casino in the north and now it also includes a route directly to Moses Mabhida Stadium. It is next to the central business district of the city to its west.
The warm Indian Ocean on one side and a stretch of white-sand beaches with a boardwalk on the other, whether it’s experiencing the city’s nightlife, sunbathing, or visiting a few cultural attractions you’re after, these are the things you must do in the Golden Mile.
The Mile is a famous surfer's paradise. Especially, the South Beach end is known as a safe beach for neophyte surfers. Swimmers and sun-worshippers can enjoy the warm waters and sub-tropical sunshine of the Indian Ocean thanks to the wide stretch of golden sands, which are separated by various piers. And don't worry about the sharks because most of the Mile's beaches are always protected by lifeguards and nets. There are several popular restaurants and nightclubs for you to explore after your Mile's beach experience.
Durban City Hall
Durban City Hall, also called eThekwini City Hall, was built in 1910 and is known as a gorgeous historic building in the city center. It is also home to several attractions that are worth visiting
Its historic scene is decorated with a neo-Baroque style. You can immerse yourself in sculptures representing industry, literature, music, art, and commerce, or some representing unity and patriotism. You will find the building is almost a copy of Belfast's city hall.
City government offices, Durban Art Gallery, and Natural Science Museum are all located in The City Hall. Likewise, a dodo fossil, among others are also present there. The Durban City Hall plays an important role in preserving history and exploring the depth of South Africa.