About Durban :
Durban is one of the largest South African cities and is located in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, overlooking the wonderful beaches of the Indian Ocean. It features the largest port in South Africa, handling the bulk of the nation’s trade, while also being the second most important manufacturing and industrial center, after Johannesburg. Durban is one of the main tourist attractions in South Africa, thanks to its extensive white sandy beaches, spectacular scenery and pleasant year-round subtropical climate. The city has a population of approximately 3.5 million citizens and it is widely regarded as the largest city on the Indian Ocean coast of Africa.
Geography of Durban and the surrounding area :
Durban is perched on the round hills overlooking the spectacular Indian Ocean coast, and just nearby the magnificent jagged peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains. It covers an area of 2,292 square kilometers, making it one of the least dense cities in South Africa. The surrounding area features subtropical thickets, deep ravines littered with small creeks, as well as steep slopes and other geographical elements which are usual for the Afromontane forest typology. The coastal region also include moist savanna habitats, grasslands and isolated pockets. The deep ravines are home to numerous dams and reservoirs, such as the Inanda Dam, which ensures hydroelectric power for Durban and its suburbs. The climate is very pleasant, with warm and sunny summers (which are sometimes cooled by the Indian Ocean’s breeze) and warm, dry winters with little to no frost. Durban is rarely affected by tropical storms, but summer storms can be common, especially during the hotter periods.
How to reach Durban :
By air :
The municipality of Durban has recently opened the King Shaka International Airport and it is now used as the main gateway for the city and the surrounding areas. There are numerous airlines that offer both domestic flights as well as international flights to and from the city. Examples include British Airways, Interlink, Mango and South African Airlines. There are direct links to Mauritius from Air Mauritius and Emirates offer a non stop service to and from Dubai. The airport is easily accessible from the city by either private taxis or airport shuttle bus service.
By bus :
Durban has extensive and quick bus connections with the other cities in South Africa, as well as the nearby foreign capitals, such as Maputo (Mozambique) or Mbabane (Swaziland). There are plenty of national and international carriers that cater for both the locals, as well as for tourists.
By train :
Durban is easily accessible by a direct train service from Johannesburg offered by Spoornet. Unfortunately, there is no longer a direct connection to Cape Town, but there are good connections at the Johannesburg rail hub. Long haul passenger train connections are also available to Maputo (Mozambique) or Zimbabwe and Zambia. Short haul trains, also known as commuter trains are also available in the nearby suburbs, but can be crowded and uncomfortable.
By boat :
Arrivals and departures to and from Durban are also possible by boat or ferry service. Some cruise ships dock in Durban and there various companies offering shuttle services to other coastal cities.
When to visit :
Durban is famous as being an extremely welcoming city and it is a wonderful destination all-year-round thanks to its pleasant weather. Even during the winter months (May to September), the temperatures remain mild and enjoyable.
Places to visit in Durban :
- The Durban Botanical GardensFounded in 1849, the Durban Botanical Gardens features the oldest botanical gardens houses in Africa, which houses a world renowned collection of “living fossil” plants. The gardens are famous for housing pre-dinosaur cycads (an ancient type of plant, older than 250 million years). The only cycad plant was discovered by John Medley Wood in 1895 and consists a fabulous tourist attraction itself. Tourists will be surrounded by an ancient forest, widely resembling the Jurassic Park film set.
- The KwaMuhle MuseumHoused in an impressive colonial era architectural masterpiece, this museum documents Durban from its beginnings to the present. The topics include the black migration period, apartheid, green street efforts, and every era is documented with testimonials, videos and photographs that will portray a realistic image of the city.
- Ushaka Sea WorldDurban features one of the largest aquariums and water parks in the world, complete with animal encounters for tourists. The animals featured include sting rays, an assortment of pelagic fish like tuna, dorado, sardines, as well as numerous species of sharks, which can be enjoyed in the breathtaking Shark Dive Experience.
Accommodations in Durban :
Durban offers a huge range of hostels and hotels, catering for every need and budget. Youth hostels can be simple, almost rugged, but offer decent accommodation at affordable prices (R100 to R300 per night). Some youth hostels include: Ansteys Beach Backpackers, African Sunrise Backpacers Lodge or Banana Backpackers. Midrange accommodation includes hotels like: Nunuburd Lodge, Dolphin Sands, Umdloti Letting, Lazy Lizard Guest House and many others. When it comes to luxurious hotels and top notch accommodation, Durban has plenty to choose from. Some of the best hotels are The Hampshire Hotel Ballito, Quarters Hotel, Royal Palm-Gateway, The Quays and The Riverside Hotel & Spa.