20 things to do in Durban, South Africa
Natal Sharks Board
The Natal Sharks Board is the only organisation of its kind in the world. They are committed to keeping the beaches safe, not only for the beach users, but the sharks as well. While they ensure that all measures are taken to ensure safe swimming and surfing, they also do valuable research on sharks. You can go view amazing presentations and be sure to catch them on a day when they are dissecting sharks so you can also get a glimpse (and whiff!) of the insides of these massive, enthralling predators. I’m just thankful I don’t have a weak stomach!
The Indian District
Situated on Grey Street running north from West Street is the Indian Quarter, to the eastern side of the city centre. This is the best place to enjoy spicy local food. Here you will find the Juma Musjid Mosque and its gilt-domed minarets – reputably the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Wander around the area and the bazaars and buy some of the incredible spices and textiles from local Indian vendors. Two markets are of note – the Oriental Bazaar on Albert Street (between Queen and Commercial) and the Indian Market which is on the far side of the M3 at the west end of Victoria Street. This area has become home to Zulu herbalists selling ‘muti’ - a traditional African ‘medicine’. For traditional medicine and rituals, head for Russell Street Extension where these sellers congregate. Even if, like me, you don’t like spices, this is still a cultural experience not to be missed.
The Dolphin Experience
If you have ever dreamt of swimming with the dolphins, make your dream come true by visiting Durban. Here the surfers regularly have dolphins frolicking beside them. You can take a ride in a 6-meter rubber duck boat (with safety jackets provided). The boat takes you out into the ocean to play hide-n-seek with the dolphins. An excellent opportunity to view the dolphins in their natural environment that should not be missed! You won’t believe how friendly these creatures truly are. Put this down on your list of 100 things to do before you reach 100.
Hare Krishna Temple of Understanding
In the primarily Indian area of Chatsworth, just south of Durban centre, you will find these ornate gardens, easily reached from the N2 freeway and along Ambassador Road. The ashram opened in 1969 and the striking marble temple and its gardens were added six years later. Whatever your religion, you’ll find the temple site serene and calming. Unusually, there is an exceptional vegetarian restaurant at the temple. And entrance is free.
Shongweni Resource Reserve
This large nature reserve is situated 30km north of Durban and is recognised as a Natural Heritage Site. Here you will find a variety of game, over 200 species of bird, interesting rock formations, grasslands and bushveld. The reserve has a dam for fishing and canoeing and over 15km of hiking trails which are self-guided, and there are restrooms and three picnic sites en-route. Permits should be purchased at the gate at a small cost.
S.A. Sugar Terminal
These sugar terminals are among the biggest in the world. Found at Maydon Wharf, on the west side of the bay, they are capable of storing over half a million tons of sugar and handling and moving up to 800 tons per hour. A great monument to Durban’s past as a trading post. A tour will allow you to witness its continuing prosperity and is guaranteed to be fascinating and educational, teaching about sugar production and refinement.
The Lion Match Factory
Maybe a strange entry for such a list, but it is well lauded. On the banks of the pretty Umgeni River just north of Durban centre the factory is an architectural and historic attraction. The match factory was established by timber merchants in 1952 and most of the present structure was completed in 1926/7. If you are still wondering what I am talking about, the Lion Match brand is one of the best known brands in South Africa and is a common theme of township art. The brand has been a constant throughout South Africa’s tumultuous history and you are almost guaranteed to walk by at least one person in South Africa sporting a t-shirt with the Lion brand.
In the ‘sugar town’ of Tongaat (just a few miles past Umhlanga) you will find Crocodile Creek, on the Tongaat river in sub-tropical bush. This creek is home to over 7000 Nile Crocodiles, Alligators, Caiman, snakes and other reptiles. The farm includes bush and hill trails, a waterfall, river plains and thatched buildings with tree top walkways. An awesome place to spend a day, refreshments are available and you can also browse through the shop which sells curios, crocodile leather goods and even croc dishes.
More of the 20 things to do in Durban