Durban Tourist Attractions
Durban is the third largest city in South Africa, of importance as an industrial center and above all as a port. Thanks to its subtropical climate, its long beaches, the warm water of the Indian Ocean and an excellent infrastructure it can also claim to be South Africa's pleasure capital; and with more than 2 million visitors every year it is the country's leading holiday resort.
The city owes its cosmopolitan air, however, not so much to its visitors as to the ethnic variety of its population. Almost half the inhabitants are Asians, mainly Indians, and about 200,000 are white. Under the apartheid regime most of the black population was relegated to the townships surrounding the city.Durban is a modern city with wide streets, tall office and apartment blocks and many parks and gardens. Only a few old Victorian buildings survive amid newer developments. The "liveliest city in the country", Durban is well worth seeing, but if you are thinking of staying in this area you should be aware that the seafront is one long succession of hotels and that the parks and places of entertainment are almost always crowded: for a quieter and more restful stay the seaside resorts north and south of the city are to be preferred.On Christmas Day in 1497 Vasco da Gama discovered the bay which he called Port Natal ("Christmas" in Portuguese); but the first settlement here was established only in 1823 by a few British traders. Although it lay in Zulu tribal territory the Zulus accepted its existence as a place for trade, mainly in ivory. The settlement developed, and the town was officially founded in 1835 and named after the then Governor of the Cape, Sir Benjamin D'Urban.The first voortrekkers reached the area in 1837 and founded Pietermaritzburg, 80km/50 mi northwest of Durban. This further white intrusion gave rise to increasing Zulu resistance, and there were bloody massacres, in the course of which Durban was abandoned. After their victory over the Zulus at Blood River (December 16th 1838) the Boers established the first voortrekker republic of Natal, of which Durban was a part. This provoked British resistance. A British force was defeated in the battle of Congella in 1842 and then besieged in their fort (the Old Fort in Durban) for a month; but they were saved by the arrival of reinforcements brought in by Richard King in an adventurous 600-mile ride from Grahamstown. The voortrekkers were defeated and withdrew to the north, settling in what is now the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.In May 1843 Natal was incorporated in the Cape Colony, and thereafter Durban prospered.In 1860 the first Indians arrived, brought in as contract laborers to make good the shortage of manpower to work the rapidly expanding sugar plantations. Their numbers grew rapidly, and by 1883 there were more than 30,000 Indians in Natal, many of whom remained in the country after their contracts expired. Among the immigrants was Mahatma Gandhi, a young lawyer who arrived in 1893 and for 21 years fought for the rights of the Indian minority in South Africa.The first railroad line in South Africa, between Durban and Cape Point, was opened in 1860.A good starting-point for a walking tour of the city is the "Golden Mile", the coastal boulevard (now with traffic-calming measures). The liveliest spot is at the junction of West Street with Marine Parade. The main shopping and business streets are West Street and Smith Street, parallel one-way streets running east-west. They lead to the Indian business quarter round Gray and Victoria Streets, on the west side of the city (about 2.5km/11.5mi from the seafront).Erskine Parade, the southward continuation of Marine Parade, leads to the Point district, the old harbor quarter on the north side of the port, which is bounded on the south side by the promontory known as the Bluff.To the northwest, on the slopes of Berea Hill, is the elegant suburb of Berea, and to the west the poor district of Pinetown.
Durban's Indian Quarter is found on the eastern side of the city center running along Grey Street north from West Street. The Jumah Mosque, largest in the Southern Hemisphere, is found here as are two notable markets.
The Victoria Market is the new Indian market built in 1973 after a fire. Although the modern building lacks the charm of the old market stalls, it is still a fascinating mix of Africa and the Orient. There are around 180 stalls selling exotic spices, basketwork and brassware, wood articles and woodcarving, as well as meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. The souvenir stalls display, of course, a great deal of rubbish, but it is possible, with a bit of luck, to find some very attractive items.
The main shopping area of the Indian quarter is Grey Street, which runs north from West Street.
Durban's Botanic Gardens are a must for every visitor. They lie on the slopes of Berea Hill, on the northwest of the city center In 20ha/50ac of gardens grow a great variety of plants and trees, including some very rare species. Some specimens are very old, the Botanic Gardens having been established as long ago as 1849. Particularly notable features are the majestic avenue of palms and the orchid house with its glory of tropical color. Other attractions are the herb garden and a special garden where blind visitors may touch the plants. Everywhere the twittering of birds is heard: at least fifty different species are permanent residents of the gardens.
Address: Botanic Gardens Road, Berea, KwaZulu-Natal 4007, South Africa
Opening hours: Apr 16 to Sep 15: 7:30am-5:15pm
Sep 16 to Apr 15: 7:30am-5:45pm
Sep 16 to Apr 15: 7:30am-5:45pm
Always closed on: Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Good Friday - Christian
Useful tips: Orchid house closed between 12.30 and 2.30pm.
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
Facilities: Restaurant or food service
Umengi River Bird Park
In the Riverside district, on the north bank of the Umgeni River, is the Umgeni River Bird Park On a network of paths running through the park visitors can observe a variety of indigenous and exotic (from Southeast Asia and Australia) species of birds, including lories, cockatoos and aras.
Port of Durban
The port of Durban is the most important in South Africa and one of the largest on the continent. It brings in supplies for the mining and industrial areas on the Witwatersrand and exports mainly sugar, fruit and maize. It has over 15km/9mi of quays and a storage capacity of 317,265cu.m/414,967cu.yd. Thanks to its port Durban has developed into an important industrial center (sugar, textiles, dyestuffs, chemicals, foodstuffs).
Killie Campbell Africana Museum
The Killie Campbell Africana Museum, housed in Dr Killie Campbell's old home on Berea Hill northwest of the city center, contains his important library of works on the history of Zululand and Natal, the Mashu Ethnology Collection of Zulu arts and crafts, and fine furniture.
Durban Transport Management Board (DTMB)
Durban's bus services are run by the Durban Transport Management Board (DTMB). The central bus station is between Commercial and Pine Streets.The DTMB's Mynah shuttle service runs between the North and South Beaches and Albert Park by way of Smith Street (returning on West Street) and also to the Botanical Gardens. There is a bus every 5 minutes on weekdays between 6.30am and 5.25pm; less frequently at other times.DTMB also runs city tours, harbor tours and a variety of excursions (reservations and starting-point at pavilion on Marine Parade).
Mitchell Park (Robert Jameson Park)
Mitchell Park, in the Windermere district, is one of Durban's oldest parks, with old trees, beautiful flowerbeds and a mini zoo. There is a bird house containing large numbers of indigenous, exotic and rare birds.Adjoining Mitchell Park is Robert Jameson Park, which in September has a glorious display of more than 200 different roses.
Bridgevale Japanese Gardens
In Durban's northern district of Virginia are the Japanese Gardens, with curving wooden bridges, ponds, waterfalls and Japanese lanterns.
Pigeon Valley Park
The Pigeon Valley Park, west of Durban's center, is a pleasant area for walkers and bird-watchers.
Temple of Understanding
The ornate Temple Of Understanding with its gold-tipped steeples and silver roof is one of Durban's most unique buildings.Lying in southwestern Durban this Hare Krishna temple has conducted tours. A vegetarian restaurant is also open to public.
Durban International Airport
Durban International Airport lies 15km/9mi south of central Durban. There is a shuttle bus service from the air terminal in the city center (corner of Smith and Aliwal Streets) to the airport.
UShaka Marine World
uShaka is Africa's largest marine theme park. uShaka features fresh and sea water, lush vegetation, natural materials and a recreated 1920's cargo ship wreck into a world of sea and marine life.
Map of Durban Attractions