At the hub of KwaZulu-Natal is the harbour city of Durban, the third biggest city in South Africa. This vibrant and cosmopolitan city is fortunate to have great year-round weather while the waters of the warm Indian Ocean beckon invitingly. The town is a beautiful and eclectic mix of people and cultures, with a mesh of African, Eastern, and British histories.
There is plenty to do in this coastal town with miles of sandy beaches to explore, numerous cultural and historical attractions to visit and a variety of outdoor activities and water sports to enjoy.
We take a look at what you can do inside 24 hours in the land of the Zulus.
Arrive at King Shaka International Airport
In case you missed the news, Durban has a new airport. It's bigger, better and cleaner and located further outside the city. It is confusingly known as both King Shaka International Airport and La Mercy Airport (possibly for the French tourists, or more likely for the area it's located in) and it takes about 30 minutes to get into Durban city centre.
There are many varying accommodation options in Durban. Look at staying in Umhlanga (conveniently close to the airport) which offers a great variety of different accommodation options. Otherwise look at staying in the suburbs of Kloof, Westville or Hillcrest where you can find good guesthouses and bed and breakfasts, while being located in easy reach of the Valley of a Thousand Hills.
Wake up with a coffee at the Urban Grounds Coffee Emporium in Glenwood. The restaurants sells everything coffee related and are focused on bringing good, fair-trade coffees to the people of Durban. They provide a variety of artisanal coffee, so make a stop here to get your morning cup of java.
For breakfast make a stop at Spiga in Florida Road, Morningside, for a lively and delectable start to the day. The restaurant offers a variety of delectable Italian foods and a wonderful relaxed feel. Run by Italian brothers Marco and Luca, Spiga has a strong European feel as you dine on the pavement or inside.
Tour of the Indian District
Known as an 'Oriental Walkabout', the tour takes visitors through the streets of the most popular Indian neighbourhoods. For years Indians have lived and worked in KwaZulu Natal, and the districts have a unique and interesting culture, from the spice markets to the ornate buildings. Walk in the footsteps of great Indians such as Gandhi. Call (031) 304-4934 to book a tour.
Explore the Golden Mile on a rickshaw
While it may seem rather touristy, riding a rickshaw is a definite must in a visitor's experience of Durban. The vibrant chariots with their equally colourful drivers or 'pullers' make for a fun and unique trip along the golden Durban coastline. The Golden Mile is offers numerous amusement arcades, flea markets, quality restaurants and fast-food outlets all creating a festive holiday atmosphere. Experience the famous golden sands, sub-tropical sunshine and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, watched over by life guards and protected by shark nets; the waters are safe and inviting.
Enjoy a traditional bunnychow on the beachfront
While you're at the beachfront make a stop at the one of the many restaurants and food outlets along the way for a bunnychow. A bunnychow, for those who don't know, is a half loaf of bread filled with curry. The meal originated in the Durban Indian community and can be bought across the city. A visit to Durban would be incomplete without tasting this local meal, and it offers a quick and easy meal. Be warned that some bunnychows can be quite hot, and if you're sensitive to curry ask for a mild filling.
Go to the BAT Centre
The BAT (Bartel Arts Trust named after its founder) is a mural-covered arts and culture community centre located in a small craft harbour. The aim of the centre is to promote local skills and talent; to source artists work and ultimately provide employment for local artists.
Come and view the vibrant and interesting artwork of Durban's local creative talent in the exhibition galleries, watch a show in the concert hall, or enjoy a drink on the deck overlooking the harbour.
Go to the Moses Mabhida Stadium
The Soccer World Cup gave Durban an impressive and unique stadium, creating a beautiful addition to the Durban skyline.
Walk across one of the legs of the stadium and enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the city. Visitors are issued safety equipment to make sure you stay attached to the stadium. Walks happen each Saturday and Sunday at 10:00; 13:00, 16:00. The cost is R80 per person.
Or take a jump from the top of stadium and enjoy this unique big swing. Jumping from 106 metres, you swing out in a 220 metre arc under the arch. Swings are offered daily from 9:00 to 17:00. Cost is R595 per person.
If you'd prefer something a bit more relaxed take the Skycar which ferries visitors up to the stadium's highest point, offering 360⁰ views of Durban. The SkyCar is a single cabin that runs along steel tracks that go up the arc. Daily trips run from 09h00 to 18h00. Cost is R50 for adults and R25 for children under 12.
uShaka Marine World
The uShaka Marine World is Africa's biggest marine park, with the 5th biggest aquarium in the world, which is home to a vast variety of tropical fish, turtles and sting rays. uShaka boasts the biggest collection of sharks in the southern hemisphere, a seal stadium, a dolphinarium and two top restaurants styled as a 1940's cargo ship wreck.
Watch a show at the dolphinarium where dolphins, seals and penguins all display their natural talents. Or head out into the ocean to learn to surf with one of uShaka's trainers.
To find out more about uShaka head to the uShaka Marine World Attraction Page.
For dinner there are various options. You can stay on at uShaka and dine at the Cargo Hold, a seafood restaurant with beautiful views of the ocean and uShaka tanks; the Upper Deck, a restaurant aboard the Phantom Ship offering a buffet and; or Moyo, an African restaurant located over the Indian Ocean with spectacular panoramic views.
Alternatively for a more lively atmosphere try the Bean Bag Bohemia, a restaurant in the popular suburb of Morningside where you can enjoy a variety of cosmopolitan and contemporary food. The restaurant is located in a 19th century building with a courtyard which makes for beautiful al fresco dining. The Bean Bag Bohemia has become somewhat of an institution in Durban.
To view more restaurant options go to Durban restaurants.
Catch a show at one of Durban's many theatres
The Playhouse is the main theatre in Durban, forming the centrepiece of the performing arts in Natal. The theatre houses performances by many top international artists, while below is the Zulu Jazz Lounge where you can watch new and established artists.
The Catalina Theatre is located next to the harbour and part of its allure is the beautiful panorama of the harbour that it offers. The theatre is home to many up-and-coming playwrights, musicians and poets.
The unique Izulu theatre has a Zulu style and is built inside an extremely large thatched hut. The theatre has played host to a number of top international productions including Stomp. The theatre is well serviced with good production value and high technical standards.
Call it a night and start planning the next 24 hours
After a day on the go, enjoy catching some rest and planning your next 24 hours. Look at exploring the Midlands for South Africa's primary arts and crafts route, or venture into the Battlefields region to view the sites of historic battles and learn more about this fascinating area.