Durban Travel Guide

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Durban Travel Guide

Durban Local History

It was in 1497 on Christmas day that Vasco da Gama first landed here and called it Rio de Natal (Christmas River), thinking it was a lagoon and not a natural harbour. It was later changed to Port Natal when the mistake was discovered. The settlement of Port Natal only really started in 1823 when a group of British merchants went ashore and decided they liked it and returned the following year. Not many people were interested in staying at Port Natal until Henry Flynn and Francis Farewell arrived and started a settlement with about 30 people. Port Natal became Durban on 23 June 1835, in honour of the then Cape Governor, Sir Benjamin D'Urban. The settlers had a pleasant relationship with Shaka, the founder of the Zulu nation. However, Dingane, Shaka's half brother was openly hostile towards the settlers.

The Voortrekkers (Boer settlers who had left the Cape because of British rule) crossed the Drakensberg in 1837 and in 1838 founded a settlement 80km inland from Durban and called it Pietermaritzburg after their leaders Piet Retief and Gert Maritz. The relationship between the Boers and British was friendly even though the Boers made plans to establish their own republic so close to the British. A year later Dingane ambushed and killed the Voortrekker leader Piet Retief and sent his impis (warriors) in to annihilate the white settlers. The Voortrekkers beat them back at Blood River and with the help of the British managed to crush the invasion. When the British left Durban due to Zulu raids the Boers took control and again renamed it Port Natal.

There was peace for awhile after the Zulu defeat, until the Boers and British came into conflict for power over Port Natal. In 1842 the British annexed Natal, the Boers retaliated and laid siege on the Old Fort in Durban. Due to the heroism of one man, Dick King, who managed to escape, rode for ten days non-stop on horseback to the Cape to report the siege to the British authorities. Reinforcements were sent by sea and five weeks later the Old Fort was freed. Natal officially became British and the Boers retired to Pietermaritzburg.

In 1860 the first indentured Indians arrived and were sent to work in the cane fields and cotton plantations. Many more Indians arrived including Mohandas Ghandi in 1893. Durban today, is very different to what it was more than a century ago. The Indian population has lent an exotic aspect to the city. In South Africa the Indian population is the largest in Durban area. However, the rest of Natal is populated by the north Nguni or Zulu.

The city grew as prospectors arrived when gold was discovered in the Transvaal (now Guateng).

Today, Durban is regarded as a holiday resort, with good beaches and deluxe hotels; it also offers a rich cultural heritage and history.

Durban Attractions

Durban Shopping

You can shop until you drop in any one of Durban's shopping malls. They have a wide variety of different shops from clothing to curio shops. Some of the malls like the Warwick Mall or the Pavilion have more than 290 different stores. However, if you are looking for something that is not completely commercialised, why not try the weekend markets or flea markets where you will find many handmade originals. The side street vendors offer flowers, leather goods and fresh fruit at excellent prices.

The African Art Centre At this art gallery the visitor will be able to buy original and traditional works of art. The gallery sells and promotes Xhosa and Zulu art work such as rugs, sculpture, beadwork, tapestries, ceramics and carvings.

Victoria Street Market - Queen and Victoria Strs. Here you will find over 100 traditional stalls selling a variety of goods, spices and incense. There are also small shops where you will find clothing, curios, bags, spices and trinkets from Africa and the East.

Pavilion Shopping Mall Here you will find an unequalled choice of shops from clothing, gift shops to restaurant and cinemas. The Pavilion will certainly be a unique shopping experience.

Warwick Shopping Centre - Umhlanga At Warwick you will find stores ranging from extreme outdoor sports to convenience stores. You will find stores such as Woolworths, CheckersHypr, Fubu, Hugo Boss, Guess and Aca Joe and many more. There is also a 4000m² skate park designed by Tony Hawk for the skateboarding enthusiast. There are cinemas, food hall, and fun centre for children plus many more interesting outlets.

Durban Activities

Crocworld At Crocworld you will find not only crocodiles 10 000 at any given time but over 200 variety of birds which are attracted to the indigenous trees and plants also found in the park. The park is also home to a magnificent Fish Eagle called Isis who lives in a walk-through raptor cage. Also to be found at the park is Henry, the oldest and heaviest crocodile known to be in captivity. There are also waterfalls, Flamingo's, a Snake Tunnel and a Fresh Water Aquarium.

Water World This tropical location is where the whole family can enjoy a day in the sun. There are 10 exciting water rides and wave pools or just have a relaxing swim in one of the bathing pools.

Fun World This amusement park on the beachfront has a variety of fun rides for both young and old. There are about 19 different rides from Swing-boat to Bumper Cars. Otherwise take the cable car and view everything from on high.

Mini Town For a different view of Durban, here at mini town you will find a scale model duplication of the city. You can also take a ride on the mini train in the park.

Sea World This is an excellent dolphinarium right on the beachfront. They have daily shows featuring dolphins, seals and penguins. Attached to the dolphinarium is an aquarium which has a vast array of different sea life from sharks, stingrays to turtles.

Durban Parks & Gardens

Durban Botanical Gardens These gardens were originally established in 1849 for commercial crops, but later started to develop sub-tropical trees, palms and orchids. There is a really fine mixture of African, Asian and American trees, but the main collections of the Gardens are orchids, palms and cycads and the main focus is to develop and maintain a cosmopolitan cycad collection. Also to be found in the gardens is the Braille trail; to see some really beautiful orchids visit the Ernest Thorpe Orchid House. Visitors to the gardens can also find an herb garden, a sunken garden and an ornamental lake. The gardens are also very popular for picnics and for those not taking a picnic along, there is a tea garden where you can relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

Mitchell Park This Park is well-known for its colourful and artistic displays of flower, shrubs and trees. It is also well stocked with aviaries of different types of birds, reptiles, very big tortoises and a very quaint tea garden. There is also a playground for the children.

Stainbank Nature Reserve This reserve can be found in Yellowwood Park and here the visitor will be able to see birds, zebras, monkeys, buck and bush-babies. For those looking for a bit of exercise there are short 20 minutes walks or for the more energetic there are long 3 hour trails. Night game drives can also be arranged.

Japanese Gardens These oriental gardens have some really fine displays of flowers and has quite a few ponds. The gardens are open daily but only from sunrise to sunset.

Durban Beaches

South Beach - This is probably the most popular beach in Durban and has soft golden sand (which can get extremely hot during the summer) and warm water. There are Life Guards on duty daily, especially during the summer months. However, as this beach is so popular it is best to get there early as it does get rather overcrowded. The waters are shark netted and there are shower and change facilities. There are also a number of restaurants and bars within easy walking distance of the beach.

North Beach This beach within walking distance of the South beach is very popular with the surfers. The beach area is not as big as the South beach but also has soft golden sand. During July the 'Gunston 500' surfing competitions are held on this beach now known as the 'Vodacom Challenge'. There are shower and change facilities and the restaurants and bars along the promenade. The waters are shark netted. Just opposite this beach is a large public swimming pool.

Addington Beach Situated in front of the Addington Hospital this beach with its golden sands is in the opposite direction to the North and South beaches. Probably not as popular, so not too much overcrowding, but still has the same characteristics and warm water as the other two. There are bars and restaurants just up from the beach. You will also find changing and shower facilities on the beach. The water in this area is also shark netted.

Durban Restaurants and Bars

Durban Restaurants

Caphiine This family restaurant is trendy and upmarket and caters for both young and old patrons. It is fully licensed and has friendly, efficient staff with an atmosphere that is warm and cosy. They serve budget breakfasts and offer good homemade food with a difference. You will be pleasantly surprise by the large selection of coffees, cappuccinos and cafe lattes they have on offer.

Europa Food Emporium Once an Italian Deli, but now a coffee shop with a difference. The Europa is fully licensed with a small wine menu which includes a few imported Italian wines. They offer light lunches and meals Italian style and have extended their Italian food range to include imported pastas and cheeses and an excellent salad range. They also serve breakfast and if you only feel like a cup of tea/coffee they also have a range of cakes, croissants.

Kansas Spur Steakhouse For a relaxed night out with the family this restaurant offers a really good steak or burger which is served in a warm and friendly atmosphere. They also offer an excellent array of salads, hot vegetables and home-baked bread. The restaurant has very efficient staff that will look after the children while you enjoy your meal in peace. In 2000 and 2002 the Kansas Spur won the Pavilion Excel Award.

MacRib - Pavilion This popular family restaurant has a friendly, relaxed atmosphere with no airs and graces. Staff at MacRib is well-trained and efficient. Here you will be able to choose from MacRib's famous ribs to fresh seafood dishes. Then finish off the meal with a delicious homemade dessert or their absolutely marvellous cheesecake.

Durban Bars & Clubs

Harlequins - 19 Rutherford Str., Durban This night club is known for its karaoke and live bands. They also serve a huge range of light to heavy meals.

Angelo's Cantina - 25 West St., Durban This is not a family club as they do have strip shows. The setting is very Mexican. There is music and they serve snacks and drinks.

Spank Night Club - 19 Milne St., Durban This over 21's club specialises in foam parties, raves and cabarets. No food is served only drinks.

Durban children's activities

Crocworld At Crocworld you will find not only crocodiles 10 000 at any given time but over 200 variety of birds which are attracted to the indigenous trees and plants also found in the park. The park is also home to a magnificent Fish Eagle called Isis who lives in a walk-through raptor cage. Also to be found at the park is Henry, the oldest and heaviest crocodile known to be in captivity. There are also waterfalls, Flamingo's, a Snake Tunnel and a Fresh Water Aquarium.

Water World This tropical location is where the whole family can enjoy a day in the sun. There are 10 exciting water rides and wave pools or just have a relaxing swim in one of the bathing pools.

Fun World This amusement park on the beachfront has a variety of fun rides for both young and old. There are about 19 different rides from Swing-boat to Bumper Cars. Otherwise take the cable car and view everything from on high.

Mini Town For a different view of Durban, here at mini town you will find a scale model duplication of the city. You can also take a ride on the mini train in the park.

Sea World This is an excellent dolphinarium right on the beachfront. They have daily shows featuring dolphins, seals and penguins. Attached to the dolphinarium is an aquarium which has a vast array of different sea life from sharks, stingrays to turtles.

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