A view of the sun sinking behind Durban’s beachfront skyscrapers; from the Indian Ocean… Photo: Demola Ojo
Durban, off the coast of the Indian Ocean in South Africa, leaves lasting impressions on all the senses with its visual delights surely taking gold, writes Demola Ojo
Durban is marketed as “the warmest place to be” by the city’s tourism board and it’s easy to see why. With a mild sub-tropical climate complemented by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Durban boasts around 320 days of breezy sunshine a year. Nature’s blessings don’t let up here with Durban possessing one of the largest natural bays on the African continent formed by hills shaped in an arc.
This makes the water in the bay safe for swimming. Durban’s locals have carried the torch from where nature left off, with the city consciously riding on its favourable climate and geography. The city’s main tourist attraction – a strip of land known as the Golden Mile – has the major hotels, bars, restaurants and entertainment outlets facing out towards the Indian Ocean and incidentally, the rising sun to the east. This ensures you get the most breathtaking sunrise ever, worth waking up early in the morning (between 4:45 and 6:30 am depending on the time of the year) to catch.
Staying at a property on the beachfront gives you this opportunity along with the added dimension of hearing waves crash to shore like muffled explosives in the dead of the night; this is if you leave your windows open on say the 20th floor of the Southern Sun Elageni hotel. You can also taste the salty water of the ocean, if like this writer, you get submerged by metre-high waves while attempting to surf.
Hour-long surfing lessons are available for as little as 20 dollars with the goal being to catch waves that would propel you while you stand upright on the surfboard. Needless to say that this is a near impossibility for a beginner as lying prone on the board without rolling over is tough enough. Thankfully, there are shark nets at Durban beach so the worst that could happen is gulping occasional mouthfuls of saltwater.
Interestingly, one actually gets closer to the sharks on land. Along with the salivating whiff of grilled chicken at the Upper Deck restaurant of the Phantom Ship at the uShaka Seaworld is the light odour of shark. It is easy to be oblivious to it but less than 10 metres from the dining tables at the restaurant is an outdoor aquarium where sharks swim around in quiet circles, as if to lend credence to the Machiavellian saying that “calm waters may conceal sharks”.
The sharks only really come to life during their designated feeding times as they attack their food with such ferocity to leave you in no doubt just how dangerous these apex predators are.
The SkyCar arch at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban… the view from the top is stunning…
Moses Mabhida Stadium
No picture of the Durban skyline is complete without the iconic arch of the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Completed in 2009 in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup held in South Africa, the stadium is way more than a sporting event venue: it is a major draw and plays its part in attracting tourists to the city with its unique lifestyle offerings.
Reminiscent of the Wembley Stadium in London, Moses Mabhida has the longest arch of any stadium in the world and uses this to its benefit in a number of ways, including the Big Rush Swing, the world’s only stadium swing and the largest swing of any kind anywhere according to the Guinness Book of Records.
Another use that the arch above the stadium is, put to is as the track for Durban’s famed SKyCar. The SkyCar is a cuboid-shaped cabin framed by glass windows with entrance and exit doors at either end, pulled up the arch electronically by a wire. The roof of the car consists of glass louvres that can be opened by the driver for ventilation as passengers travel up in a standing position holding onto the handrail around the perimeter.
For seven dollars, the SkyCar offers stunning 360 degree views of Durban from 100 metres high, with the Umulhanga Rocks, Durban’s inner city and the long stretch of beach all coming into view.
There is more than one way to get to the top. If you’re feeling energetic, then the Adventure Walk is up your street. The 500 step hike - with safety equipment and under the watchful eyes of qualified instructors – offers the same breathtaking view as the SkyCar. This time though, you walk past the bridge platform where the brave take the plunge on the Big Rush Swing 70 metres up (mental note to self to take the plunge next time.)
Sunset on Luxury Yacht
Just as impressive as its sunrise is Durban’s sunset which is a nature lover’s delight and there is no better way to see the sun sink behind the city’s skyscrapers than from the ocean itself. There are many yachts for hire at the Durban harbour and for a fee of around 300 dollars an hour, you can get one and soak in a unique lifetime experience.
One of the yachts available for charter is the Spirit of Elan, a 45ft luxury catamaran comprising five en-suite bedrooms. The yacht boasts a fully kitted galley, a gas braai and a comfortable lounge area with TV and DVD player. Walkways are wide and the bow is fitted with two trampolines where you can relax, soak up your surroundings and practically daydream. The yacht can take up to 20 passengers which makes it ideal for a small party.
According to the captain of this yacht, there are days when passengers get lucky as dolphins, sometimes numbering up to 30, follow the yacht on its cruise along Durban’s coastline, diving and generally showing off their skills to the add to surreal feeling you get as you ride into the sunset. We weren’t so lucky on this day but the sunset sufficed. The warmest place to be? Maybe. A scenic place to be? Certainly.
The Durban sunrise as seen from the 32nd floor pool deck of the Southern Sun North Beach hotel in Durban…