You’ve checked into your hotel, unpacked your bags and had a good nights sleep, so you’re all refreshed and ready to take on the world and more importantly, get stuck into your vacation. The next question has to be, what to do next? We sat down and made a list of 10 things you must do when visiting Durban.
10 Things You Must Do in Durban Quick List
- Explore the city on a Durban city tour
- Visit the oldest botanical gardens in Africa
- Head down to the beach and book a SUP session (or learn to surf)
- Book a whale watching boat trip (seasonally dependent)
- Visit the Phoenix settlement and Ohlanga Institute
- Visit the Moses Mabhida Stadium; climb the arch or swing out over the stadium
- Visit the Valley of 1000 Hills and enjoy a Zulu dance show
- Explore the wonderful world of birds at the Mgeni Bird Park
- Visit uShaka Marine World
- Eat a bunny chow
The Detailed List of 10 Things You Must Do In Durban
1. Explore on a Durban city tour
You’re in a new city, there’s lots going on and much to see and do. One of the easiest ways to get to grips with the geography and in’s and out’s is to get a guided tour. It’s not just about a tour of the city, it’s also about asking questions and learning about where you should visit, where you shouldn’t, what’s safe and what’s not…that kinda thing.
On a Durban city tour you’ll get to see the city highlights, discover the history of the city and learn about the people that make the city so fantastic to visit. From the beach front, to the historic buildings, the Indian and Zulu markets, there’s a lot to do and see and this is one of the best ways to experience Durban.
2. Visit the Oldest Botanical Gardens in Africa
Durban’s botanical gardens were started way back in 1849, making them the oldest surviving botanical gardens in Africa. The gardens are easy to get to, just a few kilometers from the city center (less than R100 if you use Uber from a beachfront hotel) and you can easily spend a morning just strolling about the pathways.
The trees and flowers are all identified and if your mobile device can read QR codes, then you’ll be able to research each and every species. There’s also a butterfly garden (it’s a little hidden away so you may need to ask for directions) and the highlight has the be the world’s rarest plant, “Wood’s Cycad“.
Entry is free and if you’re not all that keen on walking about, situated near the main entrance is a tour service – just R100 (at time of writing) for a 30 min tour of the gardens on a golf cart. There’s also a coffee cart and ablutions on site.
3. Book a SUP Lesson or Learn to Surf
Durban is situated right next to the warm Indian Ocean and most days the weather is perfect for the beach; blue skies, warm water, hot temperatures and gentle ocean swells. It’s no wonder then that Durban boasts a number of world surfing champions, both current and of old.
One of the best things you can do while in Durban is book a SUP (stand up paddling) session or learn to surf.
Stand up paddling is not new, but it has become so popular. Its easy to do (if you can stand up you’re pretty much good to go) and offers some exercise. Most days the SUP’s will be seen down on South Beach where the waves are usually a little smaller – you will paddle out to the back line where if you’re lucky, a pod of dolphin will keep you company!
Surfing is also a healthy activity and more importantly, the most fun you can have in the ocean ever! There’s a number of schools that you can Google, but again you will probably end up on South Beach where the waves are kinder to beginners.
- Visit the Xpression’s website for more info on SUP’ing and surfing in Durban
4. Book a Whale Watching Tour
From around May through to November of every year, whales make their way along the east coast of Africa, from the colder waters of the Arctic through to the warm waters off Mozambique and Madagascar. When they reach their destination they’ll breed and give birth to a new generation.
Durban has become one of the best spots for whale watchers to get a glimpse of these amazing (and enormous) mammals, something that is almost a once in a lifetime opportunity!
And what whales can be seen? Humpback whales, Southern Right whales, Sperm whales, Bryde whales and Mink Whales. We here at Country and Coastal have done this tours before and they have left us not only amazed but spiritually affected as well – we simply cannot urge visitors enough to get out with an approved and registered operator and see for yourself!
Although we don’t offer whale watching as a tour, we can assist in setting up a tour, so feel free to contact us for more info.
5. Visit the Phoenix Settlement and Ohlanga Institute
The history of South Africa is a turbulent one and even today South Africa continues to deal with these issues of the past.
One of the best methods to gain an understanding of the challengers faces by South Africa is to join our tour to the Phoenix Settlement and the Ohlanga Institute.
In 1940, Mohandas Gandhi established the Phoenix Settlement, and in doing so changed the fortunes of Indian people in South Africa. His fight against the British colonialists and for the rights of Indians in South Africa led to his adoption of Satyagraha (devotion to the truth) and non-violent protest. The site at which Gandhi raised the Phoenix Settlement still sands today and his legacy continues on at the center. This is well worth a visit.
Nearby the Phoenix settlement is the Ohlanga institute. It’s here that in 1995 Nelson Mandela cast the very first free and fair election vote; not in Pretoria the capital, or Cape Town, or even in his home town in the Eastern Cape, but here in at the Ohlanga Institute just outside Durban.
The reason for this is John Langalibalele Dube, one of the founders of the current ANC and one of the most important contemporary thinkers of the early African Renaissance. Visiting this site today will give on an insight into the philosophies of the early Bantu people, their struggle to remain true to their cultures and customs and to be taken seriously by a government who saw them as little more than children.
6. Visit the Moses Mabhida Stadium
Officially completed in 2009, the Moses Mabhida Stadium has quickly become a symbol of all that is Durban; fun in sun!
The unmistakable stadium with it’s arch that reaches from one end of the stadium to the other as built to be one of the hosts of the 2010 Word Cup. The stadium has been voted time and time again as being one of the best stadium designs not only in South Africa, but in the world as well.
But it’s not only a stadium, it’s so much more than that, it’s also a site for adventurers to get a unique adrenaline filled rush.
The first thing you can do is climb that arch! Running up from the southern section of the arch is a series of steps that you can climb while strapped into a safety harness. Known as the Adventure Walk, it’s a leisurely 500 step stroll to the top with amazing views out over Durban!
Not enough excitement for you? Then try the “Big Rush Big Swing“. Officially the Worlds tallest swing of it’s type, this hair raising adventure will have you leaping out into the wild blue yonder while tethered to the stadium arch. It’s an amazing feeling to swing out over the stadium (also terrifying but that’s all part of the experience right!).
For those wanting to get to the top of the arch without having to mount 500 steps and not have to throw themselves off the arch, there is the far more civilized “stadium funicular”. Known as the Skycar, you jump in, ride it to the top of the arch and then get out at the viewing platform for uninterrupted 360 degree views of Durban – just magical.
7. Visit the Valley of 1000 Hills and Enjoy a Zulu Cultural Tour
The Valley of 1000 Hills is situated about 35 min west of Durban. It’s an incredibly picturesque part of the world, and if you stand at the particular spot that Mark Twain stood in, you can understand his description of a “valley with a 1000 hills in it.”
There are a lot of options for things to do in the Valley of 1000 Hills, but one of our favorites is to visit “PheZulu Safari Park”.
At this attraction which has been around for about 25 years now, you will get to learn more about Zulu culture on their Zulu tour. There’s a model Zulu village that visitors can be escorted around and on top of that, there’s a 30 minute Zulu dance show that depicts a traditional courtship in dance.
There is also a “Crocodile and Reptile Park” visitors can get a tour around (or stroll about at your own pace) and if that’s still not enough, PheZulu also offers short but interesting game drives onto their private reserves which has a number of animals including Giraffe.
And finally, they have a fantastic little coffee shop where you can enjoy a meal (including crocodile burgers!) and look out over Twain’s “Valley of 1000 Hills”.
- We offer a morning tour to PheZulu Safari Park. Simply get in touch with us and we will send the details through.
8. Visit the Fantastic Umgeni River Bird Park
This is a particular favorite of mine, I love bringing visitors, family and friends to this old Durban favorite.
Since 1984 the Umgeni River Bird Park has been delighting visitors of all ages with some 800 birds of 200 different species. Most days the park has tours and demonstrations (though it’s always a good idea to phone ahead) and even if you decide to just walk about, there’s plenty of information boards dotted about to ensure you don’t get bored – and honestly, who could get bored with these amazing birds!
One of the reasons I enjoy the Umgeni River Bird Park so much is that you get to walk through the aviaries. So much fun while the birds are swooping above and around – watch out for the over friendly birds that like to nibble on earlobes!
- For more info visit the Umgeni Bird Park website here
9. Visit uShaka Marine World
It’s official, no visit to Durban is complete without a visit to South Africa’s top aquarium, uShaka.
In 2004, the gift that is uShaka opened it’s doors and it’s been nothing but success year after year since. uShaka Marine World is one of those places that you just know that whatever the weather, whatever the mood, if you visit you will be happy and content.uShaka is more than just an aquarium though, yes friends, uShaka is much much more.
The aquarium at uShaka is one of the best that I have ever been to. The displays are large and ample and the fish species that swim in them seem to all have smiles (I may be personifying here a bit) that are contagious – can’t say I’ve ever seen people frowning in here.
There are also your traditional dolphin, penguin and seal shows – and there’s the opportunity to swim in the tanks (including the very large shark tank) should that be something you wish to do.
And that my friends, is not all. There is also a water park filled with slides and rides that kids (and lets be honest, us adults as well) can spend the day enjoying until our hearts burst from pure joy.
uShaka is amazing and you have to visit.
10. Eat A Bunny Chow
I stated earlier that you couldn’t consider a visit to Durban complete if you hadn’t been to uShaka. Well, I was mistaken. It should read, you can not consider your visit to Durban complete without trying a bunny chow!
So what exactly is a bunny chow? Well, you select your bunny from the back of the shop and then they grab a big cleaver and…. ok no, I can’t continue with a straight faceA bunny chow has nothing to do with actual cute bunny’s that hop about every where. A bunny chow is a street food that is quite simply Durban’s gift to the culinary world – that’s right, you’re welcome.
Imagine a fresh loaf of bread that’s been cut in half (or quartered depending on how hungry you are), then the inside have been scooped out and replaced by a delicious, rich, aromatic and spicy curry! And then the scooped out bread is placed back on top. This my friends, is the “bunny chow” in all it’s glory. Check out the “Owen Says Go” YouTube channel for more about where to get the best bunny chow.
Thing is, the bunny chow is kinda like the symbol for Indian food in Durban – there is a lot more, like the Gatsby Roti. More importantly these are meals that are devoured by white and blue collar alike; they have come to represent a people, “Durbanites” that are quite simply, the most friendly and warm people in South Africa.
That then is our 10 must do activities in Durban. But this by no means the only things, there are more and I’m pretty sure at some point we’ll have to add to the list.
We here at Country and Coastal Touring offer a range of various tours, from wildlife safari tours to the Hluhlwue Imfolozi Game Reserve and St Lucia, to historical tours to the battlefields to Rorkes Drift and Isandlwana. We also offer cultural tours and adventure tours.
Use the contact form below to get in touch for more information on any of the tours we offer.