travel · visited cities · world

A Visit to Durban, South Africa

Umhlanga beachfront

“Durban is South Africa’s own Monaco, and it is appropriate that the event should take the form of a Monaco-style street race along one of the most beautiful beachfronts in the world.” – S’BU NDEBELE

Back then in April 2011 when I had a training in Stockholm, I knew there would be a follow up session (of the training) for all participants to be attended six months afterwards in one of participants’ country. We were excited enough with any of the options (among others, two strong candidates were China and South Africa). In September we received an email from the host, they informed us that the follow up session will be held in Durban, South Africa. Although China would be great as well, but going to South Africa (or any countries in Africa continent) by any chance would be more difficult for me to be fulfilled. That’s why I was very excited for having this one time experience.

I know a bit about Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria or Port Elisabeth (one of my friends is from this city), but I never heard Durban before. Thats why after we received confirmation about the place, I then began to browse and tried to look any information I can find about Durban online.

According to Wikipedia, Durban is the largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, and the third in South Africa. It was originally called Port Natal, and was founded by British settlers. There are quite a lot of Indians live here, makes it as one of the largest population centers of Indians in the world, outside of India. It’s mainly because of the history where Indian workers were brought in to work the sugar cane plantations. Zulu and English are the most common languages in Durban.

There are several ways to enter Durban. Most flights from other countries usually fly to Johannesburg, Cape Town or Pretoria. From those cities then you can take domestic flight heading to King Shaka International Airport in Durban. Another way is to fly to Durban directly, although there were not so many scheduled flight options you can choose. If you happen to be from Jakarta, you can use Emirates with one stopover in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This was the flight that I and another Indonesian participant (Bu Ina) used to reach Durban. In Dubai airport we also met other participants from other countries (Ukraine, Bangladesh and Philippines) at the airport. Apparently we had the same (connecting) flight from Dubai to Durban. The flying duration from Jakarta to Dubai took around 8 hours, and then we had 4-5 hours lay-over time in Dubai Airport. Further we had to fly from Dubai to Durban for approximately 9 hours.

anis durban dubai2
tired faces waiting for the next flight to Durban.

We stayed in Protea Hotel (now managed by Marriott) located in Umhlanga Rocks area, a place faces the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Btw, the name Umhlanga means ‘place of reeds’ in the Zulu language. The hotel is located next to a shopping mall, and only a stone away from the umhlanga beach and its (famous?) light house. When you’re lucky, sometimes if you go by boat a bit further from the beach you can see some whales (and dolphins) swimming around.

The view of the hotel and the surrounding. Image via
The room. Image via
The rooftop. Image via
Durban hotel view
The view from my hotel room.

During my stay there, almost every morning I went for light jogging or just a walk together with some of other friends. The view around the beach was so pretty and they made a special jogging track so people can enjoy the surrounding. My friend said that Durban seaside is one of the elite area where mostly rich people live there. No wonder you can find lots of big houses in this area (complete with high wall and (barb)wire protection – just like rumah gedong in Jakarta :)). Umhlanga Rocks also has a big mall where you can find almost anything, including local souvenirs as well as diamond.

View of the Umhlanga beach (Anis’ image).
warning sharks
Warning Sign about sharks on the beach (Anis’ image).
Almost all activities are not allowed on the beach lol (image courtesy of Joy).
The other side of the beach (image courtesy of Chowdhury).

In contrast, the situation in the City Center was less interesting (in other words: not that pretty). It was more like a side of Jakarta where you can find some pedagang kaki lima. I guess here you can see the real Durban – and not a touristic place like Umhlanga area. We also went to the market there to get some typical souvenirs from Africa.

(image courtesy of Chowdhury)
The van we used to go around the city (image courtesy of Chowdhury).
One of statues we found in the city center (image courtesy of Chowdhury).
The view of the market (image courtesy of Iolanda).
One of the souvenir store close by to our hotel (image courtesy of Iolanda).

Regarding the food, you can see that Indian cuisine has a big influence here. No wonder I guess since lots of Indians live here. Other than that, they also have other options including fast food (there was KFC not that far from the hotel 😂). At the big mall, they have a food court that offers variety of foods. I only had a chance to taste typical African food at the hotel during breakfast and dinner reception btw (and I didn’t quite enjoy it since it’s not really my cup of tea 😅).

As an add-up to the training session, we also had a chance to have some visits to several interesting places around, including a visit to local village of Zulu tribes. Fyi, the name of the Durban Airport was taken from the (once) leader of this tribe – King Shaka. At the village, they told us about how they live, what are things that important for them, how things worked there, and made us involved in some of their activities.

road trip to shakaland
The view on the road to Shakaland.
Information about Zulu (Anis’ image).
The (tour) guide at the Shakaland – Zulu Village (Anis’ image).
In front of the entrance to the Village (Anis’ image).
(Anis’ image)
(image courtesy of Iolanda)
(image courtesy of Iolanda)
The two ladies posing for us (image courtesy of Iolanda)
One “ingusan” kid lol (Anis’ image)
They did a special performance for us 🙂 (image courtesy of Bu Ina)

Another interesting place we have been visited was the soccer stadium. Soccer is actually less popular than Rugby here in South Africa. This stadium was especially built during the world cup in 2010 (correct me if I am wrong). We can go to the top part of the stadium using cable car.

The Moses Mabhida Soccer Stadium, seeing from Botanical Garden (image courtesy of Chowdhury)
The ticket price to go up at the stadium using cable car at that time (Anis’ image)
The view of Durban harbor seeing from above the stadium (image courtesy of Chowdhury)
A Colombian, An Indonesian, and A Brazillian 🙂 (Anis’ image)

There are so many other interesting things you can do here actually (sea aquarium, safari). Too bad I didn’t have a chance to go to the wild (safari) since we only stayed there for a week (and I already arranged another plan afterwards at that time). I guess I just have to visit South Africa one (or more) more time to get the real feel of being in Africa 🙂

Doei ! 😀 (image courtesy of Chowdhury)

5 thoughts on “A Visit to Durban, South Africa

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