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About Durban

  • 2013-05-21

Durban is an extraordinary city, the most culturally diverse in Southern Africa, with a rich and colourful history and a vibrant and wonderful present. The biggest and busiest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (although not the capital), Durban features vastly different coastal regions and landscapes, with the most spectacular mountain range in the country and the oldest game reserve in Africa not far away.

It is also known as the friendliest city in South Africa, thanks to the great warmth and openness of its people and the laid-back lifestyle that everyone here enjoys.


It’s sub-tropical, with warm wet summers, mild frost-free winters, and an average daytime temperature of between 20°C and 23°C. Perfect!


They stretch on forever. Glorious sandy beaches that disappear into the Indian Ocean where the water (even in winter) has an average temperature of 19˚C. Durban is a magnet for sun worshippers and surfers and has been listed as one of the world’s top 10 family beach holiday destinations by Lonely Planet's Travel With Children. There are shark nets in the sea off the main beaches and the latter are patrolled from sunrise to sunset by lifeguards.


Extending from uShaka Beach in the south to Country Club Beach in the north, Durban’s beachfront Promenade offers visitors an uninterrupted 10 km of breathtaking sea views, as well as a wide selection of restaurants and pubs, open-air entertainment and nearby craft markets.


Long lazy days spent on the beach. Sultry nights outdoors breathing in the salty sea air. Get-togethers with friends in restaurants that offer the best in seafood, curries, steaks or traditional African fare. A wealth of nightclubs and bars. Heritage trails where you can see where Mahatma Gandhi lived, where Nelson Mandela cast his historic vote in South Africa’s first democratic elections, experience township life with its taverns and fortune-telling sangomas, or gain some insight into Zulu culture. Some of the biggest shopping malls in the Southern Hemisphere. Art galleries. Arts and crafts markets. Concerts. Mountain biking. Birding. Kite surfing. Durban has it all.


When it comes to hosting high profile sporting events, Durban is way ahead of the game! Last year, the City was swept up by the excitement of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and earned international acclaim for its iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium where 7 international games were played. Not to mention its great sporting spirit and all-round friendliness, especially down at the Fan Fest, the only beachfront Fan Fest in South Africa. Organisers and competitors in the A1 Grand Prix rated Durban as the best host city on the circuit. Other hosting successes include the Rugby World Cup, Cricket World Cup, the annual Durban July Handicap (South Africa’s premier horse racing event) and the internationally legendary Comrades Marathon, as well as the Mr Price Pro, the Quicksilver ISA World Surfing Championships and numerous other major surfing competitions.


KwaZulu-Natal is the only province in South Africa that gives you the complete African experience. Lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, hippos, crocodiles and other African wildlife. Some of the highest sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. Some of the best dive sites in the world. One of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Africa where there are 500 known sites of San rock art, and dinosaur eggs. Waterfalls, gorges, rivers. Battlefields. And, of course, one of the most fascinating and proud cultural groups in Africa - the Zulus!


Durban is an important centre of trade and industry and a premier international business investment destination. Not only does Durban have the best run and financially strongest local government on the continent, it also has the biggest and busiest sea port in Southern Africa, and an aerotropolis with the most secure cargo terminal in the world!

Durban’s coastal location, sea port, trade port and superb rail, road and air links give it a distinct advantage over many other centres in South Africa for export-related industry.

Situated 35 km north of Durban, Dube TradePort is the country’s premier air logistics platform and significant portal into the rest of Africa and the world. It consists of King Shaka International Airport (KSIA) and a fully integrated cargo terminal, trade zone, agricultural zone and a city being built along green principles.


The first inhabitants of KwaZulu-Natal were the San people, whose artwork can still be found scattered around the province. Next, drifting south from the Great Lakes, came the Nguni people, whose numbers included the Zulu nation. The Zulus settled in the area between the Thukela and Pongola Rivers.

By and large, the AmaZulu – or “People Of The Sky” – ignored the sleepy lagoon that would one day give birth to the city of Durban. Even European mariners, desperate for a safe harbour along this stretch of coast, missed it.

In December 1497, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama named the lush green coast he was passing “Natal” to commemorate the Nativity – but he was more concerned with finding a sea route to India and never entered the bay.

The area that became Durban was only discovered in 1554 - by Manoel De Mesquita Perestrello, who was returning to Portugal from India.

The first real attempt to establish a settlement came in the mid-1820s. By then, Shaka KaSenzangakhona was King of the Zulus and he gave Francis Farewell permission to build a trading station at the bay.

From that humble wattle-and-daub structure grew a city that by the dawn of the 21st Century would cover 2 000 square kilometres and have a population of more than three million. Initially called Port Natal, the settlement became Durban in 1835, in honour of the Cape Governor, Sir Benjamin D'Urban.

The city is also known as eThekwini – “The Place Of The Bay”.


Location: 29°53′S 31°03′E; on the east coast of South Africa, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN)

Area: 2 300 km²

Population: 3 468 086

Demographics: Blacks: 68%; Indians: 20%; Whites: 9%; Coloureds: 3%

Main languages: Zulu (63%); English (30%); Xhosa (3%); Afrikaans (1%)

Main religions: Christian (68%); Hindu (11%); Muslim (3%)


Central Durban

Durban city centre is bordered to the west by the Indian district, where Eastern foods, spices and other products can be found, to the south by the harbour, with its numerous restaurants and theatres, and to the east by the beaches.


As the city extends north alongside the Indian Ocean, there are holiday towns such as Umhlanga and Umdloti, with beaches, restaurants and shopping districts, surrounded by rolling hills of sugar cane and indigenous bush. Inland from the beach lies Inanda, one of Durban’s big townships where Mahatma Gandhi spent his formative years, and where former president Nelson Mandela cast his vote in the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.


South of the central city you will find the Bluff beaches and beyond it, the coastal town of Amanzimtoti. The area is characterised by unspoilt beaches, nature reserves, shopping malls, restaurant districts and residential suburbs. It is also a popular destination for scuba divers who come to explore Aliwal Shoal, off Umkomaas, regarded as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world.


A 30-minute drive inland from the city centre will bring you to the suburbs of Westville, Kloof, Gillitts and Hillcrest, and the Valley of 1000 Hills with its breathtaking views overlooking the deep river valleys where people live in traditional African rural homesteads. The area has nature reserves and dams ideal for adventure activities, a traditional Zulu show village and a vibrant arts and crafts route.


Police and Flying Squad: 10111
Metro Police: 031 361 0000
Ambulance: 10177
Netcare Medical Response: 082 911
EMRS Medical Response: 10177
Durban Transport information: 0861 000 834 /
Durban Tourist Information: 031 304 4934
KwaZulu-Natal Tourist Information: 031 366 7500 /
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife: 033 845 1999
SA National Parks Reservations: 033 845 1999
South African Tourism Information Call centre (open 24/7): 087 803 4636
(Dutch, English, Afrikaans, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese)

Weather Hotlines

General – 082 162
Durban – 082 231 1603
Maritime – 031 307 4135

Further Information about Durban

Durban will have visitor information offices at King Shaka International Airport and dotted around the city at key areas to assist you with any questions you might have. However, if you need further information before you arrive, there are many resources to assist you!

  • South African Tourism information: Call Centre (open 24/7) – 087 803 4636  (Dutch, English, Afrikaans, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese)
  • KwaZulu-Natal tourism information:
  • Durban tourist information: