Sunday, 17 December 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: Durban, A Popular Drug Trafficking Route, Avoid Street Children Many Sniff Glue And Carry Knives

Durban is located on the east coast of South Africa in the province of KwaZulu-Natal and in the municipality of eThekwini.

It is the third largest city in South Africa and the busiest port in Africa. According to the 2007 Community Survey, the population of the eThekwini municpality was 3,468,086

Durban was originally called Port Natal, and was founded by British settlers. Indian workers were brought in to work the sugar cane plantations, making this one of the largest population centers of Indians in the world, outside of India.

Zulu and English are the most common languages in Durban.


Durban is the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. Durban's metropolitan municipality ranks third among the most populous urban areas in South Africa after Johannesburg and Cape Town.

It is also the second most important manufacturing hub in South Africa after Johannesburg. It forms part of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality. Durban is famous for being the busiest port in South Africa.

It is also seen as one of the major centres of tourism because of the city's warm subtropical climate and extensive beaches.

The municipality, which includes neighbouring towns, has a population of almost 3.5 million, making the combined municipality one of the biggest cities on the Indian Ocean coast of the African continent.

It is the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal which is the 2nd most populous province in South Africa. It has the highest number of dollar millionaires added per year of any South African city with the number rising 200 per cent between 2000 and 2014.

In May 2015, Durban was officially recognised as one of the New7Wonders Cities together with Vigan, Doha, La Paz, Havana, Beirut, and Kuala Lumpur.

Archaeological evidence from the Drakensberg mountains suggests that the Durban area has been inhabited by communities of hunter-gatherers since 100,000 BC.

These people lived throughout the area of present-day KwaZulu-Natal until the expansion of Bantu farmers and pastoralists from the north saw their gradual displacement, incorporation or extermination.

Little is known of the history of the first residents, as there is no written history of the area until it was sighted by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who sailed parallel to the KwaZulu-Natal coast at Christmastide in 1497 while searching for a route from Europe to India.

Vasco da Gama the area Natal, or Christmas in Portuguese.

The Voortrekkers established the Republic of Natalia in 1838, with its capital at Pietermaritzburg.

Tension between the Voortrekkers and the Zulus prompted the governor of the Cape Colony to dispatch a force under Captain Charlton Smith to establish British rule in Natal, for fear of losing British control in Port Natal.

The force arrived on 4 May 1842 and built a fortification that was later to be The Old Fort. On the night of 23/24 May 1842 the British attacked the Voortrekker camp at Congella. The attack failed, and the British had to withdraw to their camp which was put under siege.

A local trader Dick King and his servant Ndongeni were able to escape the blockade and rode to Grahamstown, a distance of 600 km (372.82 mi) in fourteen days to raise reinforcements. The reinforcements arrived in Durban 20 days later; the Voortrekkers retreated, and the siege was lifted.

Fierce conflict with the Zulu population led to the evacuation of Durban, and eventually the Afrikaners accepted British annexation in 1844 under military pressure.

When the Borough of Durban was proclaimed in 1854, the council had to procure a seal for official documents. The seal was produced in 1855 and was replaced in 1882.

The new seal contained a coat of arms without helmet or mantling that combined the coats of arms of Sir Benjamin D’Urban and Sir Benjamin Pine.

An application was made to register the coat of arms with the College of Arms in 1906, but this application was rejected on grounds that the design implied that D’Urban and Pine were husband and wife. Nevertheless, the coat of arms appeared on the council’s stationery from about 1912.

The following year, a helmet and mantling was added to the council’s stationery and to the new city seal that was made in 1936. The motto reads Debile principium melior fortuna sequitur meaning Better fortune follows a humble beginning.

The blazon of the arms registered by the South African Bureau of Heraldry and granted to Durban on 9 February 1979. The coat of arms fell into disuse with the re-organisation of the South African local government structure in 2000. The seal ceased to be used in 1995.

Durban is ethnically diverse, with a cultural richness of mixed beliefs and traditions.

Zulus form the largest single ethnic group. It has a large number of people of British descent and has the most Indians of any city outside India.

The influence of Indians in Durban has been significant, bringing with them a variety of cuisine, culture and religion. Social cohesion in South Africa's third largest city is fairly strong despite a negative outlook from a few individuals.

In the years following the end of Apartheid there was a population boom as Africans were allowed to move into the city. The population grew by 2.34% between 1996 and 2001. This led to shanty towns forming around the city which were often demolished.

Between 2001 and 2011 the population growth slowed down to 1.08% per year and shanty towns have become less common as the government builds low income housing.

Durban has seen substantial urban sprawl and circa 1930 the entire settlement only consisted of central Durban, the Berea and the Bluff.

The white population has not increased much since that time but many have left this area and moved to more distant suburbs such as Umhlanga which has become a major centre for companies.

The population of the city of Durban and central suburbs such as Durban North, Durban South and the Berea increased 10.9% between 2001 and 2011 from 536,644 to 595,061. The number of Black Africans increased while the number of people in all the other racial groups decreased.

Black Africans increased from 34.9% to 51.1%. Indian or Asians decreased from 27.3% to 24.0%. Whites decreased from 25.5% to 15.3%. Coloureds decreased from 10.26% to 8.59%. A new racial group, Other, was included in the 2011 census at 0.93%.

The city’s demographics indicate that 68% of the population are of working age, and 38% of the people in Durban are under the age of 19 years.

There were 1,237 homicides in the Durban metropolitan area (Ethekwini) in 2015. The murder rate in 2015 was 35.9 per 100,000 people for comparison, Detroit had a murder rate of 43.9 per 100,000 people in 2015.

The murder rate for the whole of South Africa was 33 per 100,000. Today, Durban is more dangerous than Johannesburg but much safer than Cape Town which had a murder rate of 65.53 per 100,000 in 2014.

This is a radical shift from previous decades when Johannesburg was the most dangerous of these cities and Cape Town the safest.

Criminals usually avoid targeting tourists because they know that the police response will be greater.

There was a period of intense violence in the 1990s and the Durban area recorded a murder rate of 83 per 100,000 in 1999. The murder rate dropped rapidly in the 2000s and has been slowly increasing in the 2010s.

Durban is one of the main drug trafficking routes for drugs exiting and entering Sub-Saharan Africa. The drug trade has increased significantly over the past 20 years.

Durban has a number of informal and semi-formal street vendors. The Warwick Junction Precinct is home to a number of street markets, with vendors selling goods from traditional medicince, to clothing and spices.

The city's treatment of shack dwellers has been strongly criticised by a report from the United Nations linked Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions and there has also been strong criticism of the city's treatment of street traders, street children and sex workers.

Durban is known throughout the world for its strain of cannabis called 'Durban Poison'. It is one of the most common strains sold by car guards and street dealers throughout eThekweni.

There are a number of prominent civil society organisations based in Durban.

These include: Abahlali baseMjondolo (shackdwellers') movement, the Diakonia Council of Churches, the Right2Know Campaign, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance and the South African Unemployed Peoples' Movement. The Durban Art Gallery was founded in 1892.

King Shaka International Airport services both domestic and international flights, with regularly scheduled services to Dubai, Istanbul, Doha, Addis Ababa, Mauritius, Lusaka, Windhoek, Gaborone and Maputo, as well as eight domestic destinations.

The airport's position forms part of the Golden Triangle between Johannesburg and Cape Town, which is important for convenient travel and trade between these three major South African cities. The airport opened in May 2010.

King Shaka International Airport handled 5.22 million passengers in 2016/2017, up 5.9 percent from 2015/2016. King Shaka International was constructed at La Mercy, about 36 kilometres (22 mi) north of central Durban.

All operations at Durban International Airport have been transferred to King Shaka International as of 1 May 2010, with plans for flights to Singapore, London, Mumbai, Kigali, Luanda, Lilongwe and Nairobi.

Durban has a long tradition as a port city. The Port of Durban, formerly known as the Port of Natal, is one of the few natural harbours between Port Elizabeth and Maputo, and is also located at the beginning of a particular weather phenomenon which can cause extremely violent seas.

These two features made Durban an extremely busy port of call for ship repairs when the port was opened in the 1840s. Durban is now the busiest port in South Africa, as well as the third busiest container port in the Southern Hemisphere.

The modern Port of Durban grew around trade from Johannesburg, as the industrial and mining capital of South Africa is not located on any navigable body of water.

Thus, products being shipped from Johannesburg outside of South Africa must be loaded onto trucks or railways and transported to Durban. The Port of Maputo was unavailable for use until the early 1990s due to civil war and an embargo against South African products.

There is now an intense rivalry between Durban and Maputo for shipping business.

Durban has a very popular cruise industry. MSC Cruises bases the MSC Sinfonia in Durban from November to April every year. From the 2018/2019 Southern Africa cruise season MSC Cruises will be basing the much larger and newer MSC Musica in Durban.

Durban is the most popular cruise hub in Southern Africa. Cruise destinations from Durban on the MSC Sinfonia include Mozambique, Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar and other domestic destinations such as Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.

Many other ships cruise through Durban every year, including some of the worlds biggest, such as the RMS Queen Mary 2, the biggest ocean liner in the world. Durban will be building a brand new R200 million cruise terminal that will be operational in October 2019, the Durban Cruise Terminal.

The tender was awarded to KwaZulu Cruise Terminal (Pty) Ltd which is 70% owned by MSC Cruises SA and 30% by Africa Armada Consortium. The new cruise terminal will be able to accommodate two cruise ships at any given time.

Naval Base Durban on Salisbury Island now joined to the mainland and part of the Port of Durban, was established as a naval base during the Second World War. It was downgraded in 2002 to a naval station.

In 2012 a decision was made to renovate and expand the facilities back up to a full naval base to accommodate the South African Navy's offshore patrol flotilla. In December 2015 it was redesignated Naval Base Durban.

Durban featured the first operating steam railway in South Africa when the Natal Railway Company started operating a line between the Point and the city of Durban in 1860.

Durban is well-served by railways due to its role as the largest trans-shipment point for goods from the interior of South Africa.

Shosholoza Meyl, the passenger rail service of Spoornet, operates two long-distance passenger rail services from Durban: a daily service to and from Johannesburg via Pietermaritzburg and Newcastle, and a weekly service to and from Cape Town via Kimberley and Bloemfontein.

These trains terminate at Durban railway station.

Metrorail operates a commuter rail service in Durban and the surrounding area. The Metrorail network runs from Durban Station outwards as far as Stanger on the north coast, Kelso on the south coast, and Cato Ridge inland.

A high-speed rail link has been proposed, between Johannesburg and Durban.

The city's main position as a port of entry onto the southern African continent has led to the development of national roads around it. The N3 Western Freeway, which links Durban with the economic hinterland of Gauteng, heads west out of the city.

The N2 Outer Ring Road links Durban with the Eastern Cape to the south, and Mpumalanga in the north. The Western Freeway is particularly important because freight is shipped by truck to and from the Witwatersrand for transfer to the port.

The N3 Western Freeway starts in the central business district and heads west under Tollgate Bridge and through the suburbs of Sherwood and Mayville.

The EB Cloete Interchange which is informally nicknamed the Spaghetti Junction lies to the east of Westville, allowing for transfer of traffic between the N2 Outer Ring Road and the Western Freeway.

The N2 Outer Ring Road cuts through the city from the north coast to the south coast. It provides a vital link to the coastal towns such as Scottburgh and Stanger that rely on Durban.

Durban also has a system of freeway and dual arterial metropolitan routes, which connect the sprawling suburbs that lie to the north, west and south of the city.

The M4 exists in two segments. The northern segment, named the Ruth First Highway, starts as an alternative highway at Ballito where it separates from the N2.

It passes through the northern suburbs of Umhlanga and La Lucia where it becomes a dual carriageway and ends at the northern edge of the CBD.

The southern segment of the M4, the Albert Lutuli Highway, starts at the southern edge of the CBD, connecting through to the old, decommissioned Durban International Airport, where it once again reconnects with the N2 Outer Ring Road.

The M7 connects the southern industrial basin with the N3 and Pinetown via Queensburgh via the N2. The M19 connects the northern suburbs with Pinetown via Westville.

The M13 is an untolled alternative to the N3 Western Freeway which is tolled at Mariannhill. It also feeds traffic through Gillitts, Kloof, and Westville. In the Westville area it is called the Jan Smuts Highway, while in the Kloof area it is named the Arthur Hopewell Highway.

A number of streets in Durban were renamed in the late 2000s to the names of figures related to the anti-apartheid struggle, persons related to liberation movements around the world including Che Guevara, Kenneth Kaunda and SWAPO, and others associated with the governing African National Congress.

A few street names were changed in the first round of renaming, followed by a larger second round. The renamings provoked incidents of vandalism, as well as protests from opposition parties and members of the public.

Several companies run long-distance bus services from Durban to the other cities in South Africa. Buses have a long history in Durban. Most of them have been run by Indian owners since the early 1930s.

Privately owned buses which are not subsidised by the government also service the communities. Buses operate in all areas of the eThekwini Municipality. Since 2003 buses have been violently taken out of the routes and bus ranks by taxi operators.

Durban was previously served by the Durban trolleybus system, which first ran in 1935.

Durban has two kinds of taxis: metered taxis and minibus taxis. Unlike in many cities, metered taxis are not allowed to drive around the city to solicit fares and instead must be called and ordered to a specific location.

A number of companies service the Durban and surrounding regions. These taxis can also be called upon for airport transfers, point to point pickups and shuttles.

Mini bus taxis are the standard form of transport for the majority of the population who cannot afford private cars.

With the high demand for transport by the working class of South Africa, minibus taxis are often filled over their legal passenger allowance, making for high casualty rates when they are involved in accidents.

Minibuses are generally owned and operated in fleets, and inter-operator violence flares up from time to time, especially as turf wars over lucrative taxi routes occur.

Durban is known for its iconic Zulu rickshaw pullers navigating throughout the city. These colourful characters are famous for their giant, vibrant hats and costumes.

Although they have been a mode of transportation since the early 1900s, they have been displaced by other forms of motorised transport, and the 25 or so remaining rickshaws mostly cater to tourists.

A laid back, yet busy city, Durban combines an exciting mix of urban Zulu culture, a sizeable Indian population together with English speaking South Africans.

Famous people associated with the city include the Zulu King Shaka, Henry Francis Fyn and the Portuguese sea farer Vasco da Gama. The name Durban was adopted after the Cape Governor, Sir BenjaminD’Urban.

Set on Natal Bay, Durban benefits from a year round subtropical climate with summer temperatures (December to February) often exceeding 30C.

Winters are mild with low rainfall and rarely below 20C which combined with warm coastal waters makes Durban an inviting place to both work and as a holiday destination.

The largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, with a population of over 3 million, it is the 2nd most important manufacturing hub. It forms part of the eTheKwini metropolitan municipality. Durban is famous for having the busiest sea port not only of South Africa, but of Africa.

A sophisticated and cosmopolitan city for companies to trade with, todays’ economy is diversified and based on foreign trade.

It boasts plentiful hotels and service companies. Africa’s largest travel trade show takes place in Durban at the Albert Luthuli Convention Centre, during the month of May.

The friendliest city in South Africa, it has also been selected as 1 of 34 most sustainable cities among 14 countries.

The historical town centre is easily explored. Places to visit include the City Hall, dedicated to its founding fathers, and today housing the Concert Hall and Science Museum.

The Local History Museum and the Old Fort. Mahatma Gandhi’s civil rights struggle is reputed to have begun when he was working as a barrister in Durban. Various tours enable one to retrace his steps on The Gandhi Trail.

A thriving Indian culture is part of the city’s identity and nowhere is this blend of Africa and Indian culture as easy to experience as in the distinctive dish Bunny Chow a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with delicious Durban Curry of the original takeaways.

Bunny Chow can be found in cheap takeaways throughout the city but particularly in Victoria Market where you can also shop for spices, souvenirs and clothes.

Shopping for souvenirs? visit the BAT Centre, a harbour based arts precinct located off Victoria Embankment. On the outskirts of the city several excellent craft centres can be found showcasing the work of local artists and traditional wares such as Zulu beadwork.

Durban is famed for its Golden Mile; 6 Kilometres of sandy beaches with evocative names such as Hibiscus and Sugar Coast. A curiosity of the Golden Mile are the’ Zulu Rickshaws’ with their colourfully decorated vehicles. It also hosts national and international surfing competitions.

The UShaka Marina World, at the Southern end of the Golden Mile, is home to an impressive collection of aquatic life from Africa’s eastern ocean. It is also houses the Oceanographic Research Institute.

No visit to Durban would be complete without experiencing some of the wildlife it has to offer. Tala Private Game Reserve and Hluhluwe Umfolozi reputedly one of Africas’s oldest game reserves are but 2 of easy to reach reserves.

On the outskirts of the city the Krantz Loof Gorge Nature reserve is famed for its spectacular waterfalls. The nearby ST Lucia Wetlands Park allows one to experience costal wildlife.

Durban International Airport formerly Louis Botha Airport is now closed. The King Shaka International Airport, at La Mercy 40km north of Durban has been completed and is fully operational.

Taxi fares from the new airport to the hotels on Marine Parade and centre of Durban can cost well over R400 ZAR (~US $53).

However, next to the taxi rank, there is an airport shuttle bus service that leaves every hour on the hour or as soon as the bus has several passengers for R80 ($ 10.50) per person, though it may take longer to reach your hotel.

Beware, the taxi drivers can be quite aggressive and will try to intercept you before you reach the shuttle. Please also check that your belongings have not been tampered with if you do take the taxi.

The following airlines offer domestic service to/from Durban: 1 time , Airlink, British Airways, FlySafair, Kulula, Mango, and South African Airlines.

The following airlines offer international service to/from Durban: Airlink to/from Maputo, Air Mauritius to/from Mauritius, Emirates to/from Dubai, Ethiopian Airlines to/from Addis Ababa, ProFlight Zambia to/from Lusaka, Qatar Airways to/from Doha, SA Express to/from Harare and Lusaka and Turkish Airlines to/from Istanbul.

All national carriers and the Baz Bus offer regular services to Durban.

The central train station is in the city centre.

Spoornet operates inter-city trains to Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg. There is no longer a direct service to Cape Town. A change at Johannesburg is required for other long haul destinations.

MetroRail operates frequent commuter trains to various suburbs of Durban and towns nearby such as Pinetown and the resort towns of both the south coast eg. Kelso and Park Ryne and the north coast. Reports indicate that Metro trains in Greater Durban can be unsafe, particularly at night.

Some cruise ships dock in Durban, but generally there are limited one-way entries by boat to Durban. In theory passage on a freighter might be arranged, but it's not widely advertised. Cruises from Durban available on the MSC Sinfonia.

The best way to get around Durban is by car. Be sure to check that you have the latest updated street maps and/or GPS device as a number of street names have changed in recent months. It also helps to have a list of old and new names as some of the new names are vandalized.

- Cabs Car Hire (Car Hire).

- First Car Rental (Car Hire).

- Europcar Car Hire (Car Hire).

- Pace Car Rental (Car Hire).

- Book-a-Bakkie (Bakkie Hire). Bakkie rentals in Durban.

- JNC Helicopters, Hangar 1, Virginia Airport Glenashley. JNC Helicopters offers VIP travel to and from any South African city as well as an infinite number of tourist flight combinations, from 20min sight seeing flights to complete tours that take you around any part of South Africa.

- King Shaka Aviation, Hangar 4, Virginia Airport, Durban North. King Shaka Aviation is Durban & Kwazulu Natal's premier helicopter charter operator specializing in VIP charters, sceinic flights to numerous local venues, Air-lifting operations & Utility services.

With the most comprehensive fleet of aircraft locally available, King Shaka Aviation is best equipped for most requirements.

- BAC Helicopters (Helicopter Training, Charters, tours and trips), Greystones heli port 135 Old North Coast Road Glen Anil. Offers scenic flights up the Golden Coastline, to the Game Reserves or Drakensberg Mountains.

- Durban People Mover buses feature CCTV cameras and wheelchair-friendly ramps. They run from 6AM until 11PM every 15 minutes. These buses stop in the CBD, the Victoria Street Market, the Workshop, Suncoast Casino, Ushaka Marine World and along the beach route.

R4 per trip, valid for 1 hour on a hop-on, hop-off basis; R10 for a full day pass on a hop-on, hop-off basis.

To travel between the Berea surbubs and the city its cheaper to travel by Mynah buses, R2.40 off peak (8AM 3:30PM), peak R3.80. The Mynah buses depart from the Workshop terminus every 30 minutes to Musgrave.

The Ridge, Kensington, Mitchell Park/Florida road, Tollgate(cnr Aliwal/Smith streets), To South Beach/Ushaka, North Beach/Suncoast in Pixley ka Seme west street, opposite the City Hall).

The Aqualine buses to the suburbs depart from the Pine street terminus are usually within 5 minutes of the schedule every hour.Peak cash fare can be quite steep. If you're travelling daily by bus to work,its advisable to buy a weekly coupon, which can save you up to 35% of the cash fare.

To Queensburgh catch either one of these four buses, Malvern (route 112), Montgomery road (route 113), Shalcross/Hillview (route 140), Pinetown/Westmead (*route 840/842/843/849).

To Glenwood catch either one of these four buses, Berea Beach (*route 022/023), Umbilo (route 007),Glenmore (*route 086), Manor Gardens (*route 084).

To Umhlanga Rocks/Gateway Mall catch the Aqualine bus(route 716/705)outside Nando's in Pixley ka Seme (West) street, departs every hour.

To UKZN catch the Howard College bus (*route 070)/Westville campus (*route 075).

To Pinetown/Westville central/Westwood mall, catch Aqualine Pinetown/Westmead bus (*route 855,857,858,870,871,873,877,886).

To The Pavilion mall catch the Aqualine bus (*route 853/860 )route 853 departs from the Workshop terminus and route 860 departs from North Beach near Blue Waters hotel/Suncoast casino.

Most buses depart on the hour every hour, check the bus schedule. Please note that sometimes to get to your destination, you might have to catch a couple to three buses. When not sure about bus route number, ask the locals or the bus driver, tell him the nearest landmark to your destination.

Mynah buses do not have route numbers, only the destination will be displayed on the electronic display in front of the bus. Please note that u must flag the bus down to stop at the bus stop. It is advisable to have the exact change before you board the bus and get a receipt.

Registered taxis are common, generally safe and relatively inexpensive. Taxis do not rove and hence need to be called so that one can be fetched from your pick up point. A lot of these will conduct point to point transfers, airport shuttles, and corporate transfers.

Recommended for the Durban and surrounds are:

- East Coast Cabs

- AAVIP Chauffeur taxi cabs.

- Umhlanga Rocks Taxis (Ucabs).

- Eagle Taxi's.

- Zippy Cabs.

- Mozzie Cabs.

- Shashis taxis.

There are also group taxis, referred to as combi taxis or minibus taxis, that are impossible to miss as in Durban, they're brightly decorated and always have music pumping.

There is always someone hanging out of a window making the hand gestures that indicate whether there are seats available and where the combi is going.

Minibus taxis are very common and less expensive than metered taxis. Strictly speaking, they are minibuses that take people to and from work, they stick to set routes and they are generally not suitable for tourists unfamiliar with the area they are going to.

When in doubt stick to metered taxis or buses. There are minibus taxis plying same routes as Mynah buses,they are more frequent and faster then buses.

Minibus taxis also provide longer distance services. Most leave from recognised ranks around the Umgeni Road. Services to Swaziland leave from the uncovered rank across the street from 22 Umgeni Road, not far from Durban train station.

There is a building opposite the rank, emblazoned with this address in huge letters. Be advised that this area has a reasonably high risk rating for street crime, so be on your guard. If travelling to this rank by local minibus, ask for YMCA.

The Swaziland combis tend to depart in the mornings and leave when full. 09:00AM seems to be a good time to arrive at the rank.

Rickshaw rides are offered to tourists along the beach front, for amusement rather than getting around. Watch out for the many ups and downs in the ride; the tipping back of the rickshaw cause the contents of your pockets to fall out, into the coffers of the drivers.

- Durban Botanical Gardens. Visit on a Saturday and see a mixture of Cultural weddings all having their photos taken.

- Berea. This is a long ridge overlooking the harbor, city center and beaches. Once covered with coastal forest, it is now completely built up.

- City Hall. There is an art gallery and outdated science museum inside, as well as a public library.

The Golden Mile The Golden Mile, the nickname for the beaches near downtown that stretch along the Indian Ocean, is well known for it's excellent surfing, occasional shark attack and wide sandy beaches.

Visiting around the Christmas holidays ensures a crowded experience, complete with stations for missing children, but visit at the off season and you'll practically have the place to yourself, save the serious surfers.

There are also play pools and playgrounds for children along the waterfront, as well as hotel, bars and restaurants.

- Crocodile Creek. In the sugar town of Tongaat just a few miles past Umhlanga you will find Crocodile Creek, on the Tongaat river in sub-tropical bush. This creek is home to over 7000 Nile Crocodiles, Alligators, Caiman, snakes and other reptiles.

The farm includes bush and hill trails, a waterfall, river plains and thatched buildings with tree top walkways. An awesome place to spend a day, refreshments are available and you can also browse through the shop which sells curios, crocodile leather goods and even croc dishes.

- Mahatma Gandhi Settlement.

- Durban North Japanese Gardens. Free entrance.

- KwaZulu Natal National Parks.

What you can do in Durban:

- Meditate, Mahasiddha Kadampa Buddhist Centre, 2 Hollings Road, Malvern,Queensburgh. Offers relaxation meditations and meditation classes to increase inner peace.

- Watersports. Swim, surf, canoe, snorkel, dive.

- Calypso Dive & Adventure Center. Scuba Dive at uShaka Marine World. PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Center. Dive to wrecks, caves, offshore reefs. Offers 6-month "From Zero to Hero" carrer dive course.

- Skydive Durban, Pietermaritzburg Airport. Take a 25 minute plane ride, then 35 seconds of freefalling before the parchute opens, then a post-jump barbeque. Tandem Jump: R1.350; DVD: R400.

- Suncoast Casino, Suncoast Boulevard, Marine Parade.

- Sibaya Casino (Sun international).

- uShaka Marine World, 1 Bell Street. To see the HUGE Aquarium or ride more than eight different rides in the Waterworld.

- Glenholme trail for disabled & blind persons, Glenholme Nature Reserve. Caters for wheelchairs and the blind with elevated walkway and guide rails and braille plaques.

- Nature Parks. There are dozens of nature reserves in the suburbs, just ask around. Please remember to be safe, there are natural hazards like snakes, and criminals like the isolation for different reasons.

- Greyville Race Course. Horseracing.

- Surf Artificial Waves. At Gateway, the biggest Shopping Centre in the southern hemisphere.

- Shark Institute. Take a boat to see the shark nets that protect beachcombers from shark attack.

- Historical compensation sugar mill.

- Zimbali Golf Estate. 18 holes.

- Durban Tourism (Tourist Junction), 160 Monty Naicker Road. The City's official tourism body can provide you with maps, accommodation information and general guidance around your trip to Durban.

Tour guides, registered tour operators and approved accommodation form part of Durban Tourism's extensive services.

- Bengithi Yacht Charter. Charter 44' Luxury Sailing Catamaran. Sailing, SCUBA Diving, Snorkelling, Fishing, Paddleboarding,

- Blue Wilderness, Rocky Bay Resorts, Gate 2, Park Rynie 4182, South Africa. Blue Wilderness offers a broad range of marine adventures with sharks and other marine predators along Durban's east coast (South Africa).

Our premier expedition is our Swim with Sharks trip that allows both snorkelers and divers the opportunity to swim with the Blacktip sharks of Durban's, Aliwal Shoal outside the confines of a cage.

Available are specialist expeditions to the far corners of Southern Africa, tackling extreme marine events such as the Sardine Run, Chokka Run and many more. 1100.

Festivals in Durban:

Poetry Africa - International Festival of Poetry. Early October every year.

Time of the Writer - International Festival of Writing - March every year.

Durban International Film Festival - International Festival of Film - July/August every year.

Jomba, Contemporary Dance Festival - International Festival of Contempary Dance - every year.

Awesome Africa - World Music Festival - September every year.

MTN Durban Fashion Week - For all fashion-lovers! June every year. For all fashion-lovers!

Durban July - July every year.Africa's Premier Horse-Racing Event, with plenty of celebrities and walking fashion models to bump into.

Hindu Festivals - There are dozens of these and you'll need to ask around because they're not well publicised, but there's one in Easter in the Umbilo area where devotees walk on hot coals, and another sometime between February and July it moves called Kavady where the devotees pierce their backs with hooks and drag decorated portable shrines. Not to be missed!

Umhlanga (Rocks) Festivals - Umhlanga is one of the most sought after beach holiday destinations in SA. It is popular with both local and international visitors.

It sees a fair amount of internationals the world over who come to shop, unwind, party and have fun on one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. It is located on the east coast of SA, 15min north of the the port city of Durban.

Some of the best accommodation options with excellent holiday apartments, luxury hotels, lodges and guesthouses are dotted around Umhlanga. It is fast becoming an attraction with its winter and summer festivals, street cafe culture, restaurants and pubs.

Its winter festival is held on the main beach and the summer festival on the main street where live jazz bands play out late into the evening A must to visit.

Popular items to buy are Zulu beadwork, wirework, wicker work - from baskets and sustainable conference bags to fantastic lights and furniture, Spices.

Gateway Theater of Shopping, a mall situated to the North of Durban along the M4 or N2 highways. Believed to be the largest in the southern hemisphere. Also offers a great range of kids' entertainment like a skateboard park and an artificial wave in the Wavehouse to test your surfing abilities.

Victoria Street Market. Mostly oriental souvenirs. Haggle hard, beware of pickpockets.

Essenwood Craft Market - For a true taste of South Africa look out for a guy selling biltong (South African jerky). A good place to buy curios, and don't be afraid to haggle. Last time I was there I found some beautiful Zimbabwean soap-stone sculptures at a very good price.

Only open certain weekends so please check local listings.

The Pavilion - A large shopping mall with a good range of shops, situated in the Westville suburb of Durban.

African Arts Center at Tourist Junction on West Street

BAT Center on the harbor front

As Durban has one of the largest Indian populations outside of India itself, a Durban curry is a popular dish and can range from mild to very hot. There is also the Bunny Chow which is unique to the city, a quarter loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with a curry of your choice.

Check out the Workshop restaurants for some of the best bunny chow in the city. Or head over to the Indian neighborhood near Victoria Market for more authentic Durban Indian food.

More good Indian dining can be found at Vintage Restaurant next to Bean Bag Bohemia - Windemere Road.

Try the Roma Revolving Restaurant at the top of John Ross House on the Esplanade for Italian food and the best view of Durban.

Wilson's Wharf, a long pier built into the harbour, hosts a wide selection of international restaurants where you can relax and watch the busiest harbor in Africa's activity. Take in a show afterwards at the upstairs Catalina theater.

Try Morningside restaurants, along Florida Road, for trendy cafe sidewalk eateries including one Italian style, Spiga d'Oro, frequented so often by South Africa's notorious businessman, Schabir Shaik, that a dish is named in his honor 'Pasta a la Shaik'.

Bill Clinton and Bill Gates ate at "Spice" set off the busy street in a quiet upstairs courtyard. And nearby, be nearly guaranteed to rub shoulders with the up-and-coming in-crowd at the Bean Bag Bohemia, Windermere Road, a restaurant that makes great dining an artistic event.

Definitely try some 'biltong' when you're in South Africa. It's South African-style jerky, and available in a whole range of flavors and textures.

Le Picnique. 08-17. Bespoke handmade picnics, delivered within a 50km radius of Durban. All ingredients are sourced fresh, no preservatives or colourants. Each picnic is customised to your taste. Dietary requirements catered for. 300.00.

Zacks, located at Wilson's Wharf on Victoria's embankment, is a popular place to get thirst-quenching drinks and just relax and enjoy the view of the harbor. Joe Kool's, on the beachfront, is also well known as the best place for a sundowner after a long day on the beach.

Check out their roof-top deck for the best views. The BAT Centre, on the port, is also a good place for a quick meal or drink. There's free jazz most nights as well as other concerts, hip-hop and the occasional poetry slam.

The Firkin is a micro-brewery on the top floor of the Pavilion shopping centre in Westville. It has some great ales and beers and good snacks at reasonable prices. Tilted House is a trendy place situated in the city center in an old Victorian house.

It has its own VIP section, but it is open to the beautiful as well as important. Cool Runnings is a reggeaton place with cheap beer and a relaxed atmosphere. Burn is a good concert scene for Metal and Rock music with club evenings every weekend.

Durban is known for its pot, and you will easily find it around the clubs, but beware the police do care if tourists break the law, and you can be thrown out of the country if you are caught with it.

Florida Road 275. Definitely the happening street in Durban. Restaurants, bars, cafes, boutique shopping and more can be found here. Durban's most interesting book shop, Book Base, is located at the top of Florida Road (275) and is open every day.

Lots of interesting material of historical interest (Zulu Wars, etc.) to be seen.

Accomodations:

Ansteys Beach Backpackers International, 477 marine Drive, Bluff. Run by Palmbloom family. Great atmosphere. Surf lessons, pool table, table tennis, dartboard, paintball, swimming pool, DVDs, beach horse rides, dive courses, braai, golf, kite/windsurfing, dolphin/whale watching.

Dorm bed: R90, Doubles/Twins: R210; Camping: R50.

Black Mamba Backpackers Lodge,Valley of 1000 Hills, Close to Tala Game Reserve and Phezulu Crocodile Farm. Jacuzzi under the stars, shower in the open air, snuggle around the bonfire.

Free airport and shopping cneter pick ups/drop offs, free internet, kitchen, bar. Dorm bed: R80; Doubles R280; Camping R50, 3rd night is free.

Gibela Backpackers Lodge. This lodge has placed itself high with international and local travellers alike. It is a 4 star graded property by the South African Tourism Grading Council and is the 2008 winner in the South African Tourism Welcome Awards - Backpacking.

It is also offers a totally smoke free environment, including the garden. FromR150pps, R400/unit.

Happy Hippo, 222 Point Rd (Mahatma Ghandi Road), Waterfront. Located 500m from the beach, but not the safest area. Rooftop bar, wi-fi. Kitchen, nice rooms. Dorm bed: R100; Doubles: R270; Ensuite doubles R390.

Hippo Hide, 2 Jesmond Road, Berea. Private wooden huts, entertainment area. Single: R300.

Nomads Backpackers, 70 Essenwood Rd. Since 1995. Log beds. Fans. Bambooza bar & Restaurant. Friendly owner when she's around; security is relaxed here with no locks on dorm rooms and the presence of non-guests on the property. Dor bed: R150; Doubles/Twins: R280; Triple: R300.

On The Beach. Luxurious ensuite rooms with sea view. Air-conditioned dorms. Walking distance to La Lucia Mall. Dorm bed: R120; Doubles: R470.

Shelbourne Lodge Bed 'n Breakfast, La Lucia. R350pps.

Smiths Cottage. Cozy and tranquil, with pool and tropical garden. Shuttle service. Dorm bed: R110; Doubles: R275; Cottage: R600.

Tekweni Backpackers, 169 9th Avenue. A party hostel - don't expect clean bathrooms, comfortable beds, or a good night's sleep. Offers local tours, barbeques, walking distance to Durban Station. Dorm bed: R150, Single room: R300, Double room: R350.

Durban Hotels Galore, Musgrave Centre 8th Floor, Reception 2, 115-125 Musgrave Road, Berea, Durban, 4001. From R280pps.

Crooked Tree Cottage, Corner of Hiken Dr& Pearl Drive, Umhlanga. From R400pps.

Dolphin Sands B&B, North Beach Rd, Westbrook. From R300pps.

Northway Lodge, 28 Northway Dr, Durban North. From R350pps.

Nunuburd Lodge, 74 Clair Avenue, Manor Ridge. Doubles/Twins: R190pp; Triples: R170pp, Quads: R160pp.

Umdloti Letting & Sales, Umdloti Beach. 2bed apartment: R542pn, 3bed apartment: R642pn.

The Grange Guest House, 1 Monteith Place, upper Durban North, quiet, prestigious area, centrally located leafy suburban setting. Most rooms have sea views, huge family rooms and a wheelchair friendly room, r400-500 per person.

Lazy Lizard Guesthouse, Umhlanga Rocks, Kwa-Zulu Natal. Nestled in the heart of prestigious Umhlanga Rocks, the Lazy Lizard Guesthouse offers private, up market accommodation for both the holiday maker and the discerning business executive.

Cybele Lodge, 18 Acutts Drive, Everton. checkin: 13.00; checkout: 10.00. An exquisite two bed ensuite BNB in South Africa's oldest urban Conservancy. Enjoy 8 acres of indigenous gardens, with worldy hosts, who specialise in fine dining. R900.00.

Durban Hotels Galore, Musgrave Centre 8th Floor, Reception 2, 115-125 Musgrave Road, Berea, Durban, 4001. From R300pps.

Durban Self Catering Accommodation. An Exclusive Private Beach House, With sea views spanning from Ballito in the North, to the Durban Point and light house in the South. The part of the beach it is on is usually very quiet. From R950.

Hampshire Hotel Ballito, Lot 4048 Moffatt Drive, Ballito. Hampshire Hotel Ballito, a South Africa luxury hotel near Durban, offers access to the beach, conference and meeting venues and special deals for family holidays, weekend getaways & business travel.

Quarters Hotel, 101 Florida Road, Morningside. From860pps.

Royal Palm - Gateway, 08 Palm Boulevard, Umhlanga. From R970pps.

Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani, 63 Snell Parade, Durban 4001. Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani is the ultimate place to stay in Durban, with a total of 734 stylish rooms, two breakfast venues, two fully equipped gyms, 15 conference venues, eleven restaurants and bars, free high speed, quality connectivity WiFi and world class facilities.

The Riverside Hotel & Spa.

The Royal Hotel, 267 Smith St.

The Quays, Timeball Square, Waterfront. From R2,220 per suite.

The beach strip is frequently patrolled by policemen, there are CCTV cameras and many lights at night.

As everywhere else, there are several basic safety rules to follow. Avoid dark, deserted areas, and do not go out alone in the early hours of the morning. The promenade along the beach is safe to walk, but do not venture to the side and back roads of the hotels.

At night, it is still a good idea to stick to the main streets and not go out at night unless you are very familiar with a particular area. Avoid the usually busy central business district, which is empty after dark. Above all, use common sense.

Remember, you're a tourist, not a celebrity. Dress down to blend in with the people in the CBD, keep the fancy stuff to a minimum.

The harbour area is quite safe, as are the shopping malls and higher residential areas.

The Point, the area between downtown and the port, is known for prostitution and cheap hotels has higher crime rate although parts are currently undergoing a massive redevelopment. Avoid walking here alone or at night and take cars or metered taxis if you need to go to this area. .

Street children can be a problem, and its best to keep clear of them. Many sniff glue, carry knives, and act quite unpredictably.

Travel vaccines and general practitioner services available at Umhlanga Sports and Travel Clinic, Umhlanga Hospital Helipad, 323 Umhlanga Rocks Drive, Umhlanga Rocks.

Places to visit:

- Umhlanga Nature reserve

- Go south along the Sunshine and Wild Coast through Margate and to East London, Port Elizabeth and the Garden Route

- Go south along the Hisbiscus coast through Port Shepstone, visit the Oribi gorge and blue flag beaches.

- Go up the North Coast and visit Ballito, the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park or drive further on to Swaziland.

- Valley of 1000 hills. With breathtaking views, more than 10 nature reserves, hiking trails, cultural villages and much more.

This is an area not to miss when you visit KwaZulu-Natal




Tourism Observer