Durban and surrounds offer travellers an array of unique experiences, with warm weather all year round.

Tourism Update revisits the Durban proposition, hearing from the industry what the KwaZulu Natal city and its surrounds have to offer visitors. It encompasses every element, from warm weather to dramatic mountain ranges, unique safari experiences and, now, direct air access.

Janine Bunsow, Market Manager for Germany, Switzerland and Austria at Tourvest DMC, says Durban is appealing, with its good weather all year round and increasing direct international flight access. It also has attractive beaches and rich cultural experiences.

This sentiment was echoed by Sabrina Reddy, Duty Manager at BON Hotel 64 on Gordon, who explains that Durban’s diversity, the city’s warm subtropical climate and extensive beaches make it an ideal destination for international travellers.

Culture and cuisine

KZN is known for its Zulu culture. Christo Pienaar, Operations Manager at Tourvest Destination Management, suggests that visitors experience traditional Zulu culture on a full-day tour to the largest kraal (homestead) in Zululand, where they can visit a traditional healer, sample local beer and see the weapons used by Shaka Zulu to conquer and forge an empire.

With the largest Indian population in a city outside India, Durban has a distinctive culinary offering. According to Tesna Simonsen George, Director at Luxury Representation Collection in the UK, a local speciality and must-try is Durban’s bunny-chow, a hollowed-out loaf of bread stuffed with curry of one’s choosing. “For a real treat, I highly recommend the curry buffet at The Oyster Box hotel: with more than 11 dishes on offer, it truly is a curry feast,” he adds.

What to do

Bunsow suggests travellers view the city from the Moses Mabhida Stadium SkyCar on a clear day, as well as visit the Valley of a Thousand Hills: “There is a lovely place for nature walks at Krantzkloof Nature Reserve in the Valley.” Furthermore, she suggests dining at local restaurants.

Reddy says Durban highlights travellers should also include in their itineraries are the bustling markets of Warwick Triangle and the Botanic Gardens.

Africa’s first World Heritage Site, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, is an easy two-and-a-half-hour drive from Durban. George says it offers a diverse eco-system, providing unique wildlife experiences.

Pienaar suggests exploring the Midlands, mountains, Northern Wetlands and cultural diversity that KZN has to offer. He says, due to Durban’s location, visitors can drive up the highest road pass in Africa in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, enjoying the green hills of the Midlands, then tackling Sani Pass en route to the Kingdom of Lesotho, where they can get a taste of local culture at the highest pub in Africa, renowned for its panoramic views.

Direct air access

King Shaka International Airport (KSIA) ended 2018 on a high note, with international passenger numbers increasing by 13% for December; much of this has been attributed to Emirates adding flights from Dubai in December, and British Airways’ recently introduced a direct flight from London.

With BA’s direct flights, Reddy says she has already noticed a significant change in the number of travellers Durban is receiving.

George elaborates: “The new British Airways flight from London Heathrow opens the door to Durban and the amazing province of KZN. Travellers now have an easy flight to reach Durban, where they have an array of accommodation and activities to choose from.”

“British Airways’ new non-stop service between London’s Heathrow International Airport and Durban, introduced in late October 2018, has propelled growth at KSIA. We are now seeing double-digit growth in international passengers,” says Hamish Erskine, Co-Chair of Durban Direct and CEO of Dube TradePort Corporation.

For the time being, Durban Direct’s approach is to focus on growing the frequency and capacity of the airline partners that currently service KSIA. The long-term objective is to attract a direct air link to the Far East, possibly a direct air service into either Singapore or Hong Kong, which would provide better air access to mainland China, Japan, South Korea, and South East Asia.

Durban developments

Reddy told Tourism Update that the construction of the luxury Oceans Mall would commence this month, further enhancing the city’s tourism appeal, along with the facelift to the Point Waterfront, upgrades to the Warwick precinct, extensions to the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, and a revamp of the Sun Coast. In addition, there will also be the development of Blythedale Coastal Resort, on the north coast of KZN.

Bunsow adds: “There are big exciting plans for the harbour – watch this space.”

Click here to read more about Durban’s water experiences.