The capital seat of the KwaZulu-Natal region, Durban is South Africa's gateway on the Indian Ocean, a haven of marine life and water sports that also does well to represent the many cultures that flourish within its jurisdiction. It's no marketing gambit to point out that Durban is a dark horse on the world travel stage; it doesn't get the same billing as Cape Town or Johannesburg, yet its place as one of Africa's busiest ports, a uniquely diverse culture and the plentiful adventures of KwaZulu-Natal make it an exceptional destination.
Most travelers choose to experience Durban for the lengthy beachfront and entertainment area known as The Golden Mile or the annual event known as the Sardine Run, where it is the rare chance to see the many incredible marine predators that have tracked these tiny creatures so close to shore. You may stand on shore or peer from the deck of a boat, but the truly daring will get in the water when this epic event occurs between May and July each year. Even when the whole marine world isn't chasing sardines, this neck of the Indian Ocean is hugely popular with divers and snorkelers, especially in locations like the shark-frenzied Protea Banks, the teeming reefs of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and the more approximate Aliwal Shoal. Good beaches are common, and good surfing beaches like North Beach, Dairy Beach, and the Bay of Plenty all come equipped with shark nets, so safety can be at the back of your mind while you're ripping up breaks. Land-based adventurers need only trek inland to the Drakensberg Mountains, which provide some of South Africa's most picturesque landscapes, including the inimitable Tugela Falls (which recent evidence concurs may be the highest in the world). You'll also have access to more extreme activities like skydiving and whitewater rafting; browse the Durban adventure page for the full range of things to do.
The city, whose metropolitan area is home to about 3.5 million citizens, boasts an ethnic diversity that include a huge Zulu population and a surprisingly large Indian population. A number of outlying suburbs speak Zulu primarily and attractions like Shakaland are a first step in getting to know more about the culture. Indian attractions include the mosques and shops along Dadoo Street, while popular food staples like Bunny Chow (a curry-filled bread loaf) are a perfect example of Durban's cultural assimilation. You'll see your usual tourist draws (the resorts, amusement parks, the malls), but that does not mean that you have to settle for a tourist experience. Immerse yourself in Sharks rugby or regional soccer at Kings Park and Moses Mabhida Stadium. Tread the ground of colonial battlefields and reflect on the grave sites of the native Africans lost. More authentic interactions with Durban society may be found on our culture page.
Our nightlife and cuisine listings will also provide you with plenty of options for eating and drinking, although we can tell you right away that a destination like Florida is most likely your best option for socializing in Durban. The best part about the city itself is that most areas are quite safe and the transport infrastructure is reliable (thanks in part to hosting the World Cup in 2010), so other than the basic traveling precautions when it comes to your valuables, you'll be able to focus on having an adventure. Isn't that why you're here?