Located at the heart of the KwaZulu-Natal region, Durban has proven its worth as a travel destination from which to set out for a medley of high-adventure activities. Its position on the Indian Ocean gives it all the perks of a coast know for its surfing, swimming, and diving, while its proximity to mountainous landscapes provides some of the best hiking and climbing in South Africa. Yeah, yeah, Embark, but we want details. Ask, dear reader, and you shall receive.
One of the best reasons to visit Durban is to enjoy its beaches, particularly those along the Golden Mile. A lot of effort has been put into the tourist infrastructure here, and it shows. The promenade runs from the uShaka Marine World (where you can actually dive with their sharks) to the Suncoast Casino and Entertainment Complex. North Beach, Dairy Beach, and the Bay of Plenty are all popular surf locations that have shark nets, while the golden sands call out to any and all to spend a day in leisure. Although there isn't much in the way of a city park system, there are a few nature parks within a half an hour of central Durban, including the magnificent Kloof Gorge and the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve (walking and hiking trails in the forest). Crocodile Creek, located north of the city in Ballito, is a chance to get close to Nile crocodiles and handful of other engaging creatures. If you're one for more extreme fun, there is skydiving conducted over Durban from the center in Eston. Scuba divers can enjoy the rocky shelves of Blood Reef just off the coast or head just south to Aliwal Shoal, a 3 km reef that has an incredible diversity of marine life, especially during the “sardine run” in June and July.
Let's stick with the spectacular water-based opportunities available within a day trip of Durban. For most, north along the coast is the way to go, where snorkelers and divers can dream of spending the rest of their days in Sodwana Bay or getting lost in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Both located next to each other near the border with Mozambique, this definitive off-the-beaten-path stuff. Sodwana Bay is a five hour drive from Durban, but has enough variety to warrant at least an overnight stay. You may hike sandy inlets or enjoy water sports in a number of areas, but the big draw is the world's southernmost coral reef and the over twelve hundred species of sea life. Dive outfits are common in the area, as well as places closer to Durban that are willing to travel. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a protected area of hidden wonders, from the freshwater lake, Sibaya, to innumerable hiking trails and even more excellent marine life in Rocktail Bay and Cape Vidal. If water is your playground, then you shouldn't think twice of traveling here. Then again, if you want a bit of danger with your underwater adventures, south of Durban is Protea Banks near Shelly Beach, a haven for sharks of all types and the people who want to shudder at their passage. Again, there are plenty of reputable operators willing to make this happen.
If the coast wasn't enough, the activities inland of Durban also pull their weight, especially when you trek into the Drakensberg Mountains and the Golden Gate Highlands. From 3-5 hours from Durban, these areas have some of the most spectacular rock formations and hiking opportunities in South Africa. The Golden Gate Highlands are a preponderance of caverns and vantage points, the most famous being the striated golden hues of Brandwag Rock. The Drakensberg Mountains may be even better. Most notable is the Amphitheatre, an incredible rock face from which the second highest waterfall in the world, Tugela Falls, plummets. Giant's Castle is another peak and subsequent view that would leave quite an impression. The hikes here are abundant and often moderately difficult, but the fit and motivated adventurer should have no problems when the reward is undisturbed nature at its best. Whitewater rafting may also be had on the Tugela River once it takes its epic plunge, with rapids like Finger Rock and others drawing aficionados from across the country.
For more information on what sort of activities you could be doing while in Durban, check out our dedicated pages or start a conversation with the embark community; there are also travel videos and pictures available those whose interest still needs piquing.