Beaches in Durban
The sea near Durban, unlike that around the Cape, is comfortably warm year-round: in summer the water temperature can top 27°C (80°F), whereas in winter 19°C (65°F) is considered cold. The beaches are safe, the sand is a beautiful golden color, and you'll see people swimming all year round. All of KwaZulu-Natal's main beaches are protected by shark nets and staffed with lifeguards, and there are usually boards stating the wind direction, water temperature, and the existence of any dangerous swimming conditions. Directly in front of uShaka Marine World, uShaka Beach is an attractive public beach. The Golden Mile, stretching from South Beach all the way to Snake Park Beach, is packed with people who enjoy the waterslides, singles' bars, and fast-food joints. A little farther north are the Umhlanga beaches, and on the opposite side of the bay are the less commercialized but also less accessible and safe beaches on Durban's Bluff. Another pretty beach and coastal walk, just north of the Umhlanga Lagoon, leads to miles of near-empty beaches backed by virgin bush. Please note: you should not walk alone on deserted beaches or carry any jewelry or other valuables, and you should never walk at night.
It's easy to charter all manner of boats, from a paddleski (a flat fiberglass board that you paddle) for a few rand to a deep-sea fishing vessel for a few thousand. Inexpensive harbor tours lasting a half hour, booze cruises, and dinner cruises can all be booked from the quayside at Wilson's Wharf. Shop around to find something that suits your budget, taste, and time frame.
Dolphin-watching and Diving
36 Degrees operates various boat excursions on which you are likely to see dolphins. From June to November there's also a chance of spotting migrating humpback and Southern Right whales. The company also specializes in dives to various sites and offers equipment rentals. 082/553–2834 or 082/451–8578. www.36degrees.co.za.
Calypso Dive and Adventure Centre is a PADI five-star Instructor Development Center and a National Geographic dive center that organizes dives and rents equipment. 031/332–0905 or 083/263–7585. www.calypsodiving.co.za.
Deep-sea fishing is a popular activity, as there's almost always something biting. Summer (November-May) brings game fish like barracuda, marlin, sailfish, and dorado, whereas winter is better for the bottom fishes, like mussel crackers, salmon, and rock cod.
Casea Charters offers trips on a ski boat from Granny's Pool, in front of Umhlanga's Cabana Beach, that run from three to five hours (R400–R550). Fish for dorado, yellowfin tuna, king and queen mackerel, garrick, rock cod, salmon, and other species. Bait and equipment are supplied, but bring your own food and drinks. You can keep the fish you catch. Booking is essential. 031/561–7381 or 083/690–2511. www.caseacharters.co.za.
Lynski Charters offers deep-sea fishing for barracuda, sailfish, marlin, shark, and reef fish out of Durban's harbor. Trips, in a 35-foot game-fish boat, cost R4,000 for up to six people fishing for a day trip, although the boat can take nine people altogether. The price includes equipment, tackle, bait, and cold drinks. 031/539–3338 or 082/445–6600. www.lynski.com.
Swissroll Charters offers similar deep-sea fishing trips from the harbor. For R3,800, skipper-owner Ralph Nussbaumer takes a maximum of six people for a day on his 30-foot boat with a cabin. Sometimes he sets up a gas cooker and fries some fresh fish. 031/467–2185 or 082/451–6567. www.swissroll.co.za.
Durban Country Club has hosted more South African Opens than any other course, and is regularly rated the best in South Africa. Tees and greens sit atop large sand dunes, and trees add an additional hazard. Visitors are welcome, but can't play Wednesday and Thursday afternoons or Saturdays; fees for the 18-hole, par-72 course are R560. Rental clubs are available. 031/313–1777. www.dcclub.co.za.
Inside the Greyville Racecourse, the Royal Durban Golf Club offers no protection from the wind, which makes hitting the narrow fairways very difficult, but the surroundings are attractive and the venue is central. Fees for the 18-hole, par-72 course are R300, rental clubs are available, and reservations are essential. The course is open every day, and the first tee-off is at 7 am. 031/309–1373. www.royaldurban.co.za.
Zimbali Country Club is built in and around one of the few remaining coastal forests in the province. The world-class 18-hole course was designed by Tom Weiskopf and lies amid sand dunes above a secluded beach, natural springs, and a lake. There is a fully stocked pro shop. Greens fees for 18 holes are R350 on weekdays and R400 on weekends. Compulsory cart rental is R200; rental clubs are available for R300 per set. 032/538–1041. www.zimbali.org.
Surfing has a fanatical following in Durban, and several local and international tournaments are staged on the city's beaches, at nearby Umhlanga, Ballito, or on the Bluff. Crowds of more than 10,000 are not unusual for night surfing competitions or the annual Mr. Price Pro championship (formerly the Gunston 500) held in Ballito, a top World Qualifying Series event on the world surfing circuit. When the conditions are right, New Pier is one of the best beach breaks in the world.
Just the other side of Durban's protected bay, Cave Rock, on the Bluff, offers a seething right-hander that can handle big swell. It can be a tough paddle and is not for amateurs. Farther down the South Coast, surfers head for Scottburgh, Green Point, Park Rynie, or Southbroom. North of Durban, popular spots include Umhlanga, Ballito, Richard's Bay, and Sodwana Bay.
The more popular spots can get crowded, and locals are known to be territorial about certain sections. Be sure to obey the laws of surfing etiquette. Usually the best waves are found at dawn and dusk. If the southwester blows, the Durban beaches are your best bet. In the winter months look out for an early-morning land breeze to set up good waves along the whole coastline.
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