When to Go
The height of summer (December and January) brings heat, humidity, higher prices, and crowds, who pour into "Durbs," as it's fondly known, by the millions. Locals know never to brave the beach on holidays or over the Christmas season except for an hour or two from 6 am—one of the nicest times there. June and July are Durban's driest months, and although you can never predict the weather, expect warm, dry days and cool nights.
The best time to tour KwaZulu-Natal is early autumn through winter and into spring (April to October), with the coast particularly pleasant in winter—you'll see people swimming. April is a lovely time to visit the city (avoid Easter weekend if you can), with warm air and sea temperatures.
Some facilities in the Zululand game reserves close in summer because of the extreme and unpleasantly high temperatures.
In addition to choosing the right season, it’s worth considering timing your visit to coincide with one or more of the exciting events hosted within this region.
Comrades Marathon. This is the world's oldest and largest ultra-marathon—approximately 90 km (56 miles) between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, the race route changes annually. It's a South African institution, creating an unparalleled cameraderie between runners. Many runners have earned their 'life' permanent race number, after competing in the gruelling marathon 10 times. Durban, KwaZulu Natal. 033/897–8650; www.comrades.com.
Durban July. South Africa's most prestigious horse race sees tens of thousands of spectators descend on Greyville Racecourse to partake in one of the year's biggest social events and to watch the ponies run. Fashionistas have a day in the sun as they compete for 'best-dressed' prizes. Greyville Racecourse, 150 Avondale Rd., Durban, KwaZulu Natal, 4001. 031/314–1651; www.vodacomdurbanjuly.co.za.
Dusi Canoe Marathon. Paddlers compete in this 120-km (76-mile) kayak race between Pietermaritzburg and Durban along the Msindusi (Dusi) River. It's regarded as one of the toughest canoe events in the world and takes place over three days. The race is run by Natal Canoe Club. Durban, KwaZulu Natal. 033/394–9994; 033/342–1528; 033/3421–1525; www.dusi.co.za.
Mr Price PRO. Around the end of June and the beginning of July, top surfers and surfing fans head to Ballito for one of the longest-running professional surfing events in the world, established in 1969. Ballito, KwaZulu Natal. 031/310–8000; www.mrpricepro.com.
Sardine Run. Dubbed "The Greatest Shoal on Earth," the Sardine Run is regarded as one of nature's most amazing migrations. Starting along the South Coast and moving up to Durban, sardine shoals of 20–30 km (12–18 miles) are followed by some 23,000 dolphins, 500 whales, 1,000 sharks and countless birds. The spectacle can be viewed from the beach or at various dive spots. You can even grab a bucket and catch your own dinner. Ancillary events take place on land. Durban, KwaZulu Natal. 039/682–7944; www.sardinerun.co.za.
Splashy Fen. South Africa's longest-running and most renowned annual music festival showcases the country's top bands, famous performers, and up-and-coming musicians. The outdoor event takes place every Easter long weekend on a Midlands farm. It's great fun, has great music and a great vibe—think a bonsai Woodstock. Bushmansnek Rd., Underberg, KwaZulu Natal. 031/563–0824; 086/689–2346; 078/065–9389; www.splashyfen.co.za.