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The smell of exotic spices lingers. Sugar canes as far as the eye can see. The tropical climate bides us to go skinny-dipping into the vast Indian Ocean. No, I am not talking about India nor Mauritius, but about the multiculti metropolis Durban in South Africa, located in the province of Kwazulu-Natal. This is where I was travelling in November 2013 with my mum as part of a 30th birthday celebration trip in Ballito, a Durban suburb by the sea. Cape Town, which I call home for over eight years now, still has fickle weather at the beginning of the summer season so I opted for this “safe weather choice” as a treat … After all, Durban is “only” two hours’ flight from Cape Town. I have already been here two times and on my third visit haven’t been disappointed either. Touching down at the recently inaugurated King Shaka International Airport, you are immediately spoilt to breathtaking views over the Indian Ocean as well as the coastline with its white, sandy beaches. I can hardly wait to swap my travel suit for my bikini now!
For this special occasion of mine, I have booked us into the Fairmont Zimbali Resort in Ballito. This is a very pretty hotel resort I can recommend to anyone looking for this type of catering and accommodation here in South Africa. The country hardly offers resorts at this stage, with “guest house tourism” continuing to boom. Our room was spacious, beautifully decorated and nicely furnished. From our balcony, we could look out to sea and truly relax. Several restaurants cater to whatever taste we felt like, the “Beach Club” even offered a kind of “Caribbean holiday feeling”.
Durban: A hint of India in spice blend of South Africa
As I did not want to miss the colourful flair of the city of Durban, I re-swapped my bikini for my comfy summer clothes and ventured into the city on a private tour. Our wonderful host “Wendy” took us out for the day and went out of her way and off the beaten tourist track. For a start, we ventured off in the city centre of Durban which is clearly marked by Eastern influences. At some stage, you almost feel as if in Delhi, India. Several temples line up next to each other, interspersed with churches. The best about it: This multiculti town has a vibe that gets to the heart of everyone.
For a start, we visited the magnificent botanical gardens. They are free of charge and a true oasis right in the middle of the city. Many exotic plants can be found strolling around here, while couples love to take their pictures among them. There is even a path for blind people. I could have easily wandered around for much longer, but we packed a lot into this day and so off we went to see Victoria Street Market. Unfortunately, it has grown more and more touristy over time – I actually only come back for the great spice shopping frenzy (the rest of the market being mostly tourist traps). My favourite spice shop owners loved having me back and once again, they offered to mix my very own curry blend while I was waiting. I really feel more like in India than South Africa now, with typical statues, incense sticks and colours everywhere, topped by Bollywood music. Collecting my spices, the lady of the house offered me some recipes as well: I cannot wait to get that smell back into my kitchen. Oh boy, this is going to be nice: “Durban feeling” when cooking next time!!!
After I have proceeded to almost buying the whole spice shop, Wendy took us out and along the lively beach stretch, continuing to the nice parts of town such as Berea or Morningside and past the University of Durban. Our next stop was a temple. “The Temple of Understanding” dedicated to Hare Krishna near Chatsworth and, would you believe it, built and designed by German and Austrian architects. Who would have thought? Hare Krishna believers come here to pray, relax, celebrate and eat at an excellent local, Vegetarian restaurant. There is a great buffet with lots of Indian dishes – I hardly ever had such a good meal in my life. At the end, Wendy dragged us on to explore the famous “Ghandi settlement” near Phoenix – and right she was. Some piece of history that is!
Ghandi spent 21 of his years in South Africa. In 1904, he founded a 25 hectares farm near Durban while starting to publish the newspaper “Indian Opinion”. Arriving at the so-called “Phoenix settlement”, we were welcomed and being led into Gandhi’s house learning about his life and movement. If you are interested in history, and especially Ghandi and his time in South Africa, don’t miss out. After all our adventures, unfortunately, the day had to come to an end and so Wendy took us back to the hotel, not without stopping in the pretty seaside village Umdloti for a short coffee break. What a day!
Durban – What should I say. Simply. Delightful!
Once again, this colourful and multicultural city has proven that it has a lot more to offer than simple industrial harbours. Often, you would hear that Durban is “ugly”, a comment that now really upsets me. Oriental flair, tropical climate, beautiful beaches, some fascinating history, excellent food and above all, friendly people – all of it and more you will find here in Durban. The Zulu call Durban “eThekwini“, meaning “the place where Earth and Ocean meet“. Quite right, I would say! What a pretty spot this is.