The culturally diverse city of Durban reflects African, Asian and European influences, making it the most cosmopolitan city in South Africa.
Located on South Africa’s stunning East coast Durban provides a gateway to the splendours of the Kwazulu-Natal province. A tour of the city is highly recommended as a starting point.
Ranging further afield visitors are able to explore several unique destinations in KwaZulu-Natal: the Drakensberg Mountains; Zululand with its wildlife and Zulu culture; the World Heritage site of St Lucia; the Battlefields of Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer Wars; and last but by no means least the stunning coastline of the Indian Ocean.
British traders, on the move from Cape Town in 1824, discovered a lagoon on the Indian Ocean fed by the Mbilo and Mhlatuzana rivers, and created a port settlement which has grown into today’s bustling harbour. Now the largest and busiest city on the East coast Durban has an interesting history. The original settlers contended with many dangers; the surrounding countryside teemed with wildlife, including elephant and lion. Today the main roads from the city to the suburb of Berea follow old elephant trails.
The indigenous people the British settlers discovered were the Zulus, a nation in the process of being formed and consolidated under its first and greatest king, Shaka. Durban’s new international airport honours this king. Shaka’s fame, and news of the prowess and vitality of the Zulus, had reached Cape Town resulting in an expedition to the area to open trade relations with the new nation. The settlement at Port Natal prospered, and was renamed Durban in 1835 after Sir Benjamin D’Urban, the Governor of the Cape.
A strong Afrikaner population followed in the 1830s, part of a movement of people from Cape Town in what is now called the Great Trek. The Boer republic of Natal was established at this time, the capital situated in Pietermaritzburg some 80km away. This republic of Natal interfered with British interests, resulting in a brief war between the British and the Boers in 1842, where-after Natal became a British colony in 1844. Numerous battles were fought between these three strong powers, leaving the province with a legacy of many battlefields; British/Boer, British/Zulu, Boer/Zulu and Zulu/Zulu.
Durban harbour was later enlarged by extensive dredging operations, and the early exports of ivory and skins soon expanded to include all types of general cargo, especially South African sugar. The sugar industry also resulted in an extensive Indian migration to Natal – chiefly as indentured labour. After their indenture period was complete, the Indian people decided not to leave South Africa. They now form a large proportion of the current population, and continue to make significant contributions to the cultural diversity of the city.
Durban today has a population of over 4 million people who enjoy one of the finest climates in the world. The tropical maritime environment provides warm wet summers and cool dry winters. The warm Indian Ocean and beautiful beaches encourage swimming all year round.
Kwazulu-Natal is a place not to be missed.