There is always something appealing about a city that has its face turned permanently towards the sea. Durban is just such a city. Although it is ranked as South Africa’s third biggest, it is little more than a third of the size of Johannesburg in terms of population (3.7 million inhabitants compared to 9.2 million) – and has more of a small-town feel as a con-sequence. Moreover, on any given day, you will find plenty of the locals on the beach.
In part, this is due to the climate. Durban lies far further north than its coastal colleagues Cape Town and Port Elizabeth – and even in July, the middle of South Africa’s winter, you can expect temperatures of around 22ºC. This ready warmth sends people dashing to the Golden Mile – the string of beaches laid out where Downtown meets the Indian Ocean. Many of them go holding surfboards – as the waves are as reliable as the weather.
Not that there is nothing more to Durban than its waterfront. Its Botanic Gardens, opened as long ago as 1849, showcase some of the plant-life which thrives in the city’s sub-tropical context – while there are plenty of excellent restaurants (Durban’s sizeable Indian demographic ensures that curry is a popular dish). And if you do not fancy tackling the ocean on a board, the vast Gateway Theatre shopping centre has an artificial “wavepark”.