Durban Beachfront

Durban Travel Blog

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It’s very challenging to get anything significant done while the World Cup is going on.  We arrived in Durban on the afternoon of the 9th and immediately set about taking care of mundane tasks like laundry and shopping.  I had arrived in Durban with only the clothes that had already been on my back for a few days, and a bag full of laundry, filthy from the five days of trekking on Kili, so I had to pick up something to wear while I washed my clothes and so I wouldn’t feel like a total schlub.  I also needed a shave and a wash because I looked like a homeless person.  The matches began on the 11th, so I had only the 10th to take care of business.

  Once the 11th hit, there were games every day at 1:30pm, 4pm and 8:30pm, which meant that by early afternoon I had to be in front of a screen somewhere so I could watch the game.  That did not leave a lot of time for the usual sort of exploration I like to do when I settle in to a new area.  We got the shopping done, and I got my shave and a haircut, and then I began the proper process of balancing Cup watching and figuring out what Durban had to offer.

          Durban is an absolutely beautiful place.  It is a beachfront city, with a long boardwalk area known as “The Golden Mile”.  As far as beachfronts go, it is much much nicer than most, tho I think that some of its splendor is due to the buildup for the World Cup.  There are some of the usual beachfront type things, like ice cream stands and snack shacks, but it also has some really interesting features, like very well landscaped garden areas, ornate wading pools, and a skate/bmx park just across from the beach.

  There are amphitheatres, piers that you can walk out on to view the surfers, “learn to surf” areas on the beach where you stand on surfboards attached to the ground with giant springs, amusement type rides, picnic areas, and an official FIFA outlet, where you can pay exorbitant amounts of money on soccer gear.  The beach is also where a few of the fan parks are set up – beer gardens with giant screens and bleachers set up so you can watch the game and get drunk in public with hundreds of your best friends.  One of these fan parks is located at a casino right next to the stadium, walking distance from where we are staying, and that is where we watch most of the day games.

     An interesting thing about the beaches is that they have very specific uses.  Some beaches do not allow swimming, some allow only surfing, some have such bad riptides they don’t allow anything water related - and then there are the sharks.  Some beaches have shark nets set up to deter the sharks from munching on the tourists.

  The city has an entire department dedicated to monitoring the shark nets and shark activity and they run an education program at their headquarters which I attended about a week ago.  The department is called the Natal Sharks Board, and in addition to the education program, they run an early morning boat trip where you go out with the staff while they check the nets to see if any sharks got snagged, and they point out how things work and maybe you see some sharks, dolphins and whales along the way.  I am trying to get in on one of those rides, hopefully next week. 

     The education program is interesting – first they explain the history of the board and the history of shark attacks & fatalities along the Durban beachfront, and then they take one of the sharks that they found dead in their morning net checks, and they dissect it in front of you and show you some shark physiology.  The day I went, they had a 7 foot great white and a 4 foot hammerhead on the table, and they dissected the hammerhead because the great white was still frozen.

(They keep a stash of dead sharks in the freezer, in case they hit a dry spell with the nets)  It is not the intention of the Shark Board to kill the sharks; in fact some of the sharks in the area are considered endangered species and are otherwise protected by law.  The board is constantly working on new designs with the nets so they can reduce the number of shark deaths, but in the end, human safety trumps shark safety.  Soon, there will be an incredibly large sardine migration, and the board will take down all the shark nets which will heavily reduce the number of beaches that allow swimming.  They do this because along with the sardines come a whole slew of creatures that would be killed by getting trapped in the nets.  The sardine run itself is supposed to be an interesting site, and hopefully it occurs before we duck out of here and over to Cape Town.

     The weather in Durban has been mostly awesome.

  A normal day will be sunny and around 75-80 degrees, maybe a slight wind coming in off the ocean.  At night the temps drop down to the point where you want to have a jacket or sweatshirt on.  There have been a few unusually cold and rainy days, but they are few and far between, and they anger the locals greatly. (We were accused of bringing the Breckenridge weather with us because we arrived just in time for a cold front)  At the far end of the beachfront is a mall/aquarium/water park called uShaka World, and one of these days the temperature and our plans will coincide so that we can enjoy the water park.

More to come

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photo by: Sjoshie