The Dolphin Coast Kwazulu-Natal

With the Cape, of course, remaining my first love and as such my favored ‘happy holiday hunting ground’, it had been many years since I last visited another favored South African coastline – the coastline of Durban in Kwazulu Natal. To be more geographically specific and precise, I refer in particular to the stretch of coast known as Umhlanga. This coastal stretch is also fondly known “The Dolphin Coast”.

Dolphin Coast Kwazulu-Natal

This region of South Africa had been home to just about all of my childhood vacation memories bit it was only after a recent getaway to the area, that the recollection became evident as to why it was that my parents chose this part of the country for our family vacations. The recollection additionally highlighted just how remiss I had been in not having paid any past attention (or much thought at all), to the region when planning my local travels. Simply put, the coastline is a splendor of excitement and lacks nothing in terms of activities that are suitable for travelers of all ages.

I can only imagine that Durban, and in the case of this piece of travel advice, Umhlanga, is no doubt recognized globally as the lesser known cousin of Cape Town. Without being given the suitable recognition that it very well deserves, it would not surprise me in the least if I were to learn that the majority of overseas travelers knew little about Dolphin Coast Kwazulu-Natal, if in fact they know anything at all.

Dolphin Coast Kwazulu-Natal: Sunrise at Umhlanga pier
Sunrise at Umhlanga pier

For me, a succinct summary to would be travelers in search of the ultimate family vacation would be to state that the “Dolphin Coast Kwazulu-Natal” is undoubtedly your one stop shop. Regardless of whether you’re traveling with toddlers or teens, I can assure you that it would be a recommended consideration to forego a trip to the Cape and instead book yourself an ideal holiday that will, in all likelihood, carry with it the everlasting memory of being your most enjoyable family getaway ever!

What began some weeks back, as a promise to my sixteen year old son, of a surf holiday, transpired to become the Mother/Son bonding experience of a lifetime. Along with the experience came an abundance of truly magnificent memories.

It was after some thought that we decided on the Umhlanga coast as our destination. The decision at the time was made based on the coasts renowned plentitude of beautiful beaches and fantastic surf spots. What welcomed us and the shared adventures that followed, went far beyond that of simply chasing a good break with a decent wave, as well as far beyond our initial expectations.

Dolphin Coast Kwazulu-Natal: Umhlanga

The sleepy little towns that I remembered from my childhood had transformed into hip, happening places with an endless variety of exciting things to do. And the cherry on top? Fantastic and extremely affordable beachfront accommodation.

We chose the self-catering route but the area has dozens of excellent 5 Star Hotels and Resorts. To enjoy everything on offer to its full extent, a car rental is a definite necessity.

When Umhlanga in Durban, finally cracks the very well deserved nod of making it onto your bucket list of places to visit with your family and/friends then be sure to simply NOT miss out on the following experiences:

1.The WaveHouse at GateWay Mall

This is quite simply, by far, THE MOST exciting water park that I’ve ever visited. And a quiet whisper in Mom and Dad’s ear – there’s a good chance of you having as much, if not more fun than the kids.

The WaveHouse has become a global attraction for some of the top surf events. Water, churned by specialized jets simulate the perfect wave for Boogy Boarders to beginner Surfers and all the way to Pro Surfers. It’s an all day wave ride and the park also offers water shutes and slides. After learning quickly that the waves were riding me and not me riding the waves, the water slides became my favored place. I giggled, I laughed and when it was time to leave I had to stop myself from stamping my feet and having a tantrum.

Set a day aside….and I think it might be wise if you added another.

2. Ushaka Marine World

Your itinerary will require a further full day to fully enjoy all and everything that Ushaka has to offer. So where do I start ?

  • meet a dolphin
  • meet a seal
  • dine with sharks
  • walk the ocean floor
  • ….and that’s just a few examples.

If or when nothing has exceeded your need for adrenalin, then pop on over to ‘Wet ‘n Wild’ to brace yourself for the ultimate rush, the Drop Zone, Africa’s highest slide!!

3. New Beach

The most fascinating and inspiring beach you may ever visit. The beach is well known for its display of incredible sand art. Your eyes won’t believe the myriad of intricate Sand Castles that cover the sandy shores. Local talented artist arrive in the early morning (or at low tide). They then spend hours and hours sculpting and shaping realistic forms…from people, to animals, to dragons, to Madiba!! …..and then the tide rises and all is washed away.

This is a MUST!! Truly magnificent…

Dolphin Coast Kwazulu-Natal: Sand Art
Sand Art

4. Kwazulu Natal Sharksboard

Whether you fear them or you’re fascinated by them, the Sharksboard is the place to visit for the most detailed and informative talks and tours about the Sharks of the Oceans. Guests are taken by boat to view the lifting of the shark nets as well as being given the opportunity to view a full shark dissection.

You’ll leave with a new respect.

I could, at this juncture, go on and on and on but this is a good start for the enjoyment of your visits first few days.

Some added tips:

* The climate of Natal is Sub-Tropical and as such visitors are more than likely to experience warm to hot days and balmy evenings almost all year round.

The biggest ‘one upmanship’ that it has on the Cape is that it is surrounded by the Indian Ocean and as such swimming in the waves is an absolute pleasure.

Visitors will notice a very strong Indian influence so SHOP, SHOP, SHOP…
*. Again, due to the strong Indian and Mauritian influence across the Durban area, the food is a nothing short of delectably delicious. A Durban Curry is a meal in a million.

Choosing your accommodation? Definitely choose Umhlanga. The city of Durban itself has plenty on offer…but it lacks plenty as well in terms of luxury or quality places to stay.  A good guideline, as a suggestion, is to explore the Self Catering Apartments, Bed and Breakfast’s and wide choice and variety of hotels in Durban that are situated along the main beach road of Lagoon Drive.

And for now, all  that remains for me to say, is have a BLAST and I’m extremely envious 🙂

About tracitalbot

I am a proud South African!! Due to the intense love that I have for my country, but even more specifically my love for the town in which I live, Cape Town, I have over the last 10 odd years become somewhat of a quintessential Cape Town travel Guru.I am very fortunate to have traveled rather extensively around the world and as such I am well acquainted with the concept of luxury and lifestyle travel. I have lived in Germany, Switzerland and New York City and whilst these experiences have been wonderful I am nevertheless a true South African who considers myself extremely blessed to be able to call Cape Town my home. For the greater part of the last ten years I have worked within the South African travel industry and due to my love and passion for various vacation places across the Western Cape, I now run a small boutique travel company that specializes in the creation and building of personalized holiday travel itineraries.The aspect of my career choice that I love the most is my immense hunger to discover new, interesting and non-commercial 'gems' - those intimate and unusual South African destinations that once visited, it would seem after leaving, a special part of your soul forever remains there. Magical places, romantic places and places that inspire.I gain such an enormous amount of pleasure when I have the privilege of knowing that I have introduced people to a location and/or destination that will leave a memory that lasts a lifetime. It is these secret spaces in special places that I love to write about to inspire the vacationer that is searching for that little bit of something different, something extra, something unusual and more importantly, something special. The destinations and locations that I have found over the years are not limited to only accommodations - I have also discovered incredible restaurants, tours and other travel related wonders. Every discovery is a discovery of pure love!! 

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