Durban is a beachside city in South Africa that boasts the busiest port in Africa. The Indian Ocean fringes the city limits, and the port has a Golden Mile of beachfront. Yet Durban remains more dynamic than your average beachside town.
Durban is renowned for being one of the most cosmopolitan cities in South Africa, and the term melting pot is not used lightly. Zulu, Indian and European Africans merge in this subtropical city; 60 percent of Durbanites are Zulu, the largest ethnic group in South Africa. Along the main precinct of Victoria Road, a mosque minaret meets a Catholic church spire above the bustling auspice of an Indian market.
The Zulu people originate from this province and changed the course of South African colonialism at the end of the 19th century under the reign of famed warrior King Shaka.
Durban feels like a more African city than any other in South Africa, particularly if cruise passengers have been to the more European city of Cape Town. It is also the gateway to some of South Africa's scenic wonders, from the Drakensberg mountain range to the Valley of 1,000 Hills and the safari drives of Phinda Game Reserve.
The Bay of Natal is a natural harbor just behind the beachfront. The passenger terminal facility is in N Shed at T-Jetty. There are craft stalls at the terminal when ships are docked. A five-minute walk will see you reach the Golden Mile of beaches, as well as uShaka Marine World, a popular tourist attraction. It's a fifteen-minute walk into the city center of Victoria Street, but take a taxi and you'll be there within five minutes.
Be conscious of pickpockets. While walking is reasonably safe when vigilant in the daytime, steer clear of walking at nighttime. Keep valuable possessions out of sight or preferably on the ship. If you rent a car, lock the doors, and keep windows closed in high-density areas.
South Africa uses the rand (ZAR). For current currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. There are no ATMs at the cruise port, but five minutes in a taxi to the city center will see you reach many bank outlets and withdrawal facilities.
English is the language spoken by Durban locals, but you might hear it peppered with Afrikaans, Zulu and Hindu. The most commonly used Afrikaans words are:
Braii for a barbecue
Eish for a drawn out response to shock or surprise
Ja for yes
Just now is not quite now but could be never
Lekker is for all that is good and great
Robot is a traffic light
Durban is the best place to buy Zulu handicrafts. Head to the Victoria Street Market to find locally made curios, such as drums, tribal masks, cane woven baskets and beaded jewelry.
Sundowners -- alcoholic drinks imbibed as the sun sets -- are a religion in South Africa. While there is no specific South African cocktail per se, anything that contains the creamy liquor Amarula offers an authentic taste of the country.