Great escape to Durban-by-the-sea

Kwa-Zulu Natal

Durban is probably one of the most exciting cities to live in right now. With relatively clean beaches and a vibrant night life, it seems Durbanites have it all. For Gautengers, going to Durban is fairly inexpensive compared with going to Cape Town.

There were times when going to Durban for holidays was seen to be so yesterday, after the infamous so-called Vaalies-end-of-the-year pilgrimage to the beach was resented by Durbanites because it brought overcrowding to their hotels and beaches.

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The lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Opened in 1964, the pink still stands tall and regal at uMhlanga Rocks.Durban's majestic Moses Mabhida Stadium, built for the 2010 World Cup, is a popular tourist attraction. Adjoining the stadium is the People's Park. Picture: Brian Spurr

For years, well-off folks avoided the area during holidays and the festive season, and resorted to other places in other provinces.

Only the poor masses flocked to the beaches. Scenes of thousands of semi-naked bodies frolicking on Durban’s beaches beamed on television seemed more like a stampede than people having fun.

However, through great efforts to upgrade facilities and by beefing up security, the marketing of Durban as a family holiday destination, plus the staging of Grand Prix-like races there a few years ago, and the yearly migration of celebrities and wannabes to the Durban July horse-racing extravaganza, have ensured that Durban stays in the spotlight.

The renewed rush to go to the beach for holidays has triggered fierce competition in the hotel and catering industry. Even the hotels along the South Beach have upgraded and improved.

Tsogo Sun is part of that race to restore Durban’s image as the number one destination choice for business, sports and leisure.

The hotel group recently took journalists on a media tour to see and experience for themselves what Tsogo Sun’s string of hotels had to offer – starting from the affordable Southern Sun North Beach, to Suncoast Hotel & Towers, right up to the more exquisite Beverly Hills Hotel at uMhlanga Rocks.

Beverly Hills Hotel has a history to it in that it was “Sun King” Sol Kerzner’s first baby when he ventured into the entertainment and leisure industry. Opened in 1964, and named after Kerzner’s daughter, Beverly, it was the first five-star hotel in KwaZulu-Natal.

Today, the pink building is still standing tall and regal.

The beauty of Beverly Hills is that all rooms have different breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean.

Nothing beats having breakfast on the terrace and there is this famous Beverly Hills Hotel muesli that can be topped with fruit or berries – absolutely delicious.

The talk of the town these days is the Promenade – a kilometre-long walkway where people can walk, jog or take their dogs for strolls right in front of the hotels along the beach. Apparently, the local council has gone to great lengths to ensure that those who use it can do so without fear of being attacked – by employing guards to monitor the walkway.

Furthermore, the rates at Beverly Hills are reasonable because of the discounts offered on packages.

The SunCoast Hotel and Towers is a complex best suited for those with large families. This must be one of the most popular hotels along Durban’s North Beach because it also boasts cinemas, a play centre for children and a casino.

The hotel is also centrally located, making it easier to access King Shaka Airport and Durban’s Golden Mile. It also has a seven-days-a-week spa with a huge variety of treatments, from a 30-minute simple back massage, costing R330, to what is called the Indian Ocean Dream – a seven-hour operation that will set you back R2 200.

We had dinner at the Elangeni Hotel the night before a Sharks-Western Province rugby match and the place was buzzing with celebrities. Everyone looked happy and comfortable with the service levels.

Whether you stay at the most economical or a five-star property, one thing is common to Tsogo Sun Hotels: the effort made to make guests feel important.

We were also taken on a township excursion for lunch at Mike’s. There, all meat, from chicken to steak, is braaied, no exceptions. The stay was too short, but it was good to experience a different township culture from that we are used to.

The sea provides an opportunity for excursions in and around the harbour. There is also that fascinating place called uShaka, where visitors can play in the water or visit the underworld of sharks.

l The trip was sponsored by Tsogo Sun and excursions were the courtesy of Tourism KZN. - Saturday Star

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