Just 20 minutes away from the bustling Durban city centre, Umhlanga has established itself as KwaZulu Natal’s most vibrant coastal hub with an eclectic mix of economic, residential and leisure activities to suit every traveller’s needs.
However, there are some little-known secrets to this coastal playground that locals hold dear to their hearts … and we’ve got the inside scoop on where locals take their visitors to.
The Loner - The Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve
This stunning 76-hectare reserve has the largest population of mangrove trees in the Durban area and is home to abundant birdlife, fish, crustaceans and molluscs.
If you’re keen to disconnect and spend some alone time outdoors – it’s the perfect opportunity to sit back and absorb the coastal paradise hidden from the built-up Umhlanga Rocks. If you’re with the family, pack a blanket and picnic basket to enjoy in the little secluded pockets of privacy or winding walkways the reserve offers.
The Curious - The Sharks Board
If ogling over sharks for real isn’t your thing, there’s a better (less scary) way to bring the kids face-to-face with Jaws! Take the family down to the Sharks Board for a fascinating audio-visual show about these great predators, and if you’re lucky (try Tuesday – Thursday), you’ll be watching a live shark dissection!
Follow this up with a walk through the Shark Museum, which houses a variety of life-like shark replicas, including an 892 kg model of the Great White Shark. If doing good deeds makes you smile – The Sharks Board is a must-do as proceeds go towards shark conservation and education.
The Foodies - Eat Umhlanga
Umhlanga is foodie’s dream come true - you could try something new every day and not ever eat the same thing twice! For the seasonal food lovers, locals recommend The Chef’s Table, where menus are crafted from whatever the local farmers and suppliers deliver for the week, and they have a kick-ass wine selection to pair local produce with.
If you’re into something a bit spicier, check out Rocky Bunny, where a team of skilled chefs have perfected the art of the perfect bunny chow and the must sumptuous mutton curry.
The Pearls of Umhlanga offer 16 restaurants so the choices are endless, but our favourite has to be Mozart Ice Cream Bar — it’s best for grabbing a silky sorbet or cone before walking down the Umhlanga promenade.
The Adventurers - Diving with Aqua Rush
Explore the Indian Ocean from a unique perspective with options for divers of all skill levels. Adventures include Dolphin Reef where soft corals, sponges, gorgonians and nudibranchs create an underwater world that almost doesn’t feel like you’re in South Africa.
It stretches for more than 2 km and there are a lot of different sections to dive including ledges and overhangs. Speaking of diving, T-Barge Wreck is rated as one of the top 15 warm water dive sites of South Africa - the t-shaped barge sunk in 1990 off Virginia Airport between Durban and Umhlanga and we’re convinced that’s where the real Sponge-bob lives! Get in touch with the Umhlanga Ski Boat Club to organise your day out.
The Dreamers - Umgeni River Bird Park
Catch the exciting free flight bird show and get up close and personal with a variety of exotic species. Nestled on the banks of the Umgeni River, this 3.5-hectare oasis is home to an ever-increasing collection of more than 800 birds from 200 species, some of which are found nowhere else in Africa. Book ahead of time, as this rich menagerie attracts thousands of school children from around the country each year.
The Date Nighters - Buff Beauty Parlour
Spoil yourself with a precision waxing, pedicure, manicure or eyelash treatment at the sweetest, cutest beauty parlour in Umhlanga. The salon is decorated in the vibrant style of a classic 1950s Hollywood milkshake bar, complete with images of the iconic Betty Boop, catering to both men and women. If you prefer a date day, Camelot Spa at the Pearls Mall offers a tranquil oasis for couples to recharge and spend some quality time together.
The Umhlanga District is ever expanding with several new attractions emerging on a regular basis, making a longer visit simply essential. Locals and visitors seeking luxury accommodation at affordable rates will find The Capital Pearls offers the best experience in Umhlanga – everything you want in a hotel and none of the frills you don’t need.