Durban - New pleasure boat cruises along the uMngeni River, along with a coffee shop, restaurant and vibrant crafts centre, could be on the cards for Durban as part of a plan to develop “green” tourist businesses close to the Blue Lagoon.
Late last year managers of the Durban Green Corridor issued tender and information documents inviting businesses to submit joint venture proposals. According to the initial tender proposal, this could include a “pleasure barge” to operate from the mouth of the uMngeni River, close to the Green Hub offices.
The hub is operated by the Durban Green Corridor, a development project initiated by the Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust and partly funded by the eThekwini Municipality.
The hub already serves as a booking office for adventure tours such as canoeing, hiking, mountain bike trails, birdwatching and cultural tours of the Umgeni/Inanda valley.
“An example, and an idea we are particularly keen on, would be the establishment of a coffee shop or café immediately next to the Green Hub with an adjoining crafts shop where people could sell their produce.
“The service provider could sell coffees, cakes and other light meals and operate as a private venue hire facility for functions which are regularly in demand at this location.
“In addition, it is hoped that the service provider would operate recreational activities and events outdoors and on the river.”
Green Hub marketing manager Anna de Graca told The Mercury yesterday that proposals had been received and were being shortlisted.
“I can’t disclose all the ideas that have come through, but I think we will have a much clearer idea of potential developments later next month.”
De Graca said proposals for the pleasure barge were expected to be issued by the eThekwini Municipality soon in a separate process.
Most of the staff at the Green Hub have been employed from disadvantaged communities to work as environmental tour guides or administrative staff.
The Green Hub is part of the city’s plan to expand on the Golden Mile’s position as Durban’s top tourist hot spot competing with the beachfronts of Miami and Rio de Janeiro.
The first phase of the upgrade, from uShaka Marine World to Suncoast, leading to the Moses Mabhida Stadium, was completed in 2010. The second phase, including the upgrade of Blue Lagoon, began in February 2012 and was concluded last year.
The upgrade entailed the widening of the promenade, paving, new lighting, landscaping and the demolition of dated structures.
In the pipeline are plans to expand to the other side of the uMngeni, with projects planned for Beachwood Golf Course and Virginia Airport.
The Durban beachfront and the Green Hub drew more than a million people over the recent festive season. – Extra reporting by Lauren Rawlins