uMhlanga effect for curious traveller
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Durban - The sun peeks through the clouds and pools of warm light flood the promenade along uMhlanga’s beachfront.
Its landscape is pristine and the pathways are immaculately kempt.
The Independent on Saturday this week took a trip there to find out why people call it the gem of the North Coast.
With multimillion-rand flat blocks lining the pathway on one side and picturesque views of the ocean on the other, the promenade is one of Durban’s biggest tourist attractions.
The red and white lighthouse, wedged between The Oyster Box and The Beverly Hills Hotel, is an iconic landmark and a reminder that the warm ocean ahead is the reason Durban exists in the first place.
Megaships line the horizon as they patiently wait to enter Durban Harbour and even from such a distance, stand out against the blue waters that seem to soak up the skies.
The hotels that jut out towards the promenade are host to a plethora of restaurants to cater to differing tastes, and you can find everything from Italian cuisine to fish and chips as you walk through beneath the neatly tended, leafy canopies.
Our early morning walk took us from the lighthouse towards the end of the promenade.
The rocky outcrops along the shoreline make way for white sandy beaches where holidaymakers are even now making use of their work leave to enjoy the autumn warmth that Durban offers.
Just beyond the flags that demarcate a safe bathing area, the Small family have been hard at work digging a giant hole in the sand.
Parents Charl and Lauren are down from Joburg and believe that uMhlanga is the perfect environment to bring children to.
“It’s so kiddy-friendly. The beaches are nice and flat and it’s so beautiful here,” Lauren said.
Another major bonus for young families coming to uMhlanga’s beachfront is that everything is within walking distance.
“The great thing about uMhlanga is that you can park your car and you don’t have to get back in it until you leave. There are shops and restaurants all along the promenade and you can spend your entire day here.”
It’s these close amenities that make this place a hot spot for youngsters towards the end of the year. UMhlanga hosts Matric Rage, and about 7 000 matriculants make it their home base as the party kicks off.
It is not only the kids who can find the beach a relaxing environment. As winter approaches, the temperature lowers and the Easter tourism buzz settles, the quieter beaches also cater to an older audience.
Hannie and Joey van der Westhuisen are in Durban for the week. Their visit to uMhlanga is an annual affair and is one they will continue in the future.
“Its about the fifth time we’ve come down and we love everything about it,” said Joey.
“The people are all nice, it’s easy to go anywhere and the beach is lovely.”
One of the key drivers behind making uMhlanga a safer place is the Urban Improvement Precinct, which seeks to clean up the beach and make it a welcoming environment for tourists and locals alike.
The uMhlanga UIP project leader, Brian Wright, believes that its close partnership with the municipality has allowed residents and tourists to enjoy the open spaces.
“We play a catalytic role in making public space inviting. That’s the fundamental premise of what we do. It’s safe, clean and green, but at the end of the day, it’s just a great place to be in,” he said.
The UIP is involved with installing Christmas decorations during the holiday season, and special projects include special dispensers to aid dog walkers and fishermen on the beachfront.
“Its about reclaiming public open space, going back and feeling safe and feeling like it’s a place to bring your kids and family. But mostly, it is about instilling pride,” Wright said.
With dune rehabilitation one of the UIP’s key concerns and guided walks being offered in the uMhlanga Nature Reserve every day, it is clear that there is a drive to preserve the flora that thrive in uMhlanga.
Whether it’s a walk or a jog that you’re after, the ocean or nature that you’d like to admire, the sand or the promenade that you’d like beneath your feet, or the ocean that you’d like to wade into, uMhlanga’s beachfront has a lot to offer.
Give it a shot. Take a loved one and share in the beauty of our coastline. - Independent on Saturday