My son is an avid fan of Paw Patrol, where Rider and his team of pups live in Adventure Bay, which has a beach … and now my son keeps asking me, “Daddy, when are we going to beach?”
And what better beach can there be than Durban? So we packed our luggage into the VW caddy and hit the road. We didn’t plan on rushing the trip and it being the first family trip down to the coast, we wanted the journey to be just as memorable as the vacation.
We travelled 594km using the N3 freeway from Johannesburg to Umhlanga and one thing that never ceases to amaze me is the beauty that South Africa possesses. Along the N3, the Drakensberg World Heritage Site is visible for a large portion of the trip, not forgetting the breathtaking views of Van Reenen’s Pass.
I made three stops along the way to stretch my legs and give my family the opportunity to use the restrooms. With both my children under the age of eight, we needed to find alternative ways to keep them busy because they were not, like grown-ups, impressed with the views. And fortunately enough, we came up with other forms of entertainment for them.
The trip to Garden Court Umhlanga, where we stayed, took us just over six hours. We checked into the hotel with ease where we had interleading rooms which are perfect for a family of four.
An interleading room is basically two rooms that have a small passageway between them, but once the door on the passage is closed you can open each room door to create one big private space. The best part of it all was that we didn’t have to share the TV with the kids.
Once we were settled in, my wife and I explored the hotel and took the children to splash around in the heated pool. The pool is enclosed by the hotel structure so although it’s not an indoor pool it’s somewhat protected from the elements.
There is also a bar, restaurant, gym and a conference level on the premises which makes the entire stay more worthwhile.
In the evening, we drove down to the Whalebone Pier to enjoy a sunset view of the Umhlanga Lighthouse and more importantly, to show the little ones what the ocean and a beach look like; they had a wonderful time splashing around in the waves.
And after we had fooled around on the beach, the children wanted to have some burgers for supper. We stopped at Burger King before going back to our hotel room to prepare for a busy second day.
We woke up bright and early to enjoy a buffet breakfast which is included in your stay at Garden Court Umhlanga, before we made our way further down the South Coast to Durban Central, where uShaka Marine World is located.
We tried to get there as early as we could to have more time for all the activities but little did we know that uShaka was running a special offer for that weekend and that the venue would be packed. But we weren’t going to let that stop our fun.
Our first stop was the Snorkel Lagoon where we got the oppor tunity to share the waters with sharks and a range of stunning salt-water fish, although none of the fish were dangerous it is always startling when a 1m shark swims under your feet.
After we finished our snorkel session, we made our way to the aquarium to learn more about the sea life in Durban. This was particularly educational and fun to see all the sea creatures up close and personal.
What would a trip to uShaka be without checking out the dolphin show, which is exactly what we did next. These mammals are extremely intelligent and we had a wonderful time watching them do their routine. This was followed by a visit to the Kids World which has a range of splash pools and activities for toddlers and younger ones.
By the time we had completed our itinerary at uShaka, the children were starving so we went to get their favourite meal, pizza. And once we were done eating, we looked for parking along the South Beach, nearby Addington Hospital so we could enjoy another sunset at the ocean, but this time we actually swam in the ocean instead of just splashing around.
My son had the most fun playing in the water as the tide rose and waves got stronger before the rain started falling. This left us all sandy, wet and tired so we went back to the hotel to shower and look at the rain drops. We just ordered a small supper from the restaurant and enjoyed the comfort of our interleading suite.
Sunday was a big day for me because we had to make our way back down the South Coast to the Moses Mabhida Stadium where I was booked to jump off the world’s tallest swing with the Big Rush Big Swing.
First I was fitted with a body harness before our group got a lesson from an instructor on the dos and don’ts before we were accompanied to the base of the big arch where we climbed 394 steps to get to the platform ladder which leads to the jumping platform. For some reason, the walk up the arch seemed scarier than the actual jump but once you get to the top there is no better viewing point of Durban than this.
Fortunately enough for me, the first one up the steps is the last one to jump so I got to enjoy the view for longer, which also meant that I got to see others’ reactions before it was my turn to climb down the ladder, onto the jumping platform.
It was time for me to take the 80m freefall, which in comparison to a roller-coaster barely got my blood rushing, but according to my family who were watching from inside the stadium, I was very vocal. I called them screams of joy and excitement.
Once you are done swinging, the team pulls you back up to the platform and you have to climb back down the stairs before you are certified for getting into the swing of things.
Shortly after my jump, we met up with an old school friend who lives in Durban. She accompanied us to the Workshop Shopping Centre where we were sent to buy a large range of Indian spices by my mother-in-law, and we capped off our visit to Durban by eating a traditional bunny chow; what would a trip to Durban be without some curry?