Durban, surfing, sand, sun, all synonymous with your quintessential South African family holiday destination. We like it here.
I live here, know it well and like most Durbanites, love my city. We walk around with a bit of a swagger because we live right by the beach, we don’t have winters … the lifestyle is unbeatable. And yet, as most Durbanites, I have recently discovered that I’ve not explored much of my own city. When I eventually did, I was dumbfounded: There is a whole lot more, a whole lot of pretty and a whole lot of exploring that the average tourist and resident of Durban have no idea is just a 15 minute drive away. Bizarre actually.
The uMngeni Valley is one of the new tourism products being unlocked by the Durban Green Corridor. The Durban Green Corridor is a joint project between the City of Ethekwini and the Dusi-uMngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) who luckily, by default, introduced me to the rugged mountains and valleys around Inanda Dam and further up the uMngeni River.
It is difficult to know where to start, but picture towering forested cliffs, deep gorges with caves that are home to entire communities of Rastafarians, giant granite boulders riddled with myths and legends about the Tokoloshe. Imagine mountaintops where you can literally see the entire expanse of Durban, clear mountain streams, waterfalls, charming live art and jazz centres, incredible birdlife, deep rural Zulu culture….all packed in within a 15 minute drive off Durban’s main highway, the N2. It is there and strangely unutilized by tourists. Perhaps this is half the beauty of the place, a sense of wilderness. So close to a city.
The Durban Green Corridor as a project is working to unlock the tourism potential of the uMngeni Valley as well as ensure better conservation of this important watercourse. The project incorporates training of communities along the river in various tourism activities, alien vegetation clearing, community gardens and a whole range of other events to generate interest and harness the tourism potential in the valley. This is responsible tourism, a Good Holiday in its purest form.
From some of the most epic mountain bike trails (professionally designed, guided and maintained) to a network of hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails (some rural and some urban, some even incorporating Mahatma Ghandi’s homestead in Inanda). There are leisurely canoe trips along the shores of Inanda Dam or you can enjoy the vibe of local jazz musicians on a Sunday Afternoon as Wushini Arts Centre. Or why not just admire the grandeur of Mzinyathi Falls?
You see where I am going with this…you’ve been to Durban how many times? You’ve never heard of these places or explored them properly have you? It’s difficult to describe beauty, especially such surprising beauty. It’s a wonder the uMngeni valley isn’t overrun with tourists from all over the world. Best you get there before it is.
Words and pictures: Duncan Pritchard