Durban isn’t called “Surf City” for nothing! In fact, it’s home to some of the most epic surf spots in the world. Thanks to warm waters and mild weather all year long, surfers are a common feature dotted along the coastline, particularly when the swells are too good to pass up. If you prefer to be underwater rather than riding the waves though, then you’re in luck too: there are a number of first-class diving options. We’ve compiled a list of both surf and dive spots for all those water babies out there…
We’ll start off by saying that pretty much where ever you head, be it up or down the coast, you’ll find a wave - the hardest decision is choosing where to Hang Ten!
Beginners (or “Barneys” as they’re called) tend to learn along the many beaches that make up the city’s famed Golden Mile. The long stretch of golden sand is separated by various piers, dividing it into pockets of beach and sea. South Beach is a popular choice for newbies (in front of uShaka Marine World) as the waves tend to be smaller and friendlier.
More experienced surfers will head to the Bay of Plenty, New Pier and North Beach. The conditions tend to be more challenging here and coupled with the fact that these areas are usually more packed, they’re definitely only recommended for those more confident on their boards. World-class surfers such as Shaun Tomson, Jordy Smith and Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker hail from these spots.
There’s also Ansteys and Cave Rock on the Bluff. Cave Rock is known to have the best and biggest waves but because of its reef bottom, it can also be very dangerous – rather leave this one to the experts.
Often referred to as the Dolphin Coast, the verdant north coast of KZN offers a combination of reefs and sandbars, and some amazing places to catch a wave. There are in fact many “secret spots” along this stretch, but those you’ll have to discover for yourself. Here are a few of the more commonly-known ones:
Famous for being a buzzing beach resort area, Umhlanga also happens to be an excellent place to surf too. Main Beach and Bronze Beach are where it’s at.
There are a few choices here:
- Sunrise Beach (northern end) – fast waves so be confident in your ability to weave.
- Surfers Beach (north of main lifeguard hut) – best at low tide in a southwest swell.
- Willards (northern end of Ballito Bay) – best for early surfs during the summer months. Home to the Ballito Pro QS event which sees more than 150 local and international surfers battle it out for points and prize money.
These beach and reef breaks are popular with the ‘568’ locals. You can surf in front of the cafes and enjoy a well-deserved brunch after.
Also worth mentioning:
- Thompson’s Bay
- Shaka’s Rock
Take a look at Portfolio’s selection of North Coast accommodation options here.
Whilst it may sometimes be called the “Hibiscus Coast”, there is one thing that cannot be denied: it’s point break paradise. Most spots are a mere 40-minute drive from Durban and if they were further, they’d still be worth it because the quality of the barrels (when a wave is hollow when breaking; sometimes called a “tube”) are second to none.
Good quality, sand-bottomed point – a real favourite.
South of Hibberdene with two distinct sections. When conditions are right and the two link up, long rides are on the cards.
3. St Mikes (St Michaels-on-Sea)
Combination of reef and sandbar - a popular spot so expect crowds.
4. Warner Beach (“Baggies”)
Always great waves there for the taking (evidenced by the steady stream of solid surfers found here on a regular basis).
A few others for the list:
Looking for that perfect South Coast accommodation? Take a look at Portfolio’s full range here.
We can’t not mention the Wild Coast…
The Wild Coast is known for many things: its incredible hiking trails, hundreds of species of birds, wild beaches and rugged coastline (complete with many a shipwreck), but we think it’s a great place to surf too.
- Coffee Bay
- Breezy (near The Haven)
You can have just as much fun exploring below in the depths of the ocean as you can have riding the waves above. Here’s where to get your dive on:
Located roughly 5km off the KwaZulu-Natal coast, you’ll find this rocky reef that is in fact the remains of a fossilised sandbank. Apart from the array of hard and soft corals, as well as a variety of both tropical and subtropical fish, there are also two shipwrecks nearby (Produce and Nebo) that make for even more fascinating dive expeditions.
It’s a popular recreational diving destination, particularly for its abundance of marine life. You’re likely to see everything from turtles to morays, Stone fish, Lion fish, skates, and of course, Grey nurse sharks (locally called Ragged-tooth sharks). These are particularly plentiful during mating season (between August and November), but don’t worry, they are rather docile creatures despite looking fierce. Summer brings the likelihood of seeing Tiger and Hammerhead sharks.
- Raggie’s Cave
- Shark Alley
Also: Catch the famous Sardine Run (May-June every year) that passes through here
Protea Banks (approximately 160km south of Durban at Shelley Beach)
This is the ideal place to encounter the ocean’s larger marine animals. Summer brings Zambezi sharks, Hammerheads in their hundreds, Guitar sharks, Blacktips and Coppers, while the winter months again see Ragged-tooth sharks congregating during mating season. Fish include a number of game fish like Yellowtail, Snapper, Barracuda and Tuna. Also keep your eyes peeled for Spotted eagle rays, Whale sharks and Humpback whales.
Sites: Southern and Northern Pinnacles.
Mabibi (approximately 5 hours north of Durban)
Mabibi forms part of the Maputoland Coastal Forest Reserve , a World Heritage Site and protected marine reserve. There are limited launch options here so the area is unspoiled, allowing for an exclusive diving experience.The marine life is wonderful with lots of tropical reef fish as well as pelagics. Between October and February it’s the migrating whales and Whale sharks that dominate, with November to January bringing Ragged-tooth sharks.
- Coachman’s Ledge
- Regal Reef
Good to know: Thonga Beach Lodge offers a straight surf launch from a protected bay and you’ll have the beach to yourself – a great start to what promises to be an epic dive.
Don’t forget: Between November and February you’re able to see the Leatherback turtles return to the beach to lay their eggs. Thonga offers nocturnal walks and drives along the beach that allow you to get close to the action and track the turtles’ movements – a truly special experience.
Sodwana Bay (approximately 4.5 hours north of Durban, 1.5 hours from Hluhluwe)
Sodwana offers premium diving all year round and since it’s one of the world’s most popular dive sites, it’s usually packed with divers and boats. There are a variety of reefs to explore which means that there’s something for everyone, from the newly qualified diver, to the thrill-seeking expert. They are all named after the distance from each to Jesser Point (Quarter Mile, Two Mile, Five Mile, Seven Mile And Nine Mile), with Two Mile being the most popular. Expect to see colourful coral, Honeycomb morays, territorial Triggerfish, Lion fish, schools of Fusiliers, yellow and blue striped Snappers and so much more. If you’re extra lucky you may even encounter some dolphins.
Must-try: Night dives are spectacular, with different fish and marine life emerging in the dark. They are rare so take the opportunity if you get it.
However you choose to experience them, the warm waters of Durban and its surrounds await…
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