Sometimes the best treasures are right here on your doorstep – if you’re a Durbanite that is. If you’re planning to visit Durban, rest assured, there is a whole lot more to this city than just beautiful beaches. Here are five places we think are pretty amazing, and not so far off the beaten track.
1. Inanda Mountain
The best views in Durban. About a 30 minute drive from Durban central is Inanda Mountain, an epic spot with cliffs plummeting down to the shores of Inanda Dam. The views are simply staggering, arguably the best outlook anywhere in Durban. The top of Inanda Mountain is also an amazing bird watching site, especially in late morning when birds of prey catch the thermals off the cliff face and glide up right in front of you. This is the sort of place you can just sit and look and look and look.
How to get there: Head up the M25 (Curnick Ndlovu Highway) for about 12 km. At the big traffic circle in Inanda turn right. Take your first major tar road to the left after 600m, signposted uMzinyathi Falls. Follow this road for a few kilometres till you see a tar road to the left signposted “Hillcrest” after about 1km, turn right at the signpost for “Matata”. Head up this steep (tar) mountain pass for several kilometres. At the t-junction, turn right onto a dirt road and follow this for about 1km through the grassland to the cliff edge. Be careful…. the road literally ends at the edge of the cliff face.
2. Mzinyathi Falls
The magnificent Mzinyathi Falls are less than a 20 minute drive from Gateway. Yes, that’s right, so close yet hardly anyone even knows these falls exist. The Mzinyathi river plunges down a beautiful sandstone amphitheater, over 100m into the Mzinyathi gorge. Towering cliffs and thick forests make for an incredible day out. This is also a very popular rock climbing spot and after heavy rains, the falls are a truly impressive sight. Guided hiking trails down into the gorge can also be arranged through Durban Green Corridor.
Getting there: Head up the M25 (Curnick Ndlovu Highway) for about 12 km. At the big traffic circle in Inanda turn right. Take your first major tar road to the left after 600m, signposted Mzinyathi Falls. Proceed for almost 2km, cross the bridge over the small river turn left onto the Mr259 Rd. Not far down this tar road is a signposted turn to your left onto a dirt road to the falls (about 2km of reasonably bumpy dirt road but easily accessible with a sedan).
3. Durban’s own Rastafarian Caves
The Mzinyathi Gorge is also home to the “Rastafarian Caves” – these caves are home to a community of Rastafarians, many of which have normal jobs and commute back to the caves for worship on weekends. The caves can only be accessed using a tricky hidden path and have well constructed little stone rooms within the cave made using natural rock from the area. Visiting the caves is strictly by prior arrangement and with a guide but well worth making the effort to learn more about this fascinating culture and site. Contact Durban Green Corridor to arrange a guided experience to these caves.
Getting there: The Rastafarian Caves are located in the same area as Mzinyathi Falls
4. Mfula Store
Deep in the Valley of a 1000 Hills, about a 30 minute drive from Hillcrest, is the most beautiful little spot you’ll ever find, Mfula Store. This old trading store still operates and has great overnight accommodation facilities in a deep, lush forested valley. Just down the road from Mfula Store, where the Umgeni and Mqeku rivers meet, is one of the most scenic and tranquil picnic spots in KwaZulu-Natal. Managed and maintained by local community members, this site is great for a day out to relax and enjoy the river. The picnic site also has an amazing set of rock formations that form a natural water slide in the river. The store is also conveniently situated close to iSithumba Adventure Centre where you can hire mountain bikes or enjoy an extraordinary cultural experience in this quiet community.
Getting There: Head out of Hillcrest on Old Main road towards Botha’s Hill. Then turn right into the Valley Trust Rd/M56. Follow this for about 10km and turn left at the circle at the end of the road. Continue on this road (which becomes dirt) for 7km and cross the bridge, Mfula Store is directly ahead.
5. Beachwood Mangroves
Right at the Umgeni Mouth, near the Durban Green Corridor Green Hub, are the Beachwood Mangroves. This 76 hectare reserve, not 5 minutes from the city centre, is a national monument and consists of rare mangrove swamp forest and important estuarine habitat at the mouth of the Umgeni River.
There is a beautiful boardwalk into the mangrove forest from which one can view crabs and other mangrove critters going about their day and generally offers an amazing escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Guided walks and canoeing can be arranged through the Durban Green Corridor Green Hub.
Getting there: The Green Hub is conveniently located just off the M4 (R102). Coming from the M4 South-bound, please take the Blue Lagoon off-ramp. Then take a right and carry on under the M4-bridge and take the first right into Stiebel Place and you find the Green Hub in front of you. Coming from the M4 North-bound, please take the Blue Lagoon off-ramp, take a left and directly turn right into Stiebel Place and you find the Green Hub in front of you. Coming from the Moses Mabhida Stadium, carry on straight until you get to an Engen garage. Take a right at the garage into Athlone Drive and turn left into Stiebel place, just behind the garage. Follow the road until you see the Green Hub in front of you.