A Beach Holiday in Umhlanga

A Beach Holiday in Umhlanga

“Have you been to Durban yet?” Despite having traveled extensively around South Africa, in a year and a half I had only spent one day in Durban for work. So, I finally booked a weekend away to explore South Africa’s third largest city and a place The New York Times named one of the 50 places to go in 2015. I had great plans for a weekend in Durbs except that when I arrived, I chucked aside all of my plans in favor of lazing around the beach. I was bone tired. Not only had work taken a toll, but I still hadn’t recovered from safari the weekend before – the early morning wake-up calls, late nights around the fire, and long days in the sun are remarkably tiring for those of us who need 8 hours of sleep. Plus, the lure of indulging in the tropical humid weather in Durban called out for sunning and swimming in the Indian Ocean instead of zipping between tourist sites.

I was staying at the Teremok Marine a converted private home in Umhlanga about 15 minutes outside of central Durban. The hotel is situated in a tropical garden populated by a troop of naughty vervet monkeys and a mere 5 minutes walk to the beach. It’s amazing how much I miss walking since walking in Joburg is generally considered unsafe. Teremok has eight uniquely decorated suites and the suite I was staying in, Milkwood, is one of the largest and has a nice terrace with views of the sea. Even though the mattress was a bit too hard for my taste, I have not slept so well in quite some time, perhaps owing to the sound of the distant waves breaking.

On Saturday, the biggest decision I faced was whether to lay on the beach or by the hotel pool. I elected to do both. The Umhlanga Rocks beach was relatively quiet with plenty of space for sunbathers and surfers alike. This being my first swim in the Indian Ocean (ever) I was amazed by how warm the water was – noting like swimming in the frigid Atlantic. There is also a nice boardwalk that runs the length of the beach which made for a pleasant, albeit sweaty, stroll.

For dinner I ventured into Durban to the 9th Avenue Bistro, a fabulous little restaurant with personalized service and excellent, unpretentious food. This is clearly a popular spot in Durban and every table was booked. I had butternut ravioli to start and a perfectly cooked duck breast on top of lentils for a main. Never one to pass up dessert, I had a passion fruit soufflé accompanied by tonka bean ice cream which I chose because I had to sample the tonka bean ice cream. Tonka beans are a vanilla like bean from Central American that are illegal in the U.S. due to the fact that they naturally possess a toxin that can cause hemorrhage, liver failure, among other ailments. Needless to say, it was delicious.

I spent Sunday morning at the small spa at Termok before venturing over to the iconic Oyster Box Hotel for their famed Sunday curry buffet. The food was amazing and it was pleasant to sit outside on the terrace sipping a nice Reisling and eating fiery curries. The Oyster Box Hotel is one of the South African grande dame hotels that harks back to a different era and while I thought the staff uniforms (which included Panama hats for the valets) were overly colonial and out of touch, the hotel is lovely.

While I failed to properly explore Durban or understand this underrated South African city, I did enjoy a restorative beach weekend.