The South Coast, not what you would expect…
There is a lot about South Africa that is distinctly un-African in character. I once read a rather caustic quip that the South African national transport infrastructure was, by world standards, impressive, and by African standards miraculous. I think this this is definitely true, certainly in regards to the road network, but in many other respects too. KwaZulu Natal lies along the eastern seaboard of South Africa. Prior to independence it was known simply as Natal, named by 15th century Portuguese mariner Vasco da Gama after the Christmas season during which it was observed as a sea route to India was sought. There are few natural harbors here, so the Portuguese did not attempt to settle, but passed on northwards towards what would later be Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya. It was the British who made landfall, settling the territory during the early 1800s, later declaring the region for the Crown as the Colony of Natal. After independence it was incorporated with the old Bantustan of Zululand, becoming what we know today as KwaZulu/Natal.
South African retirement capital
The climate of the coastal littoral is very similar to the Florida panhandle. Enervating heat and humidity characterize the summer – between October and February – with pleasantly mild and dry conditions during the winter – between May and September. Also like Florida it is richly verdant and filled with an almost impossible diversity of life. Birdlife is probably the most obvious manifestation of this diversity, but suburban flowers gardens also reveal an astonishing explosion of color life and vivacity. It is ordered, clean, well maintained and well managed.
And just like Florida, the climate of KNZ is sympathetic to the aches and pains of oldies, and so it has in recent years emerged as the retirement capital of South Africa. Excellent retirement communities are to be found all along the coast.
Fun and food under the sun
The KNZ beach cultures varies somewhat according to where and when. During the summer school holidays the Vaalies, or those from the Guateng conurbation of Johannesburg and Pretoria flock down to the South Coast for the beaches, the golf courses, the fishing and the nightlife. It is a hectic color splash of South African middle class life, flooding the malls, saturating the beaches and inundating the restaurants, nightclubs and bars. The quintessential KNZ beach town is Margate, named after a British seaside holiday favorites, but sharing that similarity only in name. It is a loud and garish destination for loud and garish people. Beauty contests, oiled and roasting bodies, surf shops, beach side bars and franchise restaurants. Look out also for Amanzimtoti, Ramsgate, Sea Park, Port Edward and many other destinations stretched along the coast south of Durban.
A great golfing destination
At the other end of the spectrum is San Lameer, a 170 hectare golf and beach resort occupying almost a kilometer of some of the finest blue flag beaches on the coast, with an 18 hole course and 620 privately owned luxury villas.
The KNZ South Coast is hardly an international tourist destination
It beggars belief in many ways that anyone would come here seeking Africa, because apart from the most superficial accommodation to the fact, Africa does not live here. As a consequence the South Coast tends to cater more to domestic tourism than international, but despite this there is much to see. This is South Africa, a strange amalgam of standardized, generic western-type society with a hint of raw Africa on the fringes. This is not the case everywhere in this incredible country, but in places like this it ceratinly is.
Fish on the River, best fish and chips in South Africa
What there is to see on the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal is fantastic beaches, a great restaurant culture – look out for the famous Durban curry – superb offshore fishing, tons of beautiful people, quite a few not-so-beautiful people, but in general a hot and sweaty destination for the fun living working people of South Africa. Worth a visit if you happen to be in South Africa for the wildlife, but if you are looking for authentic African coastal society, look elsewhere.