My love for Africa began with our first #tropafrica adventure 15 years ago, organized by my travel mate Malu Gamboa-Lindo. For our 10th wedding anniversary back then, my hubby Dennis and I joined an A2A Safaris trip that covered Botswana and South Africa.
Instantly bitten by the African bug, I have returned to the continent since then, discovering its amazing culture, beautiful wildlife and stunning safari camps. After my last A2A Safari trip to South Africa with running friend Leah Caringal, I knew I wanted an African theme for our #DandTLove25 anniversary celebration.
Two days after the incredibly joyous celebration, my media travel buddy Pepper Teehankee asked me if I wanted to go to Durban, South Africa, on the invitation of the South African Embassy. As if destiny had a hand in bringing me back to Africa, our visa and flights were arranged swiftly. I joined the Philippine team to discover #Durbanhasmore and #thisisDurban, on the first ever Durban Famtour!
Durban provided a glimpse into South Africa’s multicultural history, with its vibrant Zulu culture and Indian and colonial influences. The beach is important to locals, as water-sports enthusiasts and sunbathers lap up the sunshine. Just like our golden sunset scene on Manila Bay, the Durban sunset is breathtaking, especially from The Golden Mile shore.
We witnessed this amazing sunset after settling into the Elangeni Maharani Hotel, our first Durban hotel. Early the next day, we headed to the Thanda Private Game Reserve. Even if I have been to many game reserves, going on safari is always a new experience because the wildlife and terrain are never the same.
The vast landscape is probably how God created the world in the beginning. Plus, it’s a great backdrop for selfies! Our guide and tracker delivered four of the Big 5 animals, except for the leopard. The highlight was seeing a pride of a dozen lions walking alongside our vehicle.
Bringing all my African outfits to a safari camp is a logistics issue, but my beautiful Thanda villa had all the space I needed, plus a watering hole where I saw some zebra drinking, together with a lone giraffe. Sadly, we didn’t linger, as we had more of Durban to see.
Next up was a stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel, with its view of the iconic Umhlanga Pier as well as the lighthouse. The nearby Golden Mile offers several activities: Surf till you drop, take a walk, cycle along the promenade, or explore the surf museum. The risk of shark attacks is minimal, as the beach is protected by shark nets and watched over by lifeguards.
Among the Durban hotels, The Oyster Box Hotel was my favorite in terms of design and style. Every angle was perfectly designed with beautiful details and furniture. Check out the curry buffet, if you ever get the chance.
And what’s a travel trip without shopping? Little India is a bohemian dream. Durban is home to the largest Indian population outside India, and the huge, glorious Juma Musjid Mosque.
Victoria Street Market is the best place to shop not just for spices, but also African gifts, home decor and clothing. Bargaining is encouraged. Thank goodness for the other ladies in the group who allowed me to use their excess luggage allowance.
I also shopped at uShaka Marine World. Instead of swimming with sharks, Pepper and I went shopping instead. The rest of the media group were lowered in an enclosed cylinder to the large shark exhibit. Other activities included snorkeling and splashing around in the fun-fueled waterworld park.
The best way to discover the city of Durban is onboard the Rickshaw bus. The tour includes the famous Moses Mabhida Stadium, the Golden Mile to see Durban’s famous beaches, Victoria Street Market, Durban City Hall, and more.
The next day, we traveled to the Valley of a Thousand Hills, home of PheZulu Cultural and Safari Park. We were taken into traditional beehive-shaped, thatched huts, where the various artifacts, beliefs and rituals of the Zulu people were explained, giving visitors an insight into the fascinating Zulu culture. The 50-minute Zulu dance show was so impressive, the dancers showing off their grace, agility and humor. Of course, I gamely joined them in the end.
PheZulu Cultural Village and Reptile Park also has a crocodile and snake park. On a guided tour, you will learn interesting facts about crocodiles and snakes and have a hands-on experience with Cleo the Burmese python that weighs 42 kilos.
Durban July is the biggest social event on the Durban calendar. The Durban July Handicap is a South African thoroughbred horse race held annually on the first Sunday of July since 1897 at Greyville Racecourse in Durban, Kwazulu Natal. It’s billed as Africa’s greatest racing event, and we were so lucky to attend the 123rd Vodacom Durban July.
The racetrack runs over 200 m at Greyville. The annual betting frenzy was so exciting, and I was happy to win on one of the races. But the stars were not all on the racetracks.
Vodacom Durban July is a lifestyle fashion event where guests go all out to dress up, the Stars of Africa. Our matching outfits with Pepper even made it to the South Africa Sunday Times the next day! The A-Listers with Craig Jacobs posted our photo along with the other big celebrities at the #VDJ2019.
So, who were the winners in the end? I definitely came out champion in my books, winning all the wonderful experiences Durban has to offer. Thanks to Durban marketing officer Lungi Mhlongo and her team. I shall prepare a bigger costume for next year!