Durban is underrated? Not by me, anyway.

So I came across a tweet this morning via @sueannejoe. It liks to a CNN travel piece about the world’s 10 most underrated cities. It’s a really cool piece, and you should go check it out.

It was this tweet, and the link to the CNN piece, that got me thinking about Durban.
It was this tweet, and the link to the CNN piece, that got me thinking about Durban.

Durban is on that list of 10 cities, along with Glasgow (amazing city, even thought I can only imagine it’d be even more awesome going there as an adult, compared to when I was 13), Darwin in Australia (I knew a guy from there, we called him “Oz” because we’re all super imaginative), Bergen in Norway, San Juan in Peurto Pico and a few others. It’s a nice piece and you should check it out.

As a newly converted Durbanite, I’m stoked that Durban is on that list. The only thing that annoys me is the fact that Durban is still considered underrated. It really shouldn’t be. Durban is a great, kick-ass city.

Why, you ask. Let me tell you, I respond.

First, let’s the obvious out of the way. The weather is awesome. It’s about 22C every day, with not a cloud in the sky — and that’s in winter. In summer it’s even hotter, sweatier and more awesome. Then there’s the beach (which goes hand-in-hand with the weather). Durban is famed for it’s “Golden Mile” stretch of beachfront from Blue Lagoon at the mouth of the Umgeni River, to the harbour entrance at uShaka Marine World (it’s longer than a mile, but so be it). It is here that families get the most out of the beachfront, whether eating at one of the promenade restaurants, mucking about in the sand or in the sea, or just going for a stroll, run or cycle. The beachfront makes Durban great.

Durban's Golden Mile
Durban’s Golden Mile

Another one of the obvious things that makes Durban so great is the Moses Mabhida Stadium, and the People’s Park precinct. it cost about R3.6-billion rand for the precinct, which is, obviously, a kak load of money. But, man, was it money well spent. I was the first person to ever write about the new stadium in a story that appeared on the front page of The Mercury newspaper. It was my first ever page one story so maybe — read: definitely — I’m a little biased towards the stadium. But my personal feelings aside, it really is a great facility. Not just for watching sport (which it is), but also for how it has attracted people to the precinct either for the shops or for the SkyCar, or for the children’s play area between the stadium itself and the Sandile Thusi (formerly Argyle) Road bridge. It’s become a place for families. And that’s just awesome.

The Moses Mabhida Stadium, taken from People's Park.
The Moses Mabhida Stadium, taken from People’s Park.

What many people — including Durbanites — might not realise is just how rich the city is in terms of its history. Just head out into eNanda (or Inanda, however you’d like to spell it) and see what’s there. You’ve got the Phoenix Settlement that Mahatma Gandhi called home for so many years. You’ve got the actual hall where Nelson Mandela cast his first vote in 1994. You’ve got the grave of the ANC’s first ever president John Langalibalele Dube. By the way, Langalibalele means “the sun is shining in isiZulu”, which I just love. At the Tourism Indaba recently the eThekwini municipality decorated one fo Durban’s coolest landmarks, “The Cube” on Innes Road, with “Woza eNanda” (Visit Inanda) branding. As much as it was for Indaba deligates, I really think it’s something Durbanites should do. Go to eNanda. It’s really awesome.

Our street names reflect history, and a change in history. 109 street names have been changed in and around Durban over the past half-dozen years or so. Yeah, it was controversial and the process could no doubt have been handled better, but it forced us — well, it should have, anyway — to confront our often painful history.

Go to eNanda. It's awesome.
Go to eNanda. It’s awesome.

Durban’s vibrancy in terms of its arts and culture really excites me. And it’s the diversity that makes it so great. Many of the country’s top comedians hail from Durban, as to rock bands, maskandi, kwaito and house musicians and DJs. The Playhouse Theatre is beautiful and has produced some of the country’s finest stage and theatre performers. There’s the arts and crafts culture that is so vibrant, and the more mainsteam artworks, such as those done by Andries Botha. Have a drive around and notice the art deco style of much of Durban’s Berea suburb (just ignore Suncoast Casino, looks like the Lady Gaga version of art deco).

But for me, what truly makes Durban is the people. We are so diverse, from the British colonial influence to large Indian population, and the predominantly Zulu base. We’re a mishmash of just about everything. It affects the way we talk, it affects the food we eat, the music we make. It’s not the beach or the weather that makes Durban what it is. It’s the people.

So, thank you, CNN, for ranking us among the top underrated destinations in the world. But we’re not underrated. We’re kick-ass.

Field ranger and SAPS officers arrested for rhino poaching

Just got a media release from the Department of Environmental affairs and it shocked me to the core. Not because I didn’t expect it — I mean, I have long expected it to be happening — but because there was confirmation of it. The news is this: on Tuesday, a former SA National Parks field ranger and two SAPS officers were arrested for involvement in rhino poaching.

Keep in mind that SAN Parks are the people who are responsible for most of SA’s national parks, including the Kruger.

The joint statement (unedited) by The Hawks and the Department says:

“The arrest on Tuesday of the former SANParks field Sergeant and two police constables based at the Skukuza police station in the Kruger National Park was the results of a joint intelligence-driven operation between the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) and officials of the Kruger National Park. Park rangers and the Endangered Species team of the Hawks were on their routine duties when they came across a black rhinoceros carcass in the Kruger National Park on Tuesday morning.

“The team pulled a marked Skukuza police van over after receiving information. On searching the van, a person suspected of being a poacher, who was armed with a .375 hunting rifle and rounds of ammunition, was found. When the constables were asked about the man and the rifle, they could not give a satisfactory explanation and were arrested.

“During the operation the rifle, ammunition, a silencer and poaching equipment was seized.”

The SAPS officers will face charges of corruption, while the former field ranger will face charges relating to his possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition. According to the statement, they will appear in the Skukuza Magistrate’s Court “soon”.

rhino

The Department also revealed that a suspected poacher was killed during a gunfight involving rangers at Pretoriuskop, also in the Kruger Park, on Tuesday. Two other suspected poachers escaped in the early-morning darkness. Poaching equipment, a .458 hunting rifle and ammunition were recovered.

While it is undoubtedly good news that officials are acting and having some success, the latest poaching figures released in the report make for extremely sobering reading.

“Since January 1, 2014, the Kruger National Park has lost 272 animals to poachers and 52 individuals have been arrested. A total of 419 rhino have been poached in South Africa so far this year.”

Of those 419, 48 rhino have been killed in Limpopo, 41 in KwaZulu-Natal and 26 in North West. A total of 119 people have been arrested in connection with rhino poaching.