Durban and St Lucia for 4 days: South Africa

Visiting Durban and St Lucia for 4 days wasn’t our Plan A or Plan B. After spending 7 days in Kruger, 2 weeks in Namibia, our Plan A was to cross onto Botswana and spend the 6 days there before flying to Seychelles. Since we didn’t get Botswana Visa in time, we had 6 days’ buffer as I had already booked flights. Our Plan B was to do a road trip in Lesotho and spend a day or two in Durban. I knew it was easy to get the Lesotho Visa online, but what I didn’t know was that it cost Rs. 10,000 per person almost similar to the cost of the USA visa. This seemed too costly for just spending a few days in Lesotho. So finally this was our Plan C, spend a day in Johannesburg, then visit Durban and St Lucia for 4 days.

Panoramic View of iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Travel Dates – 24th June to 28th June

Day 1 – Fly from Johannesburg to Durban and drive to St Lucia

Fly to Durban and Rent a Car

From our hotel, Holiday Inn Johannesburg Airport, we took the 6:30 am shuttle to the airport and flew at 8 am to Durban. We landed at 9:15 am, went to Bidvest and picked up our car. Make sure to book online beforehand, as it offers the best rate with unlimited kilometres. If you don’t pre-book, mostly all car rental companies will charge on a kilometres basis.

Drive to St Lucia (245 Km, 3 hrs)

Surprisingly, this was a spectacular drive. Roads were in perfect conditions surrounded by greenery and trees. Maybe we appreciated this more as we came from Namibia, where we drove on endless gravel roads. We didn’t find any restaurants or stops along the way. Half-way through, we took a wrong turn only to find a rest stop. It had all the essentials – fuel pump, supermarket and restaurants. We grabbed burgers from Wimpy. This is one of the rare chains that serve good Veg burgers. Thankfully, this wrong turn was a blessing in disguise and kept us going for the rest of the day.

Drive from Durban to St Lucia

Beautiful Drive to St Lucia

Beautiful drive to St Lucia

Surrounded by greenery!

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

ISimangaliso Wetland Park is a World Heritage Site. We had a couple of hours in the park before it closed at sunset (5 pm). We did a self-drive trip into the park and visited Eastern shores. First, we drove all the way to Cape Vidal, which is famous for snorkelling during low tides. En route, we stopped at the beautiful Mission Rocks beach.  Eventually, we reached Cape Vidal. It was just an ordinary beach, nothing really special about it. We wanted to try snorkelling, but it was very windy.

After Cape Vidal, we spent the rest of the time driving around the park spotting various animals. We saw monkeys, waterbuck, hippos, buffaloes and zebras. It was a beautiful park worth visiting if you are there. Then we stopped at Catalina Bay, which is a good lookout point and saw an amazing sunset.

If you have more time, you can also drive the Western Shores famous point being Charters Creek.

Beautiful iSimangaliso Wetland Park

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Mission Rocks Beach at iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Mission Rocks Beach

Cape Vidal at iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Cape Vidal

Waterbuck at iSimangaliso

Waterbuck

Hippos at iSimangaliso

Hippos

Buffaloes at iSimangaliso

Buffaloes

Catalina Bay Lookout at iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Catalina Bay Lookout

After leaving the park at 5 pm, we drove to our hotel and checked in as there was a deadline of 6 pm. We rested for a while and headed out again for the night safari.

Night Safari

We booked a night safari from Heritage Tours. They picked us up at 7 pm and also picked a couple from another hotel. For the next 3 hours, our guide drove us around the western shores of the park. We searched for animals using a torch. It was difficult to see animals and mostly we could only see eyes. We spotted waterbuck, zebras, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu and also saw a glimpse of a hyena.

Having done a night safari in Kruger, it wasn’t anything special. If it would have been our first time, we would have enjoyed it more. Moreover, it was freezing and after an hour it became repetitive and we wished to get back. Since we had others in the group, we couldn’t tell the guide to shorten the trip. Next day, we bumped into the same couple and they felt the same.

Waterbuck at iSimangaliso Night Safari

Spotted a Waterbuck during the Night Safari

Zebras at iSimangaliso

Zebras

Giraffe at iSimangaliso

Giraffes

Accommodation and Dinner

We stayed at Serene-estate Boutique Guesthouse. On arrival, the owner greeted us and said will show us the room first and then you can settle in and carry your own luggage. No help was offered for the luggage and expected us to carry it for 2 flights of stairs. We were tired and not prepared for it as we got porters in all of our hotels in Africa. Thankfully, she later offered us the downstairs rooms.

Room was massive, well decorated and even had a huge bathroom. But the toilet was a tad bit high, which made it very uncomfortable to use. This was the first time I faced this problem in any hotel. Apart from that, it was nice and even had a pool view.

There was no dinner service here and the owner scared us and said not to drive during the night as there will be hippos crossing the road. So we had to manage on theplas carried from India. But when we went for the night safari, only a few meters from our guesthouse, there were tons of restaurant buzzing. We really wished she hadn’t scared us so much. 

Then for breakfast, we really felt her rudeness. Only Mom and Dad went to have breakfast. When they asked anything specific, she would respond rudely. Mom asked for more croissants and she said it is over. Only 2 pieces of croissants when we are 4 of us?

We were the only ones there and on request, she allowed to check out an hour later. But she behaved as if she had given us something great. In all, it felt owners only cared about their convenience. As long as you follow their timings and rules, they will be friendly. If you need something, you can see their unhappiness on their face.

Room at Serene-estate Boutique Guesthouse

Our Room

Pool at Serene-estate Boutique Guesthouse

Pool

Serene-estate Boutique Guesthouse

No help with the luggage!

Day 2 – Morning in St Lucia and then drive to Durban

St Lucia Boat Tour from Siyabonga Jetty

  • It is a 2-hour boat tour departing every 2 hours. Initially, I booked for 9:15 am tour but later changed to 11:15 am as we had a late last night.
  • There are a couple of companies, but we did with Shoreline Boat Safaris and were happy with the choice.
  • Our guide gave a lot of information and kept us entertained.
  • First, we stopped to see crocodiles and then spent most of the time watching hippos. The highlight of the tour was when hippos came out of water one after another.
  • For us, this boat tour was the highlight of St Lucia.

St Lucia Estuary

Beautiful St Lucia Estuary

Eagle in St Lucia Estuary

Eagle

Crocodiles seen from the boat in St Lucia

Crocodiles

Massive Hippos in St Lucia South Africa

Loved Hippos

A bloat of hippos in St Lucia

A bloat of hippos

Baby Hippo in St Lucia Estuary

Baby Hippo

A rare bird in St Lucia Estuary

Our guide said this a rare bird very difficult to spot

Hippos fighting in St Lucia

Hippos fighting

Lunch at Barraca

After the boat tour, I had plans to visit the western shore of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Since we didn’t have dinner last night and also Kapil and I didn’t have breakfast, I was starving by now. All plans went for a toss and I needed fuel to make my body move.

We had a delicious lunch at Barraca. We ordered pizza, pasta, garlic bread and brussels sprouts. Every single dish was tasty and we really needed this.

Mojito at Barraca

Mom enjoying her favourite drink – Virgin Mojito

Lunch at Barraca in St Lucia

Lunch at Barraca

After lunch we didn’t have much daylight left and didn’t want a repeat of the nighttime drive back from Kruger, so we just drove back to Durban.

Hluhluwe Game Reserve (We didn’t have time)

  • If you spending 2 nights in St Lucia, you can visit this park.
  • Hluhluwe Game Reserve is 54 km away from St Lucia if you use the Nyalazi Gate. You may spot Big 5 sightings. But if you are visiting Kruger, it is skippable.
  • Can do self-drive but guided safari will be better.
  • If going here, check out Big craft market on the N2, north of Hluhluwe town.

Accommodation and Dinner

We stayed at Hilton Durban. I chose this hotel because I had some Hilton points from our previous stays. Hence, half of the stay was free. Kapil was missing a building hotel (as he called it) with fast Wi-Fi and room service after spending 2 weeks in Namibia. So he loved this hotel. Rooms had all the creature comfort with an amazing view of the city. The bathroom had a separate shower and bathtub, though shower cubicle was a tad bit small.

We are in Durban, so we have to order Indian food. We ordered on a delivery app and enjoyed every bite of it. I like to sample local cuisine and try to find Veg dishes in it. But after a few days, you need Indian food and the feeling of having Indian food abroad is different. 

Room at Hilon Durban

Our Room at Hilton Durban

Bathroom at Hilton Durban

Bathroom

Night Views from Hilton Durban

Night Views from our room

Indian Food in Durban

Mouthwatering Indian Food

Day 3 – Durban

We had plans to take it easy and get up late. Somehow, Mom woke before sunrise and saw an amazing sunrise from our room.

View from Hilton Durban

Sunrise View from our room 🙂

uShaka Marine Park

Today we spent the day in uShaka Marine Park, the most famous attraction of Durban. They have 2 areas – aquarium with various animal shows and a water-park. We didn’t visit the water park but could have comfortably managed both in a day.

Shows

There are 2 mains shows – Seal show and Dolphin Show. Make sure to make a plan depending on the timing of the shows. We saw both of them and it was a fun experience. We have seen seal and dolphin shows many times on our previous trips, so it wasn’t anything new for us.

Then we saw a penguin presentation, wherein they feed them and talk about their lifestyle. It was nicely done, but again we have seen many times before.

uShaka Seal World in Durban

uShaka Sea World

Seal Show at uShaka Marine Park

Seal Show

Seals performing acrobats at uShaka Marine Park

Seals performing acrobats

Dolphins at uShaka Marine Park

Dolphin Show

Dolphin Show at Ushaka Marine Park

Dolphins

Dolphins jumping at Ushaka Marine

Nicely done Dolphin Show

Penguins at uShaka Marine Park

Penguins

Penguin presentation at uShaka Marine Park

Feeding the penguins

Encounters

They have a couple of different encounters like meet a dolphin (overpriced), snorkelling in the lagoon, ocean walker, shark dive and feeding the rays and fishes. It is best to pre-book them. I wanted to do snorkelling and ray feeding, but I gave it a miss. I really wished I would have partaken in some of their animal encounters.

Turtles at uShaka Marine Park

Can snorkel with them!

Rays at uShaka Marine Park

Rays

Aquarium

It is the 5th largest aquarium in the world and one of the reasons to visit the uShaka Marine Park. We spent a good 2 hours in the aquarium and saw different types of fishes, turtles, rays and even saw shark feeding.

Aquarium at uShaka Marine Park

Aquarium in the wreck of a ship

Skeleton of Southern Right Whale at uShaka

Skeleton of Southern Right Whale

Fishes at uShaka

Fishes

Massive Fish ar uShaka

Posing for my camera!

Spotted garden-eel at Usaka

Spotted garden-eel

Colourful Aquarium at uShaka Marine Park

Amazing colourful aquarium

Starfish at uShaka

Starfish

Sharks at uShaka Marine Park

Sharks

At 3 pm, we were done watching all the shows and seeing the aquarium and left the park.

Dangerous Creatures

  • This is just outside the park.
  • Since we had time, we visited it.
  • It has a separate entrance fee.
  • It is a small room housing various types of snakes and iguanas.

Snakes at uShaka

Snakes

Iguana at uShaka

Iguana

There is also a beach where you can spend the evening. We spent some time shopping and checking out different shops at the Village Walk there. After that, went to the hotel and spent a relaxing evening doing nothing.

Beach at uShaka Marine Park

Beach

Accommodation and Dinner

We stayed at Hilton Durban. Again ordered Indian from a delivery app.

City View from Hilton Durban

City view from our room

Day 4 – Durban

Shark Cage Diving or Snorkel with Sharks (1 hour from Durban)

  • If you haven’t experience diving or snorkelling with sharks, you can do here.
  • I would recommend snorkelling with sharks as they are harmless here. Shark Cage Diving is best at Gansbaai (2 hours from Cape Town) where you can actually see Great White sharks.
  • I wanted to snorkel with sharks as we have done Shark Cage diving near Cape Town. But it meant getting up very early which we were not keen and wanted to take things easy today. Also, I emailed a couple of companies and they didn’t get back, so I assumed the weather might be bad.
  • After the tour, if you have a car, you can visit the South Coast and the Valley of 1000 hills.

Breakfast at CaneCutters

One thing you must do when in Durban is to eat Bunny Chow. I searched for popular places for Bunny Chow and eventually settled on CraneCutters. We tried 2 different types of Bunny Chow, one with mix veg and the other with broad bean. Both dishes were finger-licking good. We also tried their delicious chilli bites which were a twist on pakodas. The server was friendly and chatty.

CaneCutters in Durban

CaneCutters

Bunny Chow in Durban

Bunny Chow

Fritters in Durban

Chilli Bites

Moses Mabhida Stadium

This was one sightseeing spot I wanted to visit in Durban. First, we did a one hour guided tour of the stadium. It is like behind the scene tour where you can see the players changing room and bathroom, experience what is like to sit in the VIP box and even step on to the pitch. We are a sports fan, so enjoyed the tour.

After that, we rode their skycar to the top of the stadium where we saw a panoramic view of the city. But you can’t see the stadium from the viewpoint, for that you have to do the stadium tour. If adventurous, you can walk 500 steps to the platform and do the Big Rush Big Swing which has been officially named the world’s tallest swing by the Guinness Book of Records.

Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban

4holidaymaniacs in Durban

Changing Room at Moses Mabhida Stadium

Player’s Changing Room

Jacuzzi for players at Moses Mabhida Stadium

Jacuzzi for Players

Skycar at the rim of the Moses Mabhida Stadium

SkyCar

View from the Moses Mabhida Stadium

View of the city from the top of the stadium

At the top of Moses Mabhida Stadium

Enjoying at the top

Umgeni River Bird Park

Since dad loves these kinds of places, we took an Uber from the stadium to the Bird Park. It is spread over 3.5 hectors and houses over 800 birds from 200 species.

Free Flight Bird Show

  • If visiting Bird Park, time your visit so you don’t miss the show.
  • They give a presentation about different birds and feed them. You can get up close to various birds and birds even fly above your head.
  • At the end of the show, you can pet a bird.
  • It will be a super fun thing to do with kids.

Free Flight Bird Show in Durban

Presentation at a Free Flight Bird Show

Bird feeding on snake in Umgeni River Bird Park

Bird feeding on a snake

Birds at free flight show in Durban

Free Flight Bird Show

Petting a bird at Umgeni River Bird Park

Me being a kid in the bird park 🙂

Walk in the Bird Park and feeding the Lorikeets

After the show, we walked the rest of the park checking out various exhibits. At the entrance gate, you can buy food to feed swans and lorikeets. Feeding swan was not that interesting as you just throw food from above and if they are hungry, they will come to eat it. The highlight definitely was the feeding the lorikeets. We went into an aviary where they fly down and land on you to feed on the nectar. I had birds all over me and enjoyed every minute of it. It was unmanned, so there was no rush, you could stay as long as you wish. I had bought 2 small cups of nectar which lasted for a long time.

Birds at Umgeni River Bird Park in Durban

Birds at Umgeni River Bird Park

Durban and St Lucia for 4 days: South Africa

Beautiful Scarlet Ibis

Flamingos at Umgeni River Bird Park

A bird park is incomplete without Flamingos!

Macaws at Umgeni River Bird Park

Macaws

Feeding the Lorikeets at Umgeni River Bird Park

Having super fun Feeding the Lorikeets

Lorikeets Feeding at Umgeni River Bird Park

Lorikeets attacking me 🙂

We spent a couple of hours in the park and enjoyed the afternoon. 

Umhlanga Rocks

Since we had time, we took an Uber to Umhlanga Rocks. It is famous for Whalebone Pier, which is a good vantage point. We saw stunning views of the Indian Ocean and it was amazing with waves rushing in and out below. We could also see the lighthouse in the distance. Further, it has a 5 km promenade and a beach where locals go for an evening jog or walk.

After enjoying the vibe of the place, we took an Uber to the Indian restaurant.

Whalebone Pier at Umhlanga Rocks

Whalebone Pier

Umhlanga Rocks in Durban

Umhlanga Rocks

Views from Umhlanga Rocks

Loved the vibe!

Accommodation and Dinner

Hotel – Hilton Durban

For dinner, in the morning I googled “dosa in Durban”. Came across The Little India Restaurant and went there for dinner. Surprisingly, it was empty. We ordered dosa, idli, pakodas and Indo-Chinese food. All these dishes are rare to find in a foreign country. Since we were in Durban and craving for dosa, we went here. Every single dish was yummy and kept us going for a week in Seychelles.

Indian food in Durban

Indian food

Day 5 – Fly to Seychelles and stay at Mahe

Today, we took a taxi to the airport and flew at 9:30 am to Seychelles via Johannesburg. Check out all things Seychelles here.

That’s it on our Durban leg of the trip. We had fun 4 days in Durban.

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