Sunday, May 24, 2015

Durban : Beyond xenophobia, a city of delights

By Jimoh Babatunde

When the call came from TopCom if I will be willing to join them for this year’s Indaba Travel exhibition in South Africa, I asked to be given time to discus with my editor. Though , I was at home when the call came through, I told my wife that I might be travelling to Durban, South Africa. Before she uttered any word, my daughter who was sitting close by said ‘’Daddy, don’t you know what is happening there?’” . I asked what? Pretending not to know where she was heading for. She answered “ Xenophobia.”
I laughed and my wife just added, be careful. That was the same advice given by my Deputy Editor, Eze Anaba, “be careful.” So, I set out on the appointed date with other selected travel trade stakeholders for the trip to Durban , the city which evokes different images to different people.

After making the journey from the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos to Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, aboard South African Airways for almost six hours, I could not wait to fly to Durban to have a deserving rest . And that was what I had checking into the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani Hotel, Durban.
Dolphin show

The Marine beach front from the 29th Floor , Southern Sun, Maharani , Durban. Pictures by Jimoh babatunde

Situated on the spectacular Durban beach front, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani is undoubtedly the brightest star on the Golden Mile. From my room on the 29th floor of the hotel, I woke up the following morning to see the beautiful sun splashed on the city’s finest beach front of gorgeous stretches of golden sands, separated by artificial piers. Tourists and locals jogging while some were surfing.

I didn’t know I was going to get immerse in the beauty of the beach, until later in the day when the South Africa Tourism took the over 150 hosted journalists from around the world that converged in the city of Durban for the Indaba on a tour. We were split into a group of four in order to experience the beauty of the city of Durban in a truly South Africa way.

Each of the group experience a different face of the city and its surroundings with activities ranging from Shark cage, diving to a luxury yacht cruise, a cultural and heritage immersion as well as rickshaw ride on the foremost beach front. As my group of adventurers set out from the International Convention Centre (ICC), we had the fortune of having the CEO, South African Tourism, Thulani Nzima and Hollywood actor, Hakeem Kae-Kazim.
With Kazeem posing some riddles, one of the answers to the riddles showed that our first point of call will be the famous Moses Mabhida Stadium that hosted some of the matches of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Moses Mabhida Stadium tour

A mere 500 steps separate one from the city’s most spectacular view from the top of the stadium that dominates the skyline with its gorgeous arch and curves. There are two ways to get to the top of the 106m high arch. There’s the SkyCar ride for those who can’t wait to reach the top, and then there is the Adventure Walk for those who are up for a bit of a workout.

As we set out for the tour of the stadium, some chose the adventure of going up the famed stadium arch. As the leader of the group, Jessica, a journalist from Australia; Nontsikelelo, a South African based journalist and I decided to join the South African Tourism team led by Nzima on the leisurely 20-minute walk to the top.

As others were being strapped for the adventure, I had a change of mind, but that did not stop others as they set for the big swing platform where they took the brave leap into the stadium bowl. I didn’t have the guts, so also was Nontsikelelo, who decided to return after climbing the 500 steps to get to the top.

Under the watchful eye of qualified instructors, Nzima took the first jump into the blue sky of Durban that sunny afternoon, followed by Kazeem and then Jessica. As they jumped off , they made terrifying sounds.
The team moved to uShaka Marine along the beach front. uShaka Marine World in Durban developed out of a vision to create a world-class entertainment .

uShaka Marine World Incorporates fresh and sea water, natural materials, the re-creation of a wreck of a 1940’s cargo ship, with the 5th largest aquarium in the world by volume of water, coupled with indigenous African imagery, lush vegetation and maritime images of the Port of Durban, plus a water slides amusement park, uShaka is a complete ‘Marine World’.

At the uShaka Marine world
The park is tastefully themed with a focus on family entertainment in terms of fun, excitement, friendliness, imagery, activities, education and unique experiences, grouped into five distinct areas. Since I failed to summon enough courage to take a jump at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, I took the challenge to go shark hunting at the uShaka marine world.

The Shark cage experience presented a greater challenge as one immersed himself into a world of living sharks. It was difficult breathing under the water,but was encouraged by Indeewari, a fellow journalist from Sri Lanka, to go under water. Some sharks circle the cage whilst others glide slowly past. The Shark Dive is the easiest way to get close to these magnificent creatures.

Dolphin World

The beloved dolphins, including the world-famous Gambit, enthralled us with their grace and strength in their new and enormous 1200-seater stadium. We sat in the specially designed viewing windows that enabled tourists to see the animals both above and below the water.

South African Tourism Boss, Nzima, taking a jump from the arch at Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban

After exploring the beauty of the marine world, the team joined the other journalists at the KwaMuhle Museum where everybody was treated to entertainment of traditional songs and dances.
On approaching KwaMuhle Museum one is immediately struck by the elegance of the arch lined veranda and large sturdy copper covered entrance doors As I returned to my hotel room, I was thinking of the best way to capture my experience back home that Durban is indeed not about xenophobia. but a delight-some destination. -

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