Next time you’re in Durban, after you’ve eaten a great curry, and explored the city centre, and bought enough Zulu curios to last you and all your friends a few lifetimes, be sure to leave one morning free for this Durban must-do.
When you’re in Durban, you have to go for an early morning swim in the sea. This might seem like a no-brainer, what with the sea being so deliciously warm and inviting, but there is something very rare and special about swimming in the Indian Ocean as the day is beginning that can’t be compared to the (similarly special) late-afternoon / early morning swim.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the sun rises over the sea in Durban, so early morning lights the sea on fire with fresh sunlight. Or because the hot weather most of the year forces people out of bed ridiculously early, so there are always lots of people out and about on the beachfront. But most likely it’s just that there is something so life-affirming about waking up and dragging your still-sleepy body to the ocean, then going for a swim in water that is just refreshing enough to wake you up, but not so cold that it makes you shiver. The positive effects of sea water have been talked about a lot (apparently a spa in Ireland pumps in sea water for their very expensive mineral beauty treatments!) but as far as I’m concerned it’s simply that splashing in and out of water while watching the sun rise over an endless horizon is good for the soul.
The requisite walk along the beachfront afterwards is also good for the soul – as long as you like people watching (and who doesn’t?) You’ll see an array of Durban locals here, from bleached-blonde surfer boys to old Indian ladies in saris and walking shoes, shuffles of retired folks in tracksuits, young businesspeople squeezing in a quick swim or surf before work, and of course legions of the streetkids that call the beachfront their home.
There’s something so Durban about all of it – so deliciously retro and relaxed and salty. Durban isn’t trying to be anything fancy, it’s happy as it is. Once you’ve walked as much of the beachfront as you like, there’ll be time for one more quick dip in the ocean if you’re on holiday or the day is particularly warm. And then you can go home to shower and prepare for the day and ease into real life. The day will be a special one, though, that much is for sure. And you might just get hooked on this must-do…
Image: Luis Argerich