The affluent areas of Durban North and Umhlanga are about 15 minutes north of the city of Durban on the northern side of the Umgeni River Mouth. The majority of this stunning region of the world was originally a coastal dune forest system, and remnants of it may still be found in the mangrove swamps. The Umgeni Bird Park also attests to the large number of birds that were drawn to the region.
Recently, Umhlanga saw a boom. What was once Umhlanga Rocks village, with a scattering of cottages, hotels, and guest houses, is now a thriving suburb and the playground of young and old who come here for the immaculate beaches, hotels, and upscale shopping malls. Much of Durban’s big business has moved out to more modern business complexes.
One of 24 beaches in South Africa that have earned the Blue Flag, including seven in and near Durban, is Umhlanga’s major beach. Locals who walk their dogs or exercise along the seaside do so every day, even though recent big seas severely damaged part of the boardwalk that passes the Umhlanga Lighthouse, a local landmark.
The Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve offers numerous beautiful trails and boardwalks through the coastal forest, as well as a surviving Stone Age sea shell midden at the lagoon’s mouth. The unique Hawaan forest, as well as the nearby coastal wetlands, grasslands, and dune forest, is also a lovely place to visit and the setting for a ground-breaking environmental ruling that has restricted the right to build homes there.