Durban’s largest theatre complex is the Natal Playhouse which houses seven performance venues which present a year-round variety of entertainment ranging from plays, revues, ballet, puppet theatre, experimental theatre, musicals, operas and orchestra. The venues are: The Sanlam Loft, The Drama, The Opera, The Studio, The Grand Foyer and the Cellar Supper Theatre. The largest of these is The Opera which is home to annual festive season pantomimes and musicals.
There are two theatres on the Natal University campus - the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre which seats 384 and was named after Professor Elizabeth Sneddon, the University’s most celebrated and active drama professor. The second theatre on campus is the Pieter Scholtz Open Air Theatre which is situated at the bottom of Jubilee Lane. This open air theatre can seat 500 and is named after Pieter Scholtz a prolific writer of children’s plays.
Durban’s Botanic Gardens is coming into its own as a performance venue for open air theatre and hosts the Natal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Music in the Park programme. Chris de Burgh had 2 sell out performances here. With Durban’s balmy climate, the Gardens are ideal for patrons to bring a blanket and a picnic and enjoy being entertained in the beautifully maintained grounds of the Gardens.
In Umhlanga Rocks, north of Durban, is the Limelight Theatre, a vibrant new theatre and entertainment complex offering a Supper Theatre, Piano Bar and Stagedoor Bar. It’s a place to have a drink, listen to some music, laugh at some comedy or enjoy a hearty meal and supper theatre. The brainchild of theatre personalities Themi Venturas, Vanessa Skaer and businessmen Russell Chamber and Paul Kirkpatrick, the Limelight Theatre focuses on providing a variety of entertainment at affordable prices.
Other performance venues include The Courtyard Theatre at Technikon Natal’s Berea campus which hosts student as well as commercial productions, the BAT Centre which includes a 350 seater hall, Funky’s music entertainment bar, and the Blue Chip verandah. The Supper Stage in Umhlanga Rocks Drive generally offers caberet/revues along with a tasty meal.
Scottish comedian Billy Connolly had plenty to say about the Village Green as a venue referring to the tent-size and boggling at the size of camping gear one might need. It is the largest undercover performance venue in Durban and has seen a multitude of international acts including Sting, Randy Crawford, Jethro Tull, Bryan Adams and the London Philharmonic to name a few. It accommodates 38 000 people seated and double that standing.
An important component of Durban theatre is the role of the smaller theatre companies and the very active theatre-in-education networks who specialise in youth and educational programmes. The activity and energy of these unsubsidised, hard working repertory companies contribute widely to the variety and standard of theatre in and around Durban. Some of the groups stage top quality professional theatre - notably Garth Anderson’s Actor’s Co-Operative, Nik Rujevic’s Bogart Productions, Patrick Kenny’s Upstage Productions and Andrew Donald’s Handzon Theatre Company (HOT). The Stable Theatre in Alice Street - a disused city council electricity station - is a theatre workshop venue and houses many of these smaller community-based performing arts groups.
The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre is situated at the University of Natal and among many other productions, is also the venue for the annual Durban Film Festival. Student productions and children's theatre takes place at the Open Air Theatre and occasional productions are held in the Howard College Theatre.
Various professional and student productions take place at the Asoka Theatre at the University of Durban-Westville.
Durban is richly endowed with tropical flora which attract a large variety of birds.
The Amanzimtoti Bird Sanctuary is open daily from 6.00am to 6.00pm and entrance is free. A tea garden overlooks a lake where a variety of waterbirds may not only be viewed, but will happily take food out of your hand!
The Umgeni River Bird Park has a spectacular collection of over 3000 exotic and indigenous birds. The sheer 30 metre high cliff-faces form a magnificent backdrop to the four hectare site. The largest of the four waterfalls, which plummet off the cliff, is 20 metres high and cascades into a pool next to a large thatched rondavel where home-made teas and light lunches are served. Beautiful palms, cycads and other tropical plants, as well as numerous ponds for waterfowl and flamingos , give the park an air of tranquillity and relaxation. Hundreds of exotic birds have been imported from the Far East, South America and Europe to provide a visual delight for nature-lovers.
The mighty Drakensberg mountain range with peaks reaching upwards of 3000 metres forms the north western border of KwaZulu-Natal. The magnificent outline of cliffs and peaks of this 1600 kilometre range inspired the Zulus to describe the escarpment as "The Barrier of Spears". To Voortrekker pioneers they became known as the "Dragon Mountains" inspiring myths of fire-breathing monsters high up in the impenetrable crags, creating a mystique now so much part of the Drakensberg legend.
Whether bedecked in the hues of summer, or peacefully adorned under winter's snowy blanket this rugged landscape is the perfect setting for the restoration of body and soul amidst nature's superb grandeur.
A variety of wildlife can be seen in this area including antelope, predators, small mammals and reptiles. The whole area is a bird sanctuary inhabited by an abundance of diverse birdlife, including sugar birds, kingfishers, storks and eagles - and the endangered lammergeyer. Plantlife varies widely with altitude - proteas flourish on the slopes while cycads, ferns and yellowwoods are found in the sheltered gorges.
The highest concentration of hiking trails and walks in South Africa can be found here. Many of these trails lead to sites which were once inhabited by the Bushmen (the San people) hundreds of years ago. They have left a legacy of the richest rock art that can be seen. These sensitive depictions of daily life and religious beliefs bear testimony to the harmony that these long-departed tribes enjoyed with nature.
The trails wind along mountain slopes, past crystal clear pools, up rope ladders and crevices to overnight resting places in huts and caves.
Accommodation ranges from sophisticated top-class hotels and traditional "inns" to economical self-catering establishments and caravan parks.
There is an almost limitless choice of activities - for both the energetic and the more sedate.
The precipices and pinnacles are a challenge for the hardy, but one need not be a mountaineer to delight in the awe-inspiring views from a summit or a ridge or to enjoy a stroll through a fern forest. Horseriding enthusiasts may appreciate the beauty of the countryside from the saddle and then cool off with a refreshing swim in a clear stream. Excellent sporting and other outdoor facilities are available at most of the mountain resorts including golf, tennis, bowling, fishing for carp, bass or trout, sailing, powerboating or water-skiing.
A scenic drive up Oliviershoek Pass to the car park beneath the Sentinel or to the top of Mike's Pass in the Cathedral area are both highly recommended. Also worth visiting are the area's numerous historical battlefields, and monuments where one may absorb some local history. A visit to the impressive Drakensberg Pumped Water System is very worthwhile.
Spring drifts into summer during November and autumn gives way to winter in May. The summers are warm to hot during the day with regular thunderstorms in the late afternnon. The nights are cool. In the winter the days are mild and the evenings are cool. The odd cold front sends temperatures plummeting and occasionally brings snowfalls to the mountain region.
Natal Parks Board
The Natal Parks Board is a statutory body entrusted with the conservation and protection of the indigenous plant and animal life in over 60 protected areas in Natal. A wide range of accommodation and facilities catering for the needs of visitors are provided to enable people to enjoy these protected areas.
Whether you wish to climb a mountain, dive a coral reef or simply immerse yourself in an ambience of the wild, the Natal Parks Board has a park for you. As a visitor to these parks you will make an important contribution to their conservation as revenue earned from tourism is used for conservation management.
Parks & Gardens
Durban has more than 50 reserves, developed parks and specialised gardens. They are maintained by the City's Parks Department which has 4 500 hectares of parkland and undeveloped open space under its control. The most renowned garden in the city is the Botanic Gardens, a rich 20 ha botancial and park haven at the foot of the Berea, and minutes from the city centre.
The foundation of the Durban Parks Department's success is its horticultural and supporting staff. The skills shown in the production of indoor and outdoor floral displays have, over many years become an outstanding feature of the city's image. From major indoor exhibitions to carpet bedding displays and bright park flower bedding schemes.
Parks with varying ornamental and floral diplays and special recreation features can be found throughout the city suburbs.