close

3 Days In… the KZN North Coast

Ballito and its surrounds are booming, with mushrooming housing estates, mega infrastructure injections and flocks of new families seeking refuge from cities. But for now, the North Coast retains much of its sleepy, seaside charm

ABOVE AND BELOW

AM There’s no better way to experience the northern KZN coastline than cruising in an open-cockpit microlight. The region is frequently dubbed “the Dolphin Coast”, and for good reason: your chances of seeing pods of dolphins, whales and whale sharks, turtles, big game fish and even the odd shark are really good from up high. There are a few reputable microlight businesses to choose from, including Ballito Microlights and Come Fly. microlights.co.za; comefly.co.za

PM Book a snorkel safari with Tidal Tao in Salt Rock (a 10-minute drive from Ballito) for a fascinating guided exploration of KZN marine life, all within the confines of safe and sheltered tidal pools. The night-time snorkelling and walking tours offer a truly special peek at the ocean’s nocturnal creatures, lit up by torches and UV lights to best view the luminous corals and zoanthids. Species of octopus, moray eels, crab, fish and sea slugs are all described in detail by Tidal Tao’s qualified environmental educators. It’s a perfectly safe excursion for the whole family, but advanced snorkelers are catered for as well. Tours are weather- and tide-dependent. tidaltao.com

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

AM Take your time browsing The Market, situated centrally in the Ballito Lifestyle Centre. It’s a trendy, communal hub of artisanal food and drink, open seven days a week, with frequent live entertainment. Grab a decadent breakfast pastry at Yoli’s, roast your own coffee beans while you sip an espresso from Science of Coffee and stock up on fresh organic produce from Home Grown Fresh Whole Foods. Don’t leave without sampling a prawn-and-pistachio square at Cumin & Coriander, the black lemonade at The Juice Kitchen, and biltong from local butchery Taylor’s. ballitolifestylecentre.co.za

PM What would a trip to KZN be without a delicious curry? For no-frills, authentic North Indian cuisine, head to Sawagat in the old Ballito “village”. Get there early for a pre-dinner sunset walk along the well-maintained and secure beachfront promenade, which begins just across the road. Then try the heavenly chicken korma with its rich and creamy marriage of cashew and coconut. If you prefer a more opulent ambience (and are happy to pay for it), book a table at Osa at the exclusive Fairmont Zimbali resort, where rich draped fabrics and candlelit lanterns make for intimate dining. You’ll want to return, if only for the warm, buttery naan bread. sawagat.co.za; zimbali.com

 

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

AM The Litchi Orchard in Salt
Rock is a working litchi farm and also home to locally owned artisanal decor and gift shops as well as restaurants. Enjoy a breakfast at Kelly’s Eatery, surrounded by strutting peacocks and inquisitive roosters, or an early lunch at The Shed (it’s never too early for craft gin on tap!), while the kids play in a quaint and refreshingly neutral space under the shade of the 100-year-old litchi trees. Catch the Maker’s Market on 9 February, and look out for Orchard Nights events. litchiorchard.co.za

PM East coast afternoons are the perfect time of day to explore some of the lesser-known beaches such as Christmas Bay, Sheffield Beach and Shaka’s Rock (so-named for King Shaka supposedly testing his warriors’ bravery by making them leap from the rock into the turbulent ocean below). Many of the North Coast’s beaches hold Blue Flag status, but can get unbearably packed  in summer. Afternoons are the perfect time of the day to explore some of the lesser-known beaches. You’ll feel just like a local as you stroll through hidden coves and pristine rock pools cooled by late afternoon shadows. (But shhh… don’t tell anyone else!)

SAA and its domestic codeshare partners fly into Durban daily. Visit flysaa.com

 

 

Melanie Rheeder

INSTAGRAM FEED