Durban, affectionately known locally as ‘Durbs’ (or ‘Durbz’, if you really mean it), is all about sizzling summer days on the beach and endless opportunities for new adventures…

It is vibey, fun and always buzzing, but, it is also pretty and has plenty of peaceful retreats from the hubbub of the city centre. Being the home of the King Shaka International Airport means that Durban is the regular base from which millions of international tourists have started their South African experience.

So, for visitors who are exploring the province of KwaZulu-Natal for the very first time, here are some suggested musts for your itinerary:

1. uShaka Marine World

This massive theme park is home to the:

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  • uShaka Sea World – the largest aquarium on the African continent, showcasing animals like sharks, rays, dolphins and seals.
  • uShaka Wet ‘n Wild – a water park that is incredible fun for the whole family and boasts the highest slide in the southern hemisphere.
  • uShaka Beach – a beautiful, free beach that is perfect for swimming, tanning, stand-up paddling, snorkelling and more.
  • uShaka Village Walk – an amazing shopping experience for those craving some retail therapy.
  • uShaka Kids’ World – a Mecca for little ones that includes the largest jungle gym in Africa, an enormous sandpit, a painting station, and plenty of entertainment.

2. Durban Botanical Gardens

Stop and smell the roses, herbs, indigenous grasses, and whatever else you can find in the treasure trove that is the botanical gardens.

This massive space is divided into little gems like the Garden of the Senses, Japanese Garden, Sunken Garden, Bromeliad Garden, Indigenous Forest and Living Beehive (amongst others).

Take your time in exploring the gardens and enjoying – really savouring – the natural serenity that comes from their beauty.

3. Zulu Village

Durban and KwaZulu-Natal are the heartlands for the Zulu culture.

Visiting a local Zulu village is an awesome opportunity to meet locals, watch song-and-dance performances, visit a traditional hut, learn about Zulu history, sample traditional Zulu food, and immerse yourself in the culture and customs.

PheZulu Safari Park is situated in Botha’s Hill, Durban, and is the ideal place to experience all of this, while staying close to the metropolis.

4. South Beach

Durban has amazing beaches, made even better by the warm Indian Ocean water.

South Beach is more than just that, though. It has waterways that are negotiated by gondolas, upmarket shops, a working harbour, many restaurants and the small-craft harbour.

The waves are fabulous for beginner surfers and it is near uShaka Marine World. This is a fabulous place to spend a summers day with the family.

5. Sharks Board

It may not sound all that exciting, but the Sharks Board has created an enthralling world around these fascinating marine animals.

Shark dissections and interactive displays, as well as boat trips out to see the staff members at work with these predators, are all on the cards.

6. Moses Mabhida Stadium

Built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, this stadium is not only geared for hosting awesome sports and entertainment events, but has also been designed for the ultimate in adrenalin sports. The sweeping arch over the top is used as a launching pad for a giant bungy swing, and the cable car takes visitors to dizzying heights for excellent photographs.

7. Mini Town

Locals and South African visitors have grown up visiting Mini Town, which portrays Durban and its main attractions in a 1:24 ratio.

See the harbour, railways, iconic buildings and historical sites from the top to put it all in perspective. The kids love feeling a little like Godzilla as they loom over the tiny town below.

8. Gateway Theatre of Shopping

This glitzy mall is home to more than 400 boutiques, chain stores, specialty stores, international labels, restaurants and entertainment centres.

There are movie houses, tenpin bowling alleys, go-carting courses, action bars and arcade games; making this a must for families wanting to spoil themselves.

Durban is one of those destinations that never stops giving. These eight must-sees are just the start of your KZN love affair.