Some of the most beautiful game reserves in South Africa are located in Kwazulu Natal, within a few hours drive of the airport. Coupled with the Drakensberg Mountain range and the tropical Indian Ocean coast, you have a pretty awesome list of sights to see and experience. When it comes to Durban however, people have mostly avoided the city as of no particular interest for the family. Think again.

USkaka Marine World opened its doors in 2004 as part of a programme to revitalise the Durban beach front. Behind the warm waters of south beach, packed with surfers and bathers you will find a 16ha site with a marine park, restaurants, shopping precinct and water amusement world. This is no small park; it is the 5th largest aquarium in the world. The marine park is designed around an artificial ship wreck. It is quite realistic and you really have to check yourself from time to time about whether it is a real wreck or not. You descend into the wreck in which are built the observation tanks which contain over 10,000 marine animals with everything from black tip and ragged tooth sharks to sea horses and moray eels.

Everyone has a favourite area and having been there many times with my children, we have two “must go” sites. The first is the snorkel lagoon where you can actually swim with your mask and snorkel in an artificial lagoon. In the far recesses of this lagoon, there are sharks. We have been assured however, that they are of a “harmless” variety and we live to tell our tale! It is actually a pretty fantastic feeling swimming with so many tropical fish species and is the perfect antidote for those parents whose children think an aquarium is boring.

Our second favourite area is a restaurant. Deep in the bowels of the ship is the Cargo Hold restaurant. The backdrop to the restaurant is a glass wall holding the shark tank. It is quite spectacular and worth coming just for this. With such a decor you would expect to have a more upmarket restaurant and you would be right with some of the best sea food in Durban.

There are of course the obligatory dolphin and and seal shows as well as penguin, shark and ray feeding at various times during the day. The water park is pretty good too with a variety of slides and pools integrated around the marine park. In essence, this is a really fun day out both for adults and for children of all ages so next time you are in Durban, don’t forget uShaka!

uShaka Marine World Durban by Nicolas Edwards

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