Once overshadowed by Johannesburg and Cape Town, Durban has finally caught the world’s attention.

Bottom line: this is a relaxed coastal city which offers amazing career and lifestyle prospects. While it’s no secret that some parts of Durban could be safer, this urban centre of east coast province KwaZuluNatal has the busiest port in Africa, and with that comes manufacturing and logistics opportunities galore. Combine this with a golden sandy mile, beautifully warm weather year-round (an average winter’s day is 20˚C) and its cheap rent, and you may just have found paradise.

Durban’s stretch of butterscotch beach, the buzzing harbour and pockets of grand colonial buildings attract thousands of visitors each month. Its half a million people, and three million in the eThekwini municipality which includes Durban, enjoy all of the comforts of a major city – shopping malls, funky bars and quality restaurants – without the crowds.

Lara Jordan, 31, grew up in Durban, and is an analyst for technology company Energy and Combustion Services. In her skilled field, people can earn around ZAR25,000 (£1797) per month. With monthly rent as low as ZAR4000 (£287) for a one-bed apartment with a sea view in the CBD, residents have the potential to enjoy plenty of disposable income.

“Hours are usually 8am to 4.30pm and there’s a lot to do after work if you like the outdoors,” Jordan explains. “An hour’s drive will take you to amazing getaway spots at the weekends.”Jordan enjoys the city’s laid-back holiday vibe. “There are low stress levels here,” she says. “It’s a perpetual summer and people are really happy.”

Lee Dixie, from Durban’s Dixie Recruitment, says there are great employment opportunities. “Major industries have developed around the Port of Durban, as well as sugar cane agriculture, import and export, plus there are forestry, petrochemical, automotive and manufacturing companies.

”Then there’s the quality of life that comes with that. “We know how to balance work and play,” Dixie says. “We have a diverse mix of cultures and communities that are intertwined, which makes it easier for foreigners to settle.”

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South African Clinton Howes, 29, a marketing manager for security company Intelli Time and Access, has lived in Durban for 24 years. He relishes the work-life balance. “It’s quite centralised, the CBD is surrounded by suburbs so commuting to and from work is a breeze,” Howes says. This leaves more time for the beach.

“We work considerably less hours than the rest of the country and locals are often called the ‘beach bums of the nation’,” he laughs. “The ocean is a major attraction in Durban, and that’s where most of our time is spent. We spend time with friends surfing, having barbecues and playing sports on the beach. There’s very little work that gets done after hours.” 

Shona Kelland fell in love with this aspect of the place after a six-month holiday when she was aged 20. After her visit from the UK, she simply never went back home. Kelland has spent the past 20 years living in Durban, where she founded and still runs the successful recruitment agency RMS Staffing Solutions.

“It was a good move for me as South Africa encourages entrepreneurship far more than the UK,” Kelland believes. “People here tend to be very positive about life and embrace opportunities. I think the weather also aids people in having a positive outlook on life.”

Kelland admits Durban and South Africa as a whole have their quirks, but she wouldn’t want it any other way. “South Africa has its problems and it doesn’t run like a well-oiled machine as in more first world countries, but the diversity adds to its character,” she says. “Come visit, you may be pleasantly surprised.”


– Kayak along the coastline at Vetch’s Beach, check out the The Ovington Court shipwreck and spot countless tropical fish. surfandadventures.co.za

– Go for a hike in the nearby Drakensberg mountains. This heritage area spans 200km and offers the chance to see incredible views from Thabana Ntlenyana – the highest point in South Africa. gotrekking.co.za

– Relax with a rare bird watching session. Exotic birds to tick off the list include wood warblers, southern tchagra and striped pipits. birdwatch.co.za

Image credit: Thinkstock

This is an updated article from the TNT archives.