Hotels in Richards Bay, South Africa
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Commerce Meets Conservation on the Coast - It’s Richards Bay
Founded in the late 1800s at a time when the Anglo-Zulu colonial wars were still raging, and taking its name from the Sir Frederick William Richards, a British Rear Admiral and Commodore of the Cape, Richards Bay remained something of a backwater town until the 1960s. Today, the town is one of the more popular destinations on KwaZulu-Natal’s northern coast, welcoming visitors with its unique blend of commerce and conservation. The plentiful accommodation options in the town means that guests can choose to stay everywhere from a budget-friendly B&B to an upmarket hotel.
One of the big draws of Richards Bay is its beaches. For swimming and water sports such as diving and snorkelling, the most popular sandy spot is Alkantstrand Beach. This beach, South Africa’s northern-most Blue Flag beach and open all year round, offers amenities such as lifeguards (in daylight hours), a restaurant and picnic area. Surfers are more likely to be found at the nearby Newark Beach where the sometimes-treacherous conditions are not ideal for swimming but offer a thrill to those on a board. If you prefer to take life at a slower pace, the waters off Two Mile Beach are a good place to go fishing. Reports indicate that large game fish are scarce here but anglers can anticipate a plentiful supply of spotted grunters and natal stumpnose.
Wildlife and Reserves
You can’t visit South Africa without checking out some of the wilder inhabitants and the Richards Bay Game Reserve is a great place to start. In addition to some of the country’s most beautiful wetland scenery, the reserve offers the chance to hole up in the Thulazihleka viewing hide in the hope of catching a glimpse of around 300 species of birds. You may get lucky and be one of the few to spot the rare pink-backed pelican. Just inland of Richards Bay is the Enseleni Nature Reserve. While smaller, this reserve still manages to call a thriving bird life, along with zebra, wildebeest, giraffes and bush pigs, home. For hikers, there are two options on the reserve. The Nkonkoni Trail (three miles) and the Mvubu Trail (four miles) both offer a winding path through the swamp forest. Guided tours are readily available should you not fancy going it alone.
Widely known as the gateway to the land of the Zulu, Richards Bay and its surrounding areas are a great place to get a culture fix. Start your exploration in town by checking out the Durnford Lighthouse. This was originally built in 1916 and is named after Colonel Durnford, a colonial engineer in the late 1800s. Perhaps more exciting is the chance to head into Zululand. Stretching through the hinterland west of Richards Bay and beyond, this area offers you the chance to explore attractions such as the Dumazulu and Shakaland villages and the historic town of Vryheid. A trip to the Valley of the Kings at Melmoth, a safari through Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, home to Africa’s Big Five, and a visit to a local sangoma should also feature on your travel bucket list.
While many of the people staying at hotels in Richards Bay are straight-up tourists, this area also attracts a significant number of business travellers. Whether in town for business or pleasure, you may like to take advantage of the town’s unique industrial tourism concept. Tour groups are invited to spend the day at one of the town’s industrial plants and mines. A highlight for many visitors is perhaps the opportunity to explore the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, which is the world’s largest coal export facility. Another tour option takes place at Richards Bay Minerals, a mining company that produces almost two million tons of minerals each year, exporting around 95 percent of the total. The three different types of tours available include an environmental option.
Shopping and Dining
Much of the dining scene in Richards Bay is situated around Tuzi Gazi Marina. Situated within Richards Bay Small Craft Harbour - one of the largest harbours in South Africa - the marina’s dining options serve everything from burgers to seafood platters. If you stick around until nightfall, many of the restaurants crank up the tunes, which gives the whole area something of a party vibe. The marina also offers a decent selection of shops although a better choice can be found inland at the Boardwalk Mall, a large mall where 160 shops offer a mix of home decor, high fashion, and international brands. Along with shops and restaurants, visitors to the mall can also check out the kids’ club or catch a movie at the on-site cinema.