Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Durban, South Africa
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The existence of what appeared to be the mouth of a large river attracted Vasco da Gama's attention 1497 ('Rio do Natal').
The Port of Durban has since become the world's ninth largest and it was the existence of an adequate anchorage on the Natal coast that was the impetus for Durban's early growth.
However, like many smaller estuaries the entrance was obstructed by a sandbar which meant that most of the early settlers were offloaded into rowing boats anchored offshore and then carried through the surf from the boats.
The original name for the mouth was 'Point Fynn' after one of the first traders but has subsequently been shortened simply to the 'Point'.
The low water depth was less than 2 metres (now 6m) and it was only by constant dredging that large ships were (and still are) able to enter the Bay. In early times, almost all the Bay was fringed with mangrove swamps, but unfortunately only a small patch remains.
There was also an island in the bay that has since been reclaimed and incorporated into the port. So much land has been reclaimed over the years that the are of the bay is less than half its original area.
The Bay covers more than 4000 acres, 15 kilometres of quayage, grain silos, an offshore oil terminal and is a never sleeping, always busy city in itself employing 6,000 people.
There are more than 5000 deep sea commercial calls each year and the port handles 32 million tons of cargo (including one million containers) - two thirds of all income earned by all South African ports.
A new car import/export terminal is planned. South Africa's very first railway connected the town of Durban to the Point in 1860.
There is a myriad of cranes, railways, container mountains, piles of metal, container cranes, fork lifts, warehouses, silos and other port related structures.
Through this port pass millions of tons of produce each year - fruit, coal, sugar, minerals, oil, agricultural goods and much else. To service this huge operation there are bunkering facilities, ship repair facilities, ship supply facilities and ship chandlers.
There is also the Southern hemisphere's largest dry dock. A minimum of four container trains ply between Durban and Johannesburg each day.
At the western end of the bay is the Maydon Wharf Sugar Terminal that comprises three huge silos that are capable of accommodating half a million tons of sugar. There are guided tours Mon - Thur at 09.00, 11.00 and 14.00 (Tel: 031 301 0331)