Since we’ve been to South Africa I’ve had a lot of parents contacting me asking lots of questions about lodging, things to do, and just wanting general information about South Africa, which is awesome! I’ve wanted to share information with our adoption right from the get-go. I keep telling everyone that asks that I’ll make a guide to Durban for adoptive families so here it finally is!
Just a few disclaimers: I’m going to share a few of our favorite things and places, but to be honest, we didn’t do as much as some other families. I know some families do every touristy thing while they are out there (many of them twice over) but we knew that wouldn’t be for us. Our first priority was making sure we spent time alone as a family, bonding with Ephraim and figuring out life as a family of four.
I know a lot of people who have been out to Durban to adopt a child (or two!) over the last few years and if you are one of them and have some more/different information to add please do so in the comments, I’d love that to be a great resource for families as well.
STAY at Palmiet
Oh man, I could go on and on about how much we loved Palmiet River Lodge . . . first of all: MONKEYS! You convinced yet?? Haha 🙂
A few things we loved about Palmiet:
a) it’s beautiful
b) we had access to a full kitchen so we were able to make many of our meals
c) it was quite quiet and we were left alone to do our own thing (as introverts we really appreciated this, plus it was better for bonding with Ephraim)
d) it was only a 20 minute walk to the store to get groceries
e) monkeys! it was pretty cool to see them nearly every day
f) an outdoor shower
g) we didn’t have to do our laundry or dishes
Okay, so there are just a few things we loved 🙂 There really was so many, I may end up doing a full post on Palmiet yet, if I do I’ll add the link in here.
Our adoption agency has two places it recommends for lodging, we were able to stay at Palmiet for most of the time and we were able to stay at another one, Heaton, for a few days and while I don’t want to get into all the details here, we strongly preferred Palmiet (it was our personal preference and if you have questions about either place feel free to email me).
EAT at Chez Nous, Panarotti’s & Nando’s
We didn’t eat out a whole lot but we love the three restaurants mentioned above, and they all had a gluten free option for Jared – win!
Chez Nous is located at the Westville Junction, just a 20 minute walk from Palmiet. It’s a pretty fancy place with amazing food. Jared loved all of their steak (an amazing steak for only $12), I stuck to the margarita pizza, which was huge and only $5.50 and the kids loved pretty much every one of their kids meals. And the best part about Chez Nous: there is a kids playroom where they have a staff member watching the children, Raeca loved it.
Panarotti’s is a great Italian style restaurant with a GF pizza option.
At Nando’s we always had their chicken, slowly trying to work our way up on the heat scale (we didn’t make it very far).
DRIVE with Tezz at Bonana Tours & Transfers
The first few days we were in South Africa we rented a car (to travel to Newcastle) but the rest of the time we hired Tezz to drive us around and give us a few tours. Tezz is amazing, the things she pointed out while we were driving that we otherwise would have missed was something we weren’t expecting but really appreciated it. She was great at suggesting things we should do and see (or things we should just pass on) and when Jared’s eye got infected I asked her where he should go and she gave the number for her doctor, she really enriched our experience in South Africa. Oh and bonus: she lives right beside Palmiet 🙂
VISIT Tala Game Reserve
Hands down Tala was our favorite thing touristy thing we did. Tezz gave us a tour for the day and she knew exactly where to drive to find certain animals, we had such a great time, I blogged the visit here.
VISIT uShaka Marine World
uShaka was a great place to visit for the day, Raeca was mesmerized by the dolphin show. We went with the other Canadian families that were out and it was an excellent place to meet up.
VISIT South Beach
I actually don’t know if South Beach is actually it’s name, but there is North Beach so South Beach just makes sense. 🙂 Tezz explained to us that each of the beaches in Durban serve different purposes, North Beach has a lot more waves so it’s the main surfing beach and South Beach (which is right by uShaka) is much calmer and is the popular swimming beach. Everyday the lifeguards set up flags where the smallest waves are (moving them throughout the day as the waves change) and that’s the safe place to swim in.
It seems like shopping was one of our major past times while in South Africa. Here are a few places we’d recommend:
I Heart Market – usually occurring on the first Saturday of the month we loved the I Heart Market (which is held outside the Moses Mabhida Stadium). In December it was actually every Saturday so we got to go a few times 🙂 There were so many good vendors and we bought a few great things (unfortunately half of it was in the suitcase the airline lost).
The Pavillion – our favorite mall that we went to. The Pav has a store for everyone.
Westville Mall & Westville Junction – we loved that they were just a 20 minute walk from Palmiet to both Westville Mall and Westville Junction, we’d walk there a few times a week for groceries (actually, it was more like a hike there and a downhill roll back).
Okay! I think those were all our favorites while we were there! It’s hard to believe we’ve already been home for a month. If I end up thinking of something to add I’ll edit this post and add it in. If you’ve been to Durban to adopt I’d love to hear some of your favorites in the comments!
Edited on 3/17/15 to add some FAQ’s!
Did you need any immunizations?
No, we didn’t. I don’t believe there is any that are required for South Africa, though I’d check online before going to check out the most updated stats. That being said, the three of us were all up-to-date on our shots (and Raeca is ahead of her needles for her age) thanks to our previous travels, mainly our trip to Uganda a few years ago.
Did you bring an adapter?
Yes! We sure did, we used it for our computer and then bought a USB plug-in (from Clicks in Westville Mall) to plug our phones in. Also a thing to note: blow dryers and straighteners don’t work with the adapters so what I did was just purchase a small straightener (also from Clicks).
What about getting Rand?
We didn’t bring any along, about 95% of the places we went accepted credit cards (and made it easier since we weren’t always fishing for change) so for the most part we used that. Rand was easy to get from an ATM at any mall so we got some at the beginning of our stay and just hit up the ATM whenever we were running low.
Who did you book your tickets through?
We used Menno Travel, we went through them when we went to Uganda as well and they gave us a better price than the other travel agencies we contacted. One thing to note: they are American so take that into consideration when they give you prices because those will in US dollars.
Did you bring a stroller or carrier?
Yes 🙂 We brought both. We brought a carrier for Ephraim and an umbrella stroller (those cheap $20 ones) for Raeca. Obviously it depends on the age of your kid(s) but they worked really well for us. Ephraim was in the carrier pretty much every time we went out and the stroller was great for the mall and the airports for Raeca.
Is there anything you would say we need to bring along?
Honestly, for the most part everything can be purchased in South Africa and most of it is cheaper. There was nothing that was super important to remember that couldn’t be purchased in country (other than all those adoption papers, don’t forget those).
If you have any other questions let me know and if they get asked a few times I’ll be sure to add them here 🙂