A recent work trip took MANDY LATIMORE to Durban, which gave her an opportunity to explore the longest beachfront promenade in sub-Saharan Africa. She shares her experience
Since the lockdown, we have all been focused on COVID-19, and the rules and regulations that restrict our movements. I have been looking at various ways for persons with disabilities to still get out and about in a safe manner. I am happy to be able to write about the Durban promenade, which I was able to visit on a recent work trip!
Durban has the longest beachfront promenade in sub-Saharan Africa. It starts at the Blue Lagoon beachfront to the north, meanders for eight kilometres along the front of the Durban cityscape connecting the world-famous beaches and all the amenities to uShaka Marine World and the newest portion from there to the north pier at the mouth of the harbour.
Because of its spacious layout, it has become the place to be on an early morning for a jog, bike ride, or stretching class. Families take the opportunity to ride with their kids or to walk along, letting the younger one’s ride themselves.
There are numerous cafés and restaurants along the length, offering a variety of choices, from a quick coffee or soft serve ice cream, to full restaurant fare.
The many stunning piers that extend into the sea normally offer a person in a wheelchair, who may not want to swim, an opportunity to be above the waves and still experience their might as they crash on the shore under the pier. But sadly, these remain closed under the current lockdown restrictions.
But the rest of the promenade is the ideal place for a person using a mobility device to come and exercise – or just sit and watch the ocean. There are accessible parking bays at all the parking areas along the route. The one I parked at had the sign fixed upside down!
At both the main life guard stations – Durban Main Beach and Point beach – there are accessible toilets. The new section from uShaka to the North Pier is raised off above the beach level and in the main level.
There are various access ramps to the beach level, where a wooden decked walkway offers you access onto the sand at various points, accessible outdoor showers as well as accessible toilets and shower blocks.
The new amphitheatre has access from the top and there is a ramp system throughout the stepped seating, which is not good for persons with visual disabilities, but does allow access to the various areas of the seating.
The Durban Underwater Club and Ski Boat Club have moved their clubs into the space under the new promenade as their property was appropriated for this new structure. They have under cover parking for their members who have access to the beaches and wooden walkway from the clubs.
There are also ramps towards to the new housing development that is situated along man-made waterways, which have accessible ramped bridges.
uShaka Marine World has just re-opened and, at present, they are busy getting the Water Park ready for the public. This is always a favourite of mine to visit as I’m besotted by dolphins and love to see the marine life in the aquarium.
Along the route, there are many establishments that offer the hire of bicycles and also fun buggies that have multiple seats, with only one or two people who need to pedal. So, if you have family or friends who want an outing, arrange for them to meet you and they can pedal for you on one of these buggies. Some can accommodate four people!
I met Charlotte from Xpression, the bike and surf shop at the new section, and she was introducing some ladies to stand-up paddle boarding at the waterways behind the promenade. They use wide boards and I cheekily asked her if she would be prepared to teach me to “Sit Down Paddle”. She was extremely happy to assist.
Charlotte has had experience with many of the local Durban Wheelies who body surf, and so, was not intimidated by the thought of assisting a person with a disability to try out a sport designed for standing individuals!
So, if you are in the Durban area, and are feeling cooped up and tired of your home environs, take a trip to the promenade, and enjoy some fresh air and the sights and smells of the sea. Please remember to still wear your mask, social distance from anyone outside your family bubble, sanitise and stay safe!
If you are not in the Durban area, you can still enjoy the sights by watching great drone footage on YouTube. Just type in Durban Promenade! Happy travels!
Mandy Latimore is a consultant in the disability sector in the fields of travel and access. email: firstname.lastname@example.org