Richards Bay Accommodation & Tour Venues the ends of the earth...

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Holiday Destination

Hands up those who have been in Richards Bay... So, you haven’t been there, and you haven’t considered making Richards Bay your next holiday destination? Then you’re like me. But give it a second thought, which is exactly what I did, and in the process came upon a pleasant surprise.

While the whole of Gauteng flocks to beaches around Durban for weekend getaways, I decided to go a little further north this time. Why would I want to run into my neighbours while I’m trying to get away from it all? Which is exactly what Richards Bay offers – no crowded beaches, no irritated holiday-goers, and no queues at restaurants. With a charm of its own, Richards Bay sweeps you into a lazy whirl of people, beaches, pristine nature, and a port with a unique lure.

So who was Richards, who stumbled upon this Bay? Well, Sir Frederick William Richards was a British naval commander, who landed on the Zulu coast in 1879. What started as a small fishing village has evolved into a modern city, and on of South Africa’s primary ports. The port, now boasting the largest export coal terminal in the world, was opened in 1976. Sir Richards would have been proud.
Richards Bay is home to a number of important and sustainable industries, including Ticor South Africa and Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT).

Ticor South Africa is a three billion rand investment in the mining, refining and smelting of mineral sands to produce titanium slag. Ticor now exports Titanium Slag, Low Manganese Pig Iron, Zircon and Rutile, and has positioned itself successfully as one of the leaders in corporate social investment in the areas surrounding their operations in KwaZulu Natal.

Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT), with a throughput capacity of more than 70 million tons per annum, is the world’s largest single export coal terminal. Together with its coal industry shareholders the terminal makes a massive contribution to the country’s export earnings. RBCT was the kick start to the development of the harbour at Richards Bay and opened its doors in 1976. Today approximately 700 ships per annum are loaded – that’s almost two a day. Coal is transported 600 km by rail from Mpumalanga to Richards Bay, making the export coal industry Spoornet’s largest customer. Terminal management is aware of the impact RBCT’s operations could make on the delicate marine area in which it is situated, and therefore the company is justly proud of its ISO 14001 international environmental accreditation.

What would have made Sir Richards even more proud, are the people. Managers of restaurants, fishermen, nature conservationists, the man on the corner of the street playing his 1950’s guitar, the factory workers and the street vendors – all of them contribute to that which make Richards Bay unique, and colourful, and friendly. Whether one or two of Sir Richards’ descendants still roam the streets, I do not know, but his successors in Richards Bay certainly make their city proud.

Previously seen as more of an industrial port city, Richards Bay has transformed itself into a full-fledged South African tourist destination. Being a tourist in Richards Bay therefore goes well beyond lying on the white sandy beaches or sipping cocktails at the Tuzi Gazi Waterfront, and you may find it well worth your time to visit the Richards Bay Minerals, which offer fascinating tours of their plants and operations. After the informative day-trip, perfectly tailored for the curious tourist, you can head down to the Waterfront for that well-deserved sundowner.

If the idea of a Mineral tour doesn’t appeal to you, then you can opt for one of the many other activities that this city has on offer. Nature is around every corner, making Richards Bay a must-see for anyone who yearns for the outdoors. Renowned for its diverse birdlife, Richards Bay has the most magnificent wetland scenery where these feathered friends have made themselves a happy home. The city also offers the visitor entrance to Zululand, thus featuring the start of the very popular Zululand Birding Route. Birds of all kinds (over 300 species, just so you know) flock to this area, making Richards Bay a kaleidoscope of flying colours.
Another colourful addition to the Richards Bay package is the animal species that can be found around the natural lakes and marshes in the immediate vicinity. Leopards, hippos, crocodiles and monkeys are said to still roam the area, so don’t be surprised to see a hippo floating on the surface of Lake Mzingazi as you play a game of golf at the 18-hole championship golf course, which is situated on the banks of the lake.
A definite highlight is spotting some humpback dolphins cruising along the Indian Ocean as you soak up the sun from a spot at Alkantstrand beach. Whales also visit these shores every now and again, but the dolphins never disappoint.

If you like the outdoors, surfing, hiking, fishing and sunbathing are but a few of the events on the Richards Bay list. Because of an almost year round summer (at least for us from Gauteng) and the warm Indian Ocean, the climate is always conducive to outdoorsy entertainment. Any day is a good day to get rid of your city clothes, get into your hiking boots and head out to the closest nature trail for a close up of birds, animals and sea-fresh air.

After a day of excitement, there is nothing like relaxing at home, which is exactly what Richards Bay’s accommodation facilities offer – a home away from home. The town is full of comfy B&B’s, like the Duck Inn, as well as hospitable guesthouses like the Blue Marlin. The accommodation is as inviting as the names suggest.

The next time someone asks about Richards Bay, I will have a lot to say. It’s not merely another name on the South African map, it’s a place that deserves attention to unravel its intriguing character. Go and visit the wonderful legacy of Sir Frederick William Richards – you will be pleasantly surprised!

Article from June 2005 INDWE - Siyaya Publishing

Written by Jana du Plessis