Durban seeing 250k visitors a day, New Year's Eve revellers cautioned to be safe

2019-12-30 04:45 - Selene Brophy
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drone shot of durban promenade

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Durban's warm and inviting beaches are especially popular at this time of year - with the Mayor of Durban, Mxolisi Kaunda confirming the city is expecting over a million visitors over the peak festive season - between 1st December 2019 to 16 January 2020.

SEE: Micro-itineraries: Durban in a few hours, and on a budget

The city is averaging daily visitors numbers of 250 000 a day across the various attractions. These projections are the "same as last year with the direct spend set to be higher than last year based on inflation of R 2.7 billion, with a contribution of R 4.7 billion towards the City’s GDP", according to a Durban Tourism statement issued on Sunday, 29 December.

The city is sporting a new Beach Promenade development, adding to the spike in beach-goers that includes Durban tourism’s umbrellas for people to enjoy the beach and increased activations - with about 5 000 people enjoying the Durban beachfront per day. The Black Coffee event at the new promenade’s amphitheatre on the 22nd December  also saw more than 5 000 visitors attending.

PICS: 'This is going to change the face of Durban' - R200 million cruise terminal construction starts 

Adding to the spike in visitors has been the docking of three cruise ships over the Festive Season period, says Durban Tourism. New ship, Aida Mara visited Durban Harbour on the 27th December for the first time, with some 950 passengers stopping in and adding on tours to Phezulu, Hluluwe and Shakaland. 

This ship will be coming back again in two weeks’ time.

WATCH | A bird's eye view of Durban's new promenade - the longest in Africa

Popular restaurants full for New Year's Eve

Hotel occupancy is currently at an average of 75% throughout Durban with their key restaurants such as Jeera in Suncoast, Lingela and Panorama Bar and Pool deck in Elangeni already fully booked throughout the December period and full to capacity on New Year's Eve. 

In Umhlanga - Elements Café and Sugar Club at Beverly Hills and the Grill Room and Palm Court at the Oyster Box are also full to capacity and fully booked on New Year's Eve. 

Ushaka Marine World is about 75% full and will close at 6pm on New Year’s Eve and 5pm on New Year’s Day. 

The Umhlanga Beach festival was full to capacity with new activities such as Mr Umhlanga being reintroduced this year and the charity drive was a major success. 

READ: The perfect pitstop: Spend a night in this Midlands village before taking on the Drakensberg

Chartwell preparing for a packed street party

Chartwell Drive, Umhlanga is expecting to be filled to capacity as this street party is one of the most famous and successful in in Durban.  

In the South, Durban Tourism has arranged ongoing beach activations, up until the 5th January 2020 from Pipeline Beach to Winkelspruit.  On the 30th, visitors will enjoy the festivities at Amanzimtoti beach with East Coast Radio such as segways, rickshaw pullers and other beach activities. 

Phillip Sithole, Deputy City Manager, Economic Development and Planning says, “Durban is ready for millions of visitors who are already here and will still be coming from all corners of the world. We are rolling out the red carpet for everyone who will be coming here in the festive season. It is the red carpet that is full of love and quality hospitality."

It's at this time of year when beach safety is especially important - so keep the following beach safety tips in mind. 

This is the safest spot on every beach + more tips on how to stay safe on SA beaches 

From the remote to the super crowded, South Africans love beaching. Whether it’s the jam-packed slice of sand stretching along Clifton’s shores, to the more remote warmers waters of beaches like Uvongo Beach, safety should always be top of mind.  

ALSO SEE: From Bikini to uShaka: See SA's 45 Blue Flag beaches for the festive season

Beware of criminals

While ‘holiday-mode’ is a great space to be in, it’s advisable to remain cognisant of the potential dangers that lurk, even while you are on holiday. Many people often have a distorted perception of their safety while on holiday. Because they’re escaping the metropolitan madness where they’re constantly on guard, they think they are safer. With this distorted perception, they are less vigilant about personal safety while away. But, the fact of the matter remains, that in a country with one of the highest crime rates in the world, the risk of becoming a victim of a crime is not lower simply because you’ve made your way out of the city. The unfortunate state of affairs is that you have to be alert and adhere to basic safety principles regardless of where in South Africa, and even the world, you might find yourself these holidays.

READ: 10 SA beaches that will make you feel like you're living on an island  

“We tend to forget that criminals don’t take holidays. In fact, it’s your holiday they’ll be taking advantage of. While it would be wonderful to leave all those ‘big city’ concerns behind, crime in South Africa is a reality, wherever you are, and constant vigilance is required,” says Maanda Tshifularo, Head of Dialdirect Insurance.• Keep your kids close – with the increased awareness around kidnapping and human trafficking, vigilance is more important than ever. 

• Know your waze – before you venture out, plan your route and avoid getting lost in potentially dangerous areas. 

• Car jamming is a reality – you see this on signs at many shopping centres in big cities but it can happen anywhere so always double check that your car is actually locked before walking away. 

• Clear your car – don’t leave beach bags, sunglasses or any other valuables in plain sight. 

• Shop and explore with caution – while discovering new and interesting places can be fun, avoid using ATMs in secluded and quiet areas and steer clear of shops, passageways and other places in remote, dark or deserted locations. 

• Save important contacts – for example, the number of the local security provider or nearest police station. 

• Chat to the locals – just like you know which areas to stay away from in your hometown, so they know the places to avoid in theirs and who knows, you may learn about some great places to visit in the process. 

• Back to basics - when going to the beach, only take what you need. Don’t take a wallet with credit cards and large sums of cash, or your whole handbag with other valuable possessions and documents, if only the odd R200 and beach essentials will do.

• Location, location, location - at the beach, pick a spot close to the lifeguards, as this is a deterrent for would-be criminals. If you drive to the beach, park your car in a well-guarded area.

• Swim in shifts - take turns going to the water, so that someone is always there to keep an eye on valuables.

READ: Coastal SA dorpies you might have never heard of 

Lifeguards

Do your research before heading to the beach. Enquire whether there will be a lifeguard on duty that day or during the times you and you family decide to go to the beach. It’s important to ensure you also stay in between the lifeguard flags, as this is the cordoned off area reserved for swimming.

If a lifeguard is not on duty at a beach known for its tides and strong currents, do not swim there. 

TIP: Know your Sea Rescue bases. The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) is manned by over 1 000 volunteers at rescue bases around the coast and on inland dams. If you have an emergency, call them instead of trying to do the rescue yourself if untrained. If you try to be a hero, you’d only be jeopardising your own safety as well as the person that’s in distress. So be sure to have the contact numbers of emergency services at hand. A second could change everything!

ISIMANGALISO WETLAND PARK, ST LUCIA, KWAZULU NATAL(A stretch of beach in iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Leisa Tyler. Getty Images) 

Rip currents

Rip currents are super dangerous, especially as they move slowly enough to barely be detected. Much quicker than a tide, they move faster than any of us can swim. But if anything, don't panic if you find yourself caught in one. And try to keep your head above water at all costs. 

How to spot them? 

The water will be a different colour than the surrounding water. It’s darker, and can also be identified by a change in the incoming pattern as the water will present  with choppy waves.  It also always flows in a channel or river type shape, away from the beach. 

Familiarise yourself with the colour-coded flag system:

A red flag - The most serious of all beach warning flags, red flags warn swimmers of serious hazards in the water. One red flag means that the surf is high or there are dangerous currents, or both. Though you can still swim if there is a red flag, you should use extreme caution and go in the water only if you're a strong swimmer.

A green flag means that the spotting conditions are good and no sharks have been seen. 

A black flag means that the spotting conditions are poor, but no sharks have been seen.  A white flag with a black shark diagram means that a shark is currently near the beach, and beach users must get out of the water. A siren is sounded and the white flag is raised. 

ALSO SEE: Safe surfing with this Shark Spotters app!

To make summer shark safety even easier, Shark Spotters has also released and app that provides current and accurate shark safety information on smartphones.  

Drinking

It’s illegal to drink in public on SA beaches. Of course, during festive season many turn a blind eye to this and take drinks to the beach – particularly during New Years and other celebratory dates like Boxing Day (26 December). 

READ: Quick Guide to St Lucia: Where hippos roam the streets

Keep in mind:

• Be aware of stepping on broken glass

• Swimming after consuming alcohol – even if consumed at home before reaching the beach – is a big no-no as this could greatly increase your risk of drowning. And even if you're not swimming, but  you’re in charge of watching others swim, like children, being intoxicated could hamper your ability to focus.

• Drinking gives you a false sense of security, which means you could be flippant with your valuables, etc. 

Sunscreen  

No one is immune from the harmful effects of the sun. But a lot of people choose sunscreen with lower SPF counts because they want to ‘still tan’.

However, the SPF number is not the strength, the number simply tells you how long the sun's UV radiation would take to redden your skin. An SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays and SPF 50 blocks 98% - the real difference between the two is in fact just about 1%. 

So, apply that 50 all over!

Get a beach buddy

Depends on the time of day and the remoteness of the beach, but safety is a concern - especially for those solo beachgoers. Take a friend or go as a group as this will not only increase your safety on the beach itself, but having a friend with you in the ocean or watching you swim is a much safer way to beach. 

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