Eco-Travel Itinerary: What to see and do in the world's greenest city

We all know the world is pretty much on fire due to climate change, unfettered resource consumption and burgeoning carbon footprints in various industries - including the travel sector.

From transport to water-intensive tourism activities to unsustainable practices, eco-tourism initiatives are incredibly important to change people's perceptions of a destination, especially in our cities.

So why not visit not only the greenest city in South Africa - but in the world? Durban ranked number one last year in the Husqvarna Urban Green Space Index. The city by the sea was voted as having the 'highest percentage of urban green space' (60%) as well as the 'highest percentage of urban area covered by trees' (42%).  

On your next visit to the city, here are some top spots and activities to make your travels a little more friendly to Mother Nature.

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

Transport

The bus is the main form of public transport in the city, especially in the city centre. It's managed by the municipality and there are three services - Durban Transport, People Mover (using a Muvo card) and Mynah. Learn more about the routes and timetables here. 

Unlike Cape Town and Johannesburg, there is no red City Sightseeing bus in Durban.

Accommodation

From budget to fancy, there's something to suit every budget.

Bluff Eco Park - close the beach and Central Durban - built their accommodation according to eco-friendly methods, ranging from caravans to camping to dormitories and incorporates recycling policies throughout the resort. 

If you're looking for something less busy, surrounded by an indigenous garden and a thriving birdlife, check into Mackaya Bella Guest House in Glenwood. According to their Green Ethos, they ensure that their lush garden isn't water-intensive, use solar-powered geysers, are very serious about their recycling habits (including making their own fertiliser) and using chemical-free cleaning materials.

For something a little more luxurious, the famous Oyster Box Hotel also promotes green and eco-conscious travel with their guests. For every bucket (that they supply) of rubbish collected from the beach by hotel residents, they offer a complimentary drink in the bar, donate to Rhinos Without Borders for every keycard returned upon checkout (reducing plastic waste) and dedicated to eradicating single-use plastics like straws.

WATCH: Marriott have launched their first Fire and Ice brand in KZN 

Nature Reserves

Staying true to its title of 'greenest city', Durban has many nature reserves filled with hiking trails perfect for escaping the city bustle.

Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve is located at the mouth of the Umgeni River in Durban North, a suburb of Durban. Here you can stroll at leisure through sections of boardwalk through the small, 76-hectare swamp.  

Do the 2km walk in Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve which starts at the gates and passes the picnic area. Head down to the wooden boardwalk to see the stunning coastal forest. The trail is right on the edge of Umhlanga. It is a wonderful walk. 

West of Durban you'll find Krantzkloof Nature Reserve with various trails to choose from, all with different levels of difficulty. The 6km Molweni Trail is so worth it as it takes you to the bottom of the gorge.

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

Markets

The best farmer markets can be found just outside of the city, right in the Midlands.

One of the most popular ones is Shongweni Farmers’ and Craft Market - here you'll be inundated with organic wares where sellers promote healthy eating in a sustainable manner - as well as the odd ingredient or two.

Support more local producers, crafters and up-and-coming artists at the I Heart Market in Point Waterfront on the first Saturday of every month.

There's also the Eco Market at the Bluff Eco Park every Saturday where you can say no to fast fashion and look for pre-loved and recycled treasures.

ALSO WATCH: Have a farm-fresh experience just 2 hours outside of Durban 

Restaurants

With Durban's big Indian cuisine scene you'll be able to find many a vegetarian and vegan spot, with and without spice. And if you're munching down on Durban's iconic seafood dishes, make sure they come with the SASSI Green List icon.

In Durban North swing on over to the It's All Good Organic Grocer and Café for some of that goodness with fresh, local ingredients with a different menu every day.

Another major 'green' restaurant to dine is The Corner Café in Glenwood. According to their ethos, beverages are ordered in glass bottles, no plastic or tin, they do not stock plastic straws and serviettes are linen not paper, all washing and cleaning is done with dolphin-friendly detergents, excess kitchen scraps are fed into their wormery for their garden where they grow their herbs and no microwaves or chip fryers are used.

SEE: Durban's one of the top street food destinations in the world - here are 10 foodie havens to check out 

Activities

As far as beaches and low-tech activities go, it's pretty easy to keep your carbon footprint low while enjoying Durban.

Take a stroll through the Durban Botanic Gardens - it boasts a collection of some of the world's rarest plants. The gardens are free, so if you have some time to spare go see the Wood's Cycad (Encephalartos woodii), reputed to be the world's rarest plant.

Another great walk (or bike) option is to see the newly extended promenade in North Beach - the Golden Mile is now 750 metres longer past uShaka Marine World. Here you can also make a stop for a dive in one of their tanks (including the sharks!) without using up boat fuel to do it in the ocean - but if you want something wilder opt instead for shore dives to keep your footprint minimal. 

Also check out one of Durban's oldest neighbourhoods - Glenwood. Leafy and green, graffitied walls aplenty, dotted with colonial-style houses overlooking the port. A relaxed atmosphere, the 'hood is focused on environmentally-friendly goods and good food - one such spot is Earthmother Organic offers a variety of organic/natural vegetarian and vegan foods. Go to the delightful cafe and supermarket where you can shop some organic veg every Friday.

ALSO SEE: Fresh bread, garden courtyards and graffiti in Durban's leafy-green Glenwood 

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