Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal

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This article is about the town. For the traditional reed dance ceremony, see Umhlanga (ceremony).
View of the skyline and beach of Umhlanga Rocks in 2011
View of the skyline and beach of Umhlanga Rocks in 2011
Umhlanga is located in KwaZulu-Natal
Umhlanga is located in South Africa
Umhlanga is located in Africa
 Umhlanga shown within KwaZulu-Natal
Coordinates: 29°43′31″S 31°05′09″E / 29.72528°S 31.08583°E / -29.72528; 31.08583Coordinates: 29°43′31″S 31°05′09″E / 29.72528°S 31.08583°E / -29.72528; 31.08583
Country South Africa
Province KwaZulu-Natal
Municipality eThekwini
 • Councillor Heinz de Boer (DA)
 • Total 16.75 km2 (6.47 sq mi)
Population (2011)[1]
 • Total 24,238
 • Density 1,400/km2 (3,700/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)[1]
 • Black African 17.1%
 • Coloured 2.1%
 • Indian/Asian 26.2%
 • White 53.3%
 • Other 1.2%
First languages (2011)[1]
 • English 78.9%
 • Zulu 9.0%
 • Afrikaans 6.1%
 • Xhosa 1.1%
 • Other 4.9%
Postal code (street) 4320
PO box 4319

Umhlanga is an affluent residential, commercial and resort town north of Durban on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It is part of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, created in 2000, which includes the greater Durban area. Commonly and erroneously pronounced (by residents and visitors alike) as Umshlanga (the correct pronunciation of "hl" in Umhlanga is similar to the Welsh "ll"), the name means "place of reeds" in isiZulu. It is bordered by Durban North to the south and the suburb of Mt Edgecombe further inland.

It is well known for the Gateway Theatre of Shopping which is the largest shopping mall in the southern hemisphere.[2] It also has the tallest skyscraper in KwaZulu-Natal named Pearl Sky which is under construction (as of 2016). There are two beaches - Bronze Beach and Main Beach both of which are patrolled by life guards throughout the day. Umhlanga is one of the fastest growing cities in South Africa - the population increased 57.5% from 15,387 in the 2001 census to 24,238 in the 2011 census. Recent estimates place the population at over 30,000.[3]

In the same way that Sandton, Gauteng is competing with Johannesburg, Umhlanga is competing with Durban central to become the main economic hub of KwaZulu-Natal.[4]


Umhlanga derives its name from the Zulu language and means "place of reeds", referring to the beds of reeds growing along the Ohlanga River north of Umhlanga Rocks.[5][6]

The Oyster Box, a luxury hotel since the 1930s, was originally built as a beach cottage in 1869, before the town had even been founded.

In 1895, Sir Marshall Campbell founded Umhlanga. The town's first hotel was established in 1920, followed by a shop, a lighthouse, the Natal Anti Shark Measures Board (today called the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board) and further hotel developments.[7][8]

The Borough of Umhlanga was formed on 1 August 1972 through the amalgamation of Umhlanga Rocks, a seaside resort town, and the suburb of La Lucia. Mr Rodney Rindel, former chairman of the La Lucia town board, was elected to Mayor of the newly formed Borough of Umhlanga. Mr Rindel said that the people of La Lucia had made no secret that they were apposed to the amalgamation and were not happy with the name, but now that this had come about they would make the best of it.

Rodney Rindel - Mayor of Umhlanga 1972

In the 1980s, development expanded inland.[7] The city is expanding into areas near the Hawaan forest to the north which is the natural habitat of many creatures such as vervet monkeys. The monkeys often venture into the city in search of food from residents and unsuspecting tourists.

Umhlanga, specifically the former sugarcane fields of Umhlanga Ridge, has become the focus of development in the greater Durban area with many businesses relocating offices from central Durban (similarly to Sandton forming the new centre of Johannesburg), a move that has been criticized for "fragmenting the urban fabric" and furthering "the new apartheid" in Durban.[7] In 2010, Durban International Airport was moved to La Mercy, near Umhlanga, and reopened as King Shaka International Airport. Various skyscrapers are under construction in Umhlanga the most significant of these are the three buildings, 2 of which are large 28 story apartment complexes and the third a 100 shop mall, known as the Oceans Umhlanga development expected to be completed in 2018, there is also the Pearl Sky under construction. At a price of R3.1 billion this is the largest private sector investment in South African history narrowly beating the Pearls of Umhlanga at R3.0 billion. It is being built inland and adjacent from the recently constructed Pearls of Umhlanga.[9]

Umhlanga Rocks[edit]

Lighthouse at Umhlanga Rocks

Umhlanga Rocks has many luxury hotels and apartments right on the beach, including the Cabana Beach Hotel, the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Oyster Box Hotel, the Umhlanga Sands Hotel and Pearls of Umhlanga apartments. Many of these have views of the landmark lighthouse. It has a large increase in population during the summer months.

Umhlanga Ridge[edit]

Umhlanga Ridge is a new retail, office and residential node situated on a hill overlooking the Indian Ocean. It was largely developed on sugarcane land by property development company, Moreland Estates, owned by the Tongaat Hulett sugar group. Located on the ridge are Gateway Theatre of Shopping and other shopping centres, motor dealerships, a private hospital and many offices.

Umhlanga Ridge Town Centre is connected by a series of pedestrian-friendly roads, parks and public spaces. The Town Centre is easily accessed by a network of major roads, including the N2.

The Umhlanga Ridge New Town Centre has been under construction for almost a decade. Vela VKE consulted on the structural input for the design of the grade separation bridge and two parking court structures. Civil infrastructure costs amount to R200 million to date.

Aerial view of Umhlanga Ridge (foreground) and Umhlanga Rocks (on ocean beyond)


Together, Umhlanga and Umdloti form the Sugar Coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Umhlanga is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa. There were 1.2 million visitors in 2015 which generated a GDP of R20-billion. In 2016, the tourism chairman Peter Rose said “I can confidently say that within the next five years you will not recognise uMhlanga,” Residents of Umhlanga have mixed feelings about the changes such as that it is losing its village appeal while they appreciate the new infrastructure and increased property values.[10]

Other places of interest in Umhlanga are the Umhlanga Country Club and The Mount Edgecombe Country Club in nearby Mount Edgecombe.


Umhlanga is one of the safest areas in the Durban area. The Durban North precinct which includes a small slice along the coast of Durban North, All of Umhlanga and Umdloti had a murder rate of 7.3 per 100,000 in the 12 months to March 2016, slightly higher than the 2012 global average of 6.2 per 100,000 but safer than the rest of South Africa. Car theft, however, is a serious problem with 252 cars stolen from March 2015 – 2016.[11]


Umhlanga is very diverse with people from various racial backgrounds and ethnic groups. 78.9% speak English as their first language, 9.0% isiZulu and 6.12% Afrikaans. There is also a sizable Portuguese population.

The number of people from each racial group increased between 2001 and 2011. The number of white people increased from 11,523 to 12,925 while the percentage dropped from 74.9% to 53.3%. The number of black people increased from 1,770 to 4,147. The number of 'Indians or Asians' increased from 1,953 to 6,353. The number of coloureds increased from 141 to 297.[1][12]

As of the 2011 census, the most black area is the new town centre area which is 24.1% black.[13] The most white area is the northern coastal area including the Umhlanga village which is 66.9% white.[14] The most Indian area is the woodlands which is 46.0% Indian.[15] The expensive new developments tend to have higher Indian populations than the average for Umhlanga while the lower cost developments tend to have higher Indian and black populations than the average. The older parts of Umhlanga tend to have higher white populations than the average.

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