KwaZulu-Natal events

Below is just a small selection of some of the festivals and events in KwaZulu-Natal. Dates and venues may change without prior notice. A comprehensive list of events is available at


Musho International Theatre
The Musho Theatre Festival runs annually at the Catalina Theatre in Durban. The festival usually feature a variety of great productions - all from within SA's borders - with some well-established theatre names, as well as newcomers. There's comedy, satire, drama, and hip-hop, so something for just about everyone!


Dusi Canoe Marathon
The Dusi Canoe Marathon is a canoe race between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The Dusi is run along the Msunduzi River (more commonly referred to as the Dusi / or Duzi river. The race is currently held over a period of three days, with each day having a defined beginning and end. The Marathon starts in Pietermaritzburg and finishes in Durban.

Midmar Mile
Held in February at the Midmar Dam, it attracts more than 10 000 entrants in a variety of age categories. It is recognised as the world's biggest inland swimming race.


Time of the Writer
The Time of the Writer international festival of writers celebrates its with a programme of readings, presentations, discussions and book launches at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. As part of the festival’s ongoing effort to promote and nurture a culture of reading, writing and creative expression, the presence of writers is spread across Durban and surrounding areas in wide-reaching day activities that include school visits, a prison writing workshop, an educators’ forum, a publishing forum, and other seminars and workshops. With a line-up of new and established writers, predominantly from South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent, the festival provides a stimulating platform for dialogue and exchange between writers, and an opportunity for the public to gain insight into the creative processes and perspectives which inform their writing. There is also a schools short story competition.


Grape Crushing Festival
In April, to celebrate the end of another the hectic summer harvest season The Stables Wine Estate holds its annual Grape Crushing Festival. This provides the opportunity for wine lovers to "stomp" their own grapes. In classic French tradition the grapes are foot-stomped after careful cleaning, and the juice then used to make the season’s wine. There are pony rides and face painting for children, as well as boerewors and prego rolls, cheeseboards, beer and soft drinks for sale.

Splashy Fen 2012
Established in 1990, Splashy Fen is South Africa’s longest-running music festival, which every Easter attracts thousands of people to a farm near Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal for a unique outdoor music experience. The festival offers a four-day line-up of some of the country’s hottest acts, top-class sound and lighting, plus a wide choice of outdoor leisure activities for the whole family. Add to that the beautiful scenery of the southern Drakensberg, an abundance of different food and drink outlets, colourful arts and crafts, a crèche and children’s entertainment programme, as well as various camping and accommodation options and you’re set for a winner of a long weekend!

Ladysmith Swartkop Challenge
The Ladysmith Swartkop Challenge is an extreme sport event to draw a gun weighing 1300kg over a course of 130m.


African Renaissance Festival
The festival began as an endeavour to reignite Africa’s own belief in itself and in its potential to develop its own resources. The festival, the only annual celebration of the African Renaissance principles on the continent, examines the theme ‘Connecting Africa’ from an infrastructural and economic perspective but also debate issues around the connectivity challenges in tourism. Delegates representing government and business, NGO’s; civic structures; entrepreneurs and local communities converge on Durban’s ICC to debate as well as pay tribute to the issues relating to how Africa navigates these relatively unchartered waters of accessing, developing and harnessing its own resources. The festival comprises a Youth Conference, a two day conference and a fundraising banquet.

A mountain biking racing running across several destinations within the province. This event has grown over the years.

Notwithstanding Pietermaritzburg’s role as the capital of KwaZulu-Natal, the city has frequently been ignored when staging major events. This is about to change, with the South African National Defence Force hosting a Military Tattoo – a family favourite for young and old – during the first weekend of the Royal Show. Further information can be obtained from (031) 451 1722 or by emailing All-in-all, an event not to be missed.

Royal Show (May/June)
Royal Show takes place annually in Pietermaritzburg. The show has hundreds of craft and home industry exhibitions and stalls as well as competitions for birds, livestock and agricultural produce. This is a show with a long history as it's inception was 1851. Fondly known as "The Royal" the show has approximately 13 different exhibition halls and 350 trade stands. Tons of entertainment is on the go during the show to keep the whole family busy, from concerts, fireworks displays, vintage tractor displays and show-jumping

Comrades Marathon
In memory of the spirit of the soldiers of World War 1, the first race took place in 1921. This annual event is possibly one of the world’s greatest ultra-marathons. The 90 km race takes place between the City Hall in Albert Luthuli Street, Pietermaritzburg and the Sahara Kingsmead Cricket Stadium in Durban, alternating the direction of the race between the two cities each year for up and down runs.

Art in the Park
An annual exhibition of art and photography at Alexandra Park, Pietermaritzburg since 1962. It is a picturesque venue on the banks of the Umsunduzi River, under a grove of plane trees that obligingly sheds its leaves for a splendorous autumn show. A stringent selection policy and a focus on quality art help to define the success of Nashua Art in the Park. A developmental component, introduced in 2002, is reaping its own rewards with a number of emerging artists graduating into fully-fledged exhibitors in their own right.

Sardine Run
The Greatest Shoal on Earth, as it has been named, sees thousands of visitors flock to the KwaZulu Natal coast to witness the annual migration of millions of sardines. Hundreds of thousands of dolphins, sharks, whales and seabirds follow the impressive body of sardines as they move along the coast. It is truly a magnificent spectacle for locals and visitors. Visitors will also enjoy a full programme of entertainment, including cultural activities and music shows in many coastal towns on the South coast.


Durban International Boat & Lifestyle
The 2012 show is going to be the best yet, with more exhibition space, uniform marquees along the boardwalk, a vast newly-reclaimed grassed exhibition area, on-site catering and an extended Lifestyle section, with attractions for the whole family.

KwaZulu-Natal Military Tattoo
Notwithstanding Pietermaritzburg’s role as the capital of KwaZulu-Natal, the city has frequently been ignored when staging major events. This is about to change, with the South African National Defence Force hosting a Military Tattoo – a family favourite for young and old – during the first weekend of the Royal Show. For further information contact +27 31 451 1722 or email

Durban International Film Festival
The Durban International Film Festival is South Africa’s longest-running film festival. The event lasts 12 days and presents around 300 screenings of films from around the globe, with a strong focus on African and South African and cinema. The venues are throughout Durban including in townships at customised cinemas. The festival also offers extensive seminars and workshops to stimulate the industry. This includes African participants in Talent Campus Durban in cooperation with the Berlin Film Festival, and a film financing initiative in partnership with Durban Film Office, the Durban FilmMart.

Vodacom Durban July
The Vodacom Durban July is Africa’s greatest horseracing event, held annually at the Greyville Racecourse in Durban.

MR Price Pro Ballito
The internationally recognized Mr Price PRO Ballito surfing competition takes place just 30km north of Durban at Ballito’s Willard Beach. There is also a free music concert by popular South African artists and a lifestyle festival under the same banner.

BMW International Polo Series (July/August)
The BMW International Polo Series, against a touring international team, is played in July / August each year. The first Test (always on a Sunday) is played at Shongweni, near Durban and the second Test, played a week later, is held at the Waterfall Polo Park in Sunninghill, Johannesburg.


South Africa's Women's Arts Festival (August/September)
Women’s Arts Festival holds a benchmark position on the national arts calendar. It is conceived as a stage for airing the phenomenal creative work of women. The works presented have pushed boundaries, creating awareness of women’s strengths, vulnerabilities, passions, fears and dignity. This invaluable cultural event continues to highlight the ongoing benefits of empowerment, promotion, affirmation of women as leading role players in today’s world. Festival attractions include Gospel music, arts and crafts, newly commissioned dance pieces, theatrical productions and is held at The Playhouse Company in Durban.

Good Food & Wine Show
Southern Africa’s culinary Expo brings Durban gourmets, gourmands and good-life devotees a sensational line-up of the finest international celebrity and BBC chefs, joined by some of the finest South African Chefs, no less than nine state-of-the-art kitchen theatres, and a host of unique specialty shows within the greater Show. These dedicated areas offer visitors everything from the Cocktail Arena to the Coffee Theatre and all the drama of the regional Barista Championships. Experience the Spekko Rice Eastern Mosaic Gourmet Gateway and the highlight Chefs in Action conducted by the world’s leading chefs and more.


Reed Dance - Umkhosi Womhlanga
This is the annual ceremony of maidens held during the second week of September. Maidens from all over the province and the Kingdom of Swaziland flock to the Enyokeni Royal Palace to participate in the traditional dance of maidens. Intense counselling sessions are held on the Friday and Saturday morning where senior women from the Royal House and the community counsel the young girls on Zulu Traditional values, the do's and don'ts for young women. The main attraction of the ceremony is the presentation of the reeds by maidens to the King. This has a historical and symbolic significance in that it marks the contribution made by maidens in building the nation. Maidens in traditional regalia take turns in dancing in a variety of styles in front of the King.

The Mercury Wine Week
Since 1979, the Mercury Week has hosted the country’s leading wine producers, estates and wine lovers showcasing new releases, old favourites and different talking points. This is the highlight of the KwaZulu-Natal wine calendar, and the show brings together delicatessen food, wine exhibitors and hundreds of wines. Wine lovers have a magnificent display from old favourites to undiscovered treasures in the boutiques wineries.

White Mountain Festival
Held near Giant’s Castle in the beautiful Central Drakensberg region of KwaZulu Natal, the festival offers acoustic performances by some of the country’s finest established and up-and-coming artists, as well as a choice of camping, caravanning and chalet accommodation, plus outdoor activities for the whole family. Attractions include hiking, boating and bass fishing, arts and crafts, a beer market featuring several local breweries, assorted food stalls and fun kids’ entertainment. For the more adventurous, there’s abseiling down a 45m cliff face or a fuffi slide across a nearby 100m-wide gorge, with helicopter flips also available if the weather permits. Alternatively you can simply relax outdoors and soak up the peaceful beauty of one of the most idyllic spots in the Berg.


MTN Amashova Durban Classic
MTN sponsors one of the country’s toughest cycling events. This 106km road race follows a similar route to the Comrades Marathon, and a shorter 38km fun ride is also popular. The race starts in Pietermaritzburg and ends in Durban at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Early birds can sign up for the 38km Sunday Tribune Amashova family fun ride that starts at Hillcrest High School and finish at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Durban Diwali Festival
This annual religious and cultural festival celebrates Indian music, arts, food and dance. The festival kicks off with the colourful Float Procession. It is one of the highlights of the weekend which follows a specified route across the Durban CBD culminating at the Old– Drive Inn Site. Watch the youth parade through the city on their built floats which will be decorated in line with the theme.



MTN Durban Jazz Festival
This annual open-air jazz festival at Hazelmere Dam has a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere and a mix of musical entertainment ranging from Afro-pop, Afro-jazz, jazz and local DJs.

Umhlanga Summer Carnival
The Umhlanga Summer Carnival features a line-up with 14 days of fun-filled beach events designed to encourage outdoor activities for young and old. The two week long carnival kicks off with the Lizzard Summer Surf Session organized by the KZN Surfing Association with well-known local surfers all vying for the title and prize. The amateur division welcomes young, old, accomplished and social surfers all to participate. More active and adventurous visitors can take part in the Umhlanga Summer Carnival 16km Trail Run through the Umhlanga coastal area.

Find out more about activities in KwaZulu-Natal
Responsible Travel would like to thank Tourism KZN for their sponsorship of this guide
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