Richard’s Bay isn’t one of South Africa’s more appealing cities, its true draw lies in the experiences to be had in the hinterland beyond the port, in the heart of the Zulu nation.
Cruise terminal: There is no cruise terminal in Richard’s Bay, cruise ships dock in the industrial port.
Shore excursions: The best shore excursions are those beyond the city itself, but for independent exploring close to the port, go for lunch at the marina nearby.
Language: English primarily, but there are 11 official languages in South Africa
Staying safe: Crime can be a problem in Richard’s Bay, especially pick-pockets.
Currency: The South African rand
Richard’s Bay is one of the youngest cities in South Africa, even though it began as a makeshift harbour set up by Commodore of the Cape, Sir Frederick Richards during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.
It was only properly established in the 1950s and only declared a city in 1969. As such, it has grown rapidly and has a slightly haphazard look to it, with an abundance of unattractive Apartheid-era architecture.
While the city itself holds little attraction for cruise tourists, it’s the cultural and wildlife experiences on the city’s outskirts and surrounding areas that make it a popular port of call on the South African cruise circuit.
Cruise ship shore excursions in Richard’s Bay take cruise passengers into the heart of the ‘Zulu nation’, an unofficial area that encompasses much of the northern part of the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal (of which Richard’s Bay and Durban are both a part).
There are wildlife parks and game reserves aplenty around Richard’s Bay, but the two standout reserves are Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park and iSimangaliso Wetland Park. These are the two destinations featured most often on the shore excursions of visiting cruise ships and offer encounters with the rare black rhino and the hippopotamus.
There are also opportunities to learn more about the fascinating Zulu people and how they shaped the future of this part of the country at Shakaland, a living history museum focusing on Zulu culture. It comes complete with traditional Zulu dance performances, and actually forms part of the former set of the 1980s TV show Shaka Zulu.
The cruise terminal in Richard’s Bay
There is no cruise terminal in Richard’s Bay, cruise ships use a commercial quay within the industrial port (where coal is a major export).
There is nothing to do or see in the port itself, but the Richard’s Bay Small Craft Harbour is nearby, and is a charming little marina surrounded by eateries and bars.
Currency and language in Richard’s Bay
The local currency is the South African rand are there are exchange places and cash machines aplenty in the town, which is short taxi ride from the port gates.
South Africa has 11 official languages, but English is spoken everywhere.
Specifically, in the Richards Bay area, after English, you’re most likely to hear the isiZulu language of the Zulu people or Afrikaans.
Staying safe on a cruise to Richard’s Bay
Violent crime in Richard’s Bay is not as common as other major South African cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban.
Tourists walking the streets or touring cultural sites during the day are perfectly safe, although muggings and pickpocketing can be a risk, especially in the city centre.
Cruise tourists in Richard’s Bay should exercise caution when withdrawing money from cash machines and shouldn’t leave valuables unattended in bars and restaurants.
Is Richard’s Bay good for shopping?
Souvenir shopping opportunities in Richard’s Bay are limited compared to Cape Town and Durban. The main mall is the Boardwalk, but there is also an outdoor market (referred to as a ‘flea market’ locally) called Bohemain Beach Bumz where some homemade curios and items of local interest can be bought.
Who cruises to Richard’s Bay?
Richard’s Bay is an emergent cruise destination on the South African cruise circuit. It’s a popular port of call for cruise lines that focus on cultural emersion and personal enrichment, as Richard’s Bay is the gateway to Zululand.
Some 28 cruise itineraries feature a port call in Richard’s Bay in 2019.
These include Regent Seven Seas Cruises, AIDA Cruises, Oceania, Seabourn, Voyages to Antiquity, Crystal Cruises, Saga Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Silversea, Phoenix Reisen and Fred Olsen Cruise Line.