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Umhlanga is a medium-sized coastal town located in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa.
The town is known as an amalgamation of residential, commercial, and tourism-based areas, including many resorts, hotels, and other attractions for visitors to the area. Its natural setting and agreeable climate draw many such visitors on an annual basis. There are two known possibilities regarding how the town got its name. The first is that the town is named after the Ohlanga River, which can be found a few kilometers to the north, while the second is that the name is derived from a Zulu word that roughly translates to ‘place of reeds’. The true source of the name is likely to have been a combination of these two very similar words.
The very first inhabitants of the Umhlanga area are thought to have been the indigenous San people, a hunter-gatherer tribe that was eventually displaced by the movement of Nguni speaking people into the region (ancestors of the Zulu tribe, among others). Under King Shaka, the most powerful of all the Zulu chiefs, the Zulu empire expanded greatly from this area, becoming a powerful military force and a nation unto itself.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the area came under control of the British following a protracted conflict with the local Zulu population. Extensive sugarcane plantations were established in the area, giving rise to a local economy based on the product that largely remains to this day. Many of the descendants of indentured labourers brought over from India also remain in the local population, contributing to its multicultural makeup.
In 1869, the first permanent building in the area was constructed. Known as the Oyster Box, this small cottage originally served as a way station for passing travellers, and was eventually converted into a hotel, which remains to this day. Passing ships also sometimes used its shiny metal roof as a beacon to assist in navigation around the rocky coastline. The tranquil setting drew many residents to the area, and during much of the twentieth century, Umhlanga saw significant expansion inland, which continues today.
Umhlanga is located a little over sixteen kilometers north of Durban, along South Africa’s east coast. The town forms a part of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, along with the nearby major city of Durban and several other neighbouring towns. The Ohlanga River, from which the town gets its name, feeds into the Indian Ocean approximately three kilometers north of the town.
Umhlanga’s most prominent landmarks are its many stretches of beachfront, including Bronze Beach and Main Beach. The Umhlanga Lighthouse is also a prominent feature of the area, painted white with a red band near the top. The Umhlanga Lagoon Reserve offers a look at the local flora and fauna.
Umhlanga is home to approximately 24,238 people, at a density of around 1400 per square kilometer.
The majority of the population is White, with English being the most commonly spoken language.