Richards Bay is one of South Africa's biggest ports, boasting the largest export coal terminal in the world that loads 66 million tons every year, and is situated on the 12 square mile (30 sq km) lagoon of the Mhlatuze River. It began as a makeshift harbour that was set up during the Anglo-Boer War of 1879 and is named after its founder, Sir Frederick Richards. The specialised ships that call are a must-see for maritime buffs.
The town is a bustling business centre featuring every modern facility and offers plenty of recreational facilities for visitors. Besides the rapid industrial expansion, Richards Bay's tourism industry is thriving and it is fast becoming a popular north coast holiday destination, with spectacular scenery on offer and pristine golden beaches gently lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. It is a popular kite-surfing destination, as the area has good consistent winds blowing from the northeast, and highly ranked kite-surfers are regular visitors to this town. Tourists can enjoy plenty of other adventurous activities such as fishing, yachting and kayaking. Humpback dolphins and whales are frequent visitors to the waters around Richards Bay and can be viewed from a specially erected viewing point at Alkantstrand Beach.
While the town itself is notoriously sleepy, Richards Bay offers tourists entrance to the once forgotten corner of Africa that is Zululand, a place of exquisite beauty and diversity. A multitude of game reserves are within an hour or two's drive of Richards Bay. Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park is a must-see for nature lovers, featuring the 'big five' (elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and rhinos) as well as cheetahs, wild dogs and nyala. Lake Mzingazi, the primary water supply of Richards Bay, is a popular tourist attraction offering visitors the chance to view Nile crocodiles and hippos as well as over 350 species of birds, making it a bird watcher's paradise. Richards Bay's surrounds have vast expanses of untouched and unspoilt indigenous vegetation as well as natural lakes and marshes, making it one of the most picturesque tourist destinations in the country.