Essence Festival in Durban: Everything you need to know

07 July 2017 / By escapeartist
essence festival in durban

The Essence Festival in Durban - Just Do It

In case you haven't heard, the dates were released for their 2nd annual Essence Festival in Durban, South Africa! We were fortunate enough to be a part of the media team last year for the inaugural event in November. Based on that trip and 4 other trips to South Africa we've compiled a guide just for you.

1.  Book Your Trip NOW or you will miss outDurban Essence Festival - Book Now

Last year there were a lot of people who came to the Essence Festival in Durban to check it out. Hotels will fill up fast and the AirBnB scene didn't have as many options as one would think. Flights will fluctuate in price but hotels will trend upward. If you've researched Durban or you are familiar with South Africa you should be able to do this on your own. If not, you should look into purchasing a package, like the Experience South Africa tour we are curating.

2.  The concert will feature some of Africa's hottest talentDurban Essence Festival - Concert

Although the Essence Festival in Durban doesn't have the depth that the event in New Orleans has, they do not skimp on the talent. We were able to see some of Africa's best talent on one stage, and even some of America's as well. Neo opened the show with his smooth performance and great stage presence. Then we saw Burna Boy, DJ Black Coffee (the crowd favorite), Wiz Kid, and AKA. The concert went on into the early morning hours and the performers gave it their all on stage. Last year Essence had a couple of low-key sales for VIP tickets. If you are booking things on your own make sure to look out for these!

3.  Visiting three cities is better than oneDurban Essence Festival - Visit Other Cities Too - Cape Town

Flying 8,000-10,000 miles from the US to South Africa simply means... you gotta go to more than one city. The most obvious choices are Durban (where the Essence Festival is), Cape Town & Johannesburg. We will be going to all 3 of these on our curated Experience South Africa tour. All 3 have different aspects while maintaining unique & authentic South African vibes. In Cape Town you will enjoy world class wines, arguably the best scenery in South Africa, AMAZING food and many different sub-cultures. Johannesburg is the business capital and home to a bustling array of entrepreneurs, artists, the apartheid museum and... Soweto! See.. you simply can't just go to the Essence Festival in Durban and head back home. Stay a while, you never know when you'll get another opportunity to return.

4.  Townships are the heart of South African citiesDurban Essence Festival - Townships

Sometimes people just go to the touristy areas of South Africa and return home thinking they understand the pulse of the country. But to really get a feel for it, you have to visit the townships. During our past 5 trips to South Africa we have been to many different townships. Umlazi, Soweto, Alexandra, Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, etc. Some of the best (and cheapest) food can be found in the townships and without a doubt the best music and dancing will be there. During the Essence Festival in Durban we'll be taking people to the townships for a day party that ends up lasting all night too. Also it's good to visit the townships with people that are from there and respected so you will have the best kind of experience.

5.  Fully Immerse Yourself In The CultureDurban Essence Festival - Culture

Try out different foods, like a bunny chow (curry in a loaf of bread, no bunnies were harmed),  kudu or springbok (antelope), etc. One of my favorite things to eat in South Africa is the abundant ostrich meat. And ostrich burger with fries smothered in peri-peri sauce will make me happier than the Obamas on vacation. Learn the "gwara gwara" dance and do it to some gqom music. Speak to people from the Xhosa tribe and have them teach you some words with 'X' or 'Q' in them so you can learn how to speak the clicks. If you don't like house music, well, you will love it by the time you leave South Africa. South Africa has the best house music in the world, no contest. During the Essence Festival in Durban you will have plenty of time to learn about different cultures and tribes. You must certainly visit museums like the District Six museum in Cape Town, the Phansi museum in Durban and the Apartheid museum in Jo'burg. Make the most of your trip and don't spend too much time in the hotel!

6.  Go On A Safari, Say Wassup To Mufasa African Safari

This one should be self-explanatory, you have to go on a safari in South Africa especially if you haven't been on an African safari before. Seeing animals in their natural habitat will remind you that this world functions quite well apart from us. Make sure to either pay a photographer or bring a good camera with a telephoto lens of 300mm or more. Our Experience South Africa tour will have multiple photographers ready to record every priceless memory. You won't be getting TOO close to the animals, so let your zoom lens get up close and personal for you. This was a life bucketlist item for me and something I'll never forget.

7.  Networking at the Essence Festival in DurbanEssence Festival in Durban - Networking

There is a business/networking fair that tends to be during the same time as the Essence Festival in Durban. You can look forward to fashion shows, networking sessions, cocktail hours and top quality vendors selling their wares. Last year there were plenty of networking sessions. We went to one hosted by the mayor of Durban, and another hosted by Steve Harvey (I know). So bring your business cards and ideas if you are open to doing some international business (recommended).

8.  Make it to the morning fitness sessionsEssence Festival in Durban - Fitness

The morning fitness sessions at the Essence Festival in Durban were energetic and fun. They had several fitness conductors leading the crowd in a simple dance routine (think line dance aerobics) they could repeat over and over. You will sweat, but your body will certainly enjoy it!

9.  Make sure you don't get kicked by a ZuluDurban Essence Festival - Zulu Culture

Just kidding... but for real, the Zulu tribe has a dance with a very high (and powerful looking) kicks done to a rhythm. It looks amazing and it is something you will have to see for yourself. Last year at the Essence Festival we were fortunate enough to work with the Zulu troop there and get some great photos/videos. as well:

About The Author


I love traversing this beautiful earth as a Black person and sharing what I find with people. Building community is very important to me and one of the necessary pillars for us to progress. Thank you for reading my work, please share it with friends if you enjoyed it, or if even if you hated it.

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I get very impressed every time I go through your live tour videos, your blog and your Facebook page, the experiences you have are exactly as of the community members of where you are as if you’re not a tourist. One would assume that you were born there but raises diaspora, I’m not sure if it’s the friendliness of the African people or it’s the relationships you have built but it would be very amazing to be part of this tour as I would experience the various rich historical cities like you did, get to learn about the different cultures of Azania(SA) people and dance to the rhythms of the African beats…
Thanks for this valuable information Escape Artist

Thanks so much Will. Here at / I Love Being Black we strive for authenticity, fun, and safety for our tours. Can’t wait to meet you on this one!

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