The lively town of Richards Bay started as a makeshift harbour set up by Sir Frederick Richards, a Commodore of the Cape, during the Anglo-Boer War of 1879.
In 1935 the Richards Bay Game Sanctuary was created to protect the ecology around the lagoon and later by 1943 it expanded into the Richards Bay Park. The town was laid-out on the shores of the lagoon in 1954 and proclaimed a town in 1969. In 1976 Richards Bay harbour was converted into a deep water harbour with railway and a oil/gas pipeline linking the port to Johannesburg. An aluminium smelter and fertilizer plant have been erected at the harbour. Titanium is mined from the sand dunes close to the lagoon. The commercial and industrial development of Richards Bay has been a bonus for the sophisticated tourist and holiday maker. Besides very rapid industrial expansion, the tourism industry of this region is flourishing. Richards Bay has a flourishing business centre as well as fantastic recreational facilities for residents and visitors alike.
There is a variety of accommodation for the holiday maker in Richards Bay. These include lodges, guest houses, B&B accommodation, self catering accommodation, hotel accommodation - in fact, accommodation that ranges from budget to luxury. The town of Richards Bay hums with activity and provides the visitor with a range of shopping options - from large industry to many and varied businesses.
Richards Bay is an expanding seaport town located in an beautiful and sensitive environment. The town is the major industrial, and therefore, employment growth centre in the region and Richards Bay’s intends to serve as both a tourism centre and gateway to the Zululand and Maputaland tourist region.
Richards Bay's population is approximately 39 500 people. The growth of Richards Bay from a fishing village of less than 200 residents in 1968 to the present booming town was initiated by the decision to develop a deep water harbour and shortly thereafter the development of the Alusaf Aluminium Smelter (now known as Bayside Aluminium) The major industrial plants located within and the immediate surroundings of Richards Bay are: Bayside Aluminium Hillside Aluminium Mondi Kraft (paper mill); Richards Bay Coal Terminal (bulk coal export); Richards Bay Minerals (extraction of and refining heavy minerals from sand deposits); Bell Equipment (manufacturing of heavy industrial and construction vehicles and equipment); Central Timber Company and Silvacel (wood chipping plants); Indian Ocean Fertiliser (production of chemical fertilisers); and Portnet (the export/import harbour authority
The park is situated in the lush greenbelt area of Richards Bay, making bird watching a unique experience - a must for all nature lovers.
The Richards Bay area is rich in historical and cultural significance. The Richards Bay Game Sanctuary (1'200Ha), established in 1935 around the lagoon, is home to water birds, crocodiles and sharks. A crocodile of 7m was once killed here by John Dunn. The Zululand region abounds with wildlife in famous, widespread reserves within easy reach of Durban. It was here that Shaka Zulu forged his Zulu Kingdom, and the last battle of the Anglo-Zulu war was fought near Ulundi in 1879. Zulu kraals or villages in the region display the traditional Zulu way of life to visitors. There are several exciting traditional Zulu villages open to the public, Shakaland and Duma Zulu amongst them.