On my last visit to Durban, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a day (and night) with Michelle and Mike from the Happy Hippo at their colourful haven on Mahatma Gandhi Road. What an exciting couple to chat to, with their sparkling ideas and plans for the future of their Backpackers and Durban.
Here are five reasons why you should go pay them a visit on your next trip to Surf City.
Happy Hippo is just a short walk to Durban’s world famous Beachfront area.
Feel free to ask Michelle about the many budget activities for just under R50 by the promenade, enjoy some leisure time on the beach, catch a bus or a minitaxi into the city, or rent a bicycle and ride along and admire the Beachfront’s natural charm. Don’t miss the opportunity hop on one of the funky and colourful rickshaws for a ride, a uniquely Durban tradition that goes back to 1893.
Happy Hippo hosts The Globe – the roof terrace bar – which offers a great view, spectacular sunsets and urban integration by experiencing lively conversations with interesting locals and visitors from all over the world.
- Great value for money with a personal touch.
Happy Hippo offers different accommodation options, from en-suite double rooms, twin and triple rooms to a wide variety of dorms, with four, five or six sleepers with en-suite or shared bathroom, great for group trips. The second floor provides ample space for leisure and privacy.
The communal kitchen has all the facilities needed and breakfast and dinners are available, with flexible and affordable menus whipped up daily by Etienne. “Three guests had to leave this morning at 6 am; I arranged their last breakfast in Durban on the terrace so they could watch the sun rising”, Etienne told me when I met him in the kitchen area. That sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Guests can book meal options by signing in the book on the kitchen counter, easy as that.
- Authentic experience – Local is lekker.
Indaba, Umjondolo, Ndebele, Shosholoza, Babalas; I am not rambling, these are some of the room names. “Everything at Happy Hippo is about South Africa; each room has a different name that depicts a cultural aspect of our country. This creates conversations and hooks for cultural discoveries” says Michelle. We stayed in Lalapanzi, the Zulu word for “sleep tight”.
The communal lounge is spacious and open-plan, set in the colours of the South African flag. Everything at Happy Hippo raises awareness of linguistic and cultural aspects of the country, in a jovial and vibrant style. The Globe hosts Chilled Out Sundays, a Bring & Braai (bbq) paired with Cocktail specials, every Sunday afternoon from 2 pm.
Welcoming, helpful and engaging, the staff at Happy Hippo is a tight knit crew, dedicated to making your stay a memorable one. With almost no staff turnover, Michelle and Mike strive to empower everyone who works with them, helping them to develop to their full potential. “Dumi started working here as a cleaning lady; she showed interest in working at the front desk and now she is one of our loving receptionists. This is what empowerment is, passing on knowledge and letting people fly with it” Michelle says.
This special bond is part of the atmosphere at Happy Hippo; while at the front desk I met a Belgian visitor who had been extending her stay for the last 6 weeks; when I greeted her, she sighed and said “I don’t want to leave.” Yes, it gets this infectious.
- Eco Hippo
Michelle and Mike have built the Backpackers on serious eco-friendly and planet-friendly ethics. Recycling is common practice in the kitchen, the establishment uses biodegradable products, and there are projects for Happy Hippo to become 100% solar powered and water efficient. Happy Hippo is very active in the communities and it spearheaded the very first Street Children World Cup in 2010.
The Happy Hippo has created a safe and vibrant space for travellers to explore the hidden gems of Durban, rated #7 top destination to visit in 2015 by the New York Times. After our brief visit, it is no wonder that this Eco Establishment made it to the Best 25 Backpackers in SA.
Support Happy Hippo’s eco ethics; get in touch via their Eco Atlas page and make a booking the next time you plan to visit balmy Durban.