Team Philippines. (From left) Buddy Cunanan, Kat Llemit, Clarisse Inao, Tessa Prieto-Valdes, Anne Jambora and Allure’s Pinky Icamen.
Photos by PEPPER TEEHANKEE on a Leica C Digital Camera
‘Stars of Africa’ at Durban July 2019
THE PEPPER MILL - Pepper Teehankee (The Philippine Star) - July 26, 2019 - 12:00am

I’ve been to some cities in South Africa but not to Durban, the third most populous city in the country (next to Johannesburg and Cape Town).

When the Durban Tourism Board recently invited the Philippine media for a fam tour (its first time to do so), I grabbed the opportunity to visit this city in the KwaZulu Natal province of South Africa. The main purpose of the trip was to witness the Vodacom Durban July 2019, a horseracing event. 

If England has Royal Ascot, Australia has the Melbourne Cup Carnival and the US has the Kentucky Derby, then South Africa has the Durban July Handicap.

The Vodacom Durban July, held at the Greyville Racecourse, is the biggest social event in Durban and the biggest horseracing event in Africa. It has been running without interruption every year since it started in the Durban Turf Club Handicap on July 17, 1897, where about 3,000 people attended. Now over 50,000 people grace this prestigious event every year.

(Left) Event emcee Selby Mkhize and eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality acting Mayor Fawzia Peer. (Right) Durban Tourism Deputy Head Winile Mntungwa.

This South African thoroughbred horse race, held every first Saturday of July, is a premier event in Durban. This year, it offered a purse of 4.25 million rand (roughly $300,000).

The Vodacom Durban July has also become the leading fashion and entertainment event of the year in South Africa. This was seen during the recent event as the Greyville Racecourse was filled with people — who came dressed to kill or thrill — from all over South Africa, and even from overseas. Guests attended the event to enjoy the “July experience” or, in my case, report on the greatest racing event in the African continent.

It was a great day to see how people dressed up for the event. I was people-watching the whole day (aside from eating and drinking at the Durban Tourism marquee). Tessa Prieto-Valdes styled all the ladies in the group, including STAR’s Pinky Icamen. We proudly carried the Philippine flag as we donned our African best. Tessa and I, in our color-coordinated African-themed attire, even made it to the pages of The Sunday Times in South Africa!

A choir sings mid-day at the races.

Betting was another part of the Durban July so I tried my hand in horserace betting for the first (and last) time. Just for fun, I bet 14 rand (P51) and got back 18.60 rand (P68). My total winnings amounted to roughly P17, but at least I didn’t lose! 

As fashion was a big part of this lifestyle event, there were fashion shows set up at the Durban Tourism marquee and prizes were given to the best young designer and to attendees — the best dressed man and woman in classic race wear, exceptional fascinator or hat, and to the most striking couple. 

After the races, there were several after-parties. We went to the Durban Tourism after-party where famous DJs entertained partygoers throughout the night. We enjoyed the fun atmosphere where the locals were so friendly they danced and chatted with us. I was also told that those at the table beside ours in the VIP area belonged to a famous South African band. I wasn’t familiar with them though.

At the Greyville Racecourse during Vodacom Durban July.

Our group, who drank the night away, left the scene of revelry at 2:30 a.m. The after-party, I was told, went on until 5:30 a.m.!

The party never ended at the Vodacom Durban July as the next day, our group was whisked away to another after-party, which started in the afternoon at Max’s Lifestyle in Umlazi, a township in Durban. I guess it was just another excuse to get together and drink! I really enjoyed boerewors, an African sausage made of beef and pork, served at Max’s, named by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the best restaurants in the world. 

It was a fun Durban July, which really etched a mark in my life. I never thought I would have so much fun spending a whole day at a horserace. 

Vodacom Durban July attendees, all dressed in this year’s theme ‘Stars of Africa.’

Getting to Durban

To get to Durban, I first took Ethiopian Airlines for the first leg of my flight. I had a wonderful experience with this airline as the long journey from Manila to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, was made more comfortable with the flat beds of the Boeing 787 known as the “Dreamliner.”

This aircraft, famous for reportedly eradicating jetlag, has cleaner air compared to other airlines because its cabin air pressurization is provided by electrically driven compressors that eliminate the need to cool heated air before it enters the cabin. It’s also nice to know that the cabin’s humidity is programmable based on the number of passengers carried. Its humidity setting is 15 percent compared to four percent in other standard aircraft so passengers’ skin won’t get dry, and I can attest to that!

Beef, boerewors and beef liver platter at Max’s Lifestyle, named by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the best restaurants in the world.

The Dreamliner’s cabin air-conditioning system also reportedly improves air quality from outside air with its high-efficiency particulate filters that remove airborne particles. It also uses a gaseous filtration system that removes odors, irritants, gaseous contaminants, viruses, bacteria and allergens.

A member of Star Alliance, Ethiopian Airlines has been flying from Manila since 2015, connecting to more than 120 international destinations in Africa, Europe, Middle East, North and South America, via its hub in Addis Ababa. It operates four flights a week using the state-of-the art Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  It has been awarded by Skytrax with a 4-star rating and was also named Best Airline in Africa for three consecutive years as well as Best Business Class and Best Economy Class in Africa.

It’s nice to note that the Ethiopian food selection on the plane was amazing. It was great to have experienced the Dreamliner, which got me to South Africa well-rested. With that, I was ready to explore Durban.

A delicious sampler of Ethiopian food on Ethiopian Airlines.

Watch out for more Durban stories in this column next month!

(For more information, visit or call its Makati office  at 848-0978 or its Manila office at 522-4869.)

(Follow me on Instagram @pepperteehankee.)


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