The Whalebone Pier

The Model

Umhlanga Rocks is a well known South African tourist destination. Anyone who’s been there would most certainly recognise the whalebone pier and lighthouse situated on the beach. Paul Doran recreated these iconic landscapes in an official MOC commissioned by The Certified LEGO Store for their Gateway branch.

The MOC contains an impressive amount of pieces, around 14,500 and took around 160 hours to complete.

About the designer

Paul Doran is one of South Africa’s most talented MOC builders. This is not the first time he’s designing a MOC for the Certified LEGO Store. He co-designed the model in the Sandton branch of the LCS alongside Dax McKinnon. Paul’s main focus is medieval fantasy builds and his repertoire is an impressive one, working on various sized mocs.

More about Umhlanga

Umhlanga is an affluent residential, commercial and resort town north of Durban on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It is part of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, created in 2000, which includes the greater Durban area. The name means “place of reeds” in the Zulu language, and the correct pronunciation of “hl” in Umhlanga is similar to the Welsh “ll”. It is bordered by Durban North to the south and Mt Edgecombe to the west.

It is well known for the Gateway Theatre of Shopping which is the largest shopping mall in the southern hemisphere. It also has the second tallest skyscraper in South Africa named “Pearl Sky” which stands 183 meters tall. There are two beaches: Bronze Beach and Main Beach, both of which are patrolled by lifeguards throughout the day. Umhlanga is one of the fastest-growing cities in South Africa, and recent estimates place the population at over 30,000 people.

Together, Umhlanga and Umdloti form the Sugar Coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Umhlanga is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa, with more than 1.2 million visitors in 2015. 

Other places of interest include Umhlanga Country Club and The Mount Edgecombe Country Club in nearby Mount Edgecombe.

Umhlanga, or more precisely the former sugarcane fields of Umhlanga Ridge, has become the focus of growth in the greater Durban area with many businesses relocating offices from central Durban. In 2010, Durban International Airport was moved to La Mercy, near Umhlanga, and reopened as King Shaka International Airport.

The economic boom in the Umhlanga area, as well as the new airport located nearby and with various developments well underway, will substantially increase the population over the next two decades. About 6km up the coast is the luxury Aerotropolis known as the Sibaya Coastal Precinct inland to Umdloti. It includes around 9000 houses as well as numerous social and public facilities.

The new town centre around gateway has seen significant expansion with many apartment complexes and businesses being built. The Cornubia development was constructed across the N2 from the new town centre. It will include 24000 low and middle-income houses and opened to the public in late 2017.


Umhlanga derives its name from the Zulu language and means “place of reeds”, referring to the beds of reeds growing along the Ohlanga River north of Umhlanga Rocks.

Before the town was founded, The Oyster Box was initially built as a beach cottage in 1869, and in 1950 it was turned into a luxury hotel.

In 1895, Sir Marshall Campbell founded Umhlanga. The town’s first hotel was established in 1920, followed by a shop and a lighthouse. Following that, the Natal Anti Shark Measures Board was formed (today called the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board) as well as further hotel developments.

Umhlanga Rocks

The Lighthouse

Commissioned in November 1954, the Umhlanga Lighthouse was completed in lightning speed. It was built to replace the Bluff lighthouse, which had been on the site since 1869 due to deterioration. The structure towers 21m in height, which means it can be seen from afar, with a range of light of 24 nautical miles.

The lighthouse is fully automatic. It has a fixed red light that enables ships waiting to anchor in the outer anchorage, to track its position. If the red light can be seen from a ship, it often means that the anchors have dragged and that the ship is too close to shore.

Umhlanga is a beacon of safety in dangerous waters, and the lighthouse has always had an important role to play. It is positioned close to some of the most treacherous seas in Southern Africa. Its purpose is to not only warn passing ships of hidden dangers, but the flashing light also offers a welcome to ships coming into safe harbour at Durban.

The Oyster Box Hotel has always been the official warden of the lighthouse, which means The Umhlanga Lighthouse has never had a keeper. The lighthouse controls used to be inside the hotel office but was removed during the Oyster Box’s 2007 renovation. Today, the hotel is responsible for advising the Portnet’s Lighthouse Service if the lighthouse’s light is not working. Luckily for The Oyster Box’s staff, they are not responsible for changing the light bulb! This job is fully reserved as the responsibility of Transnet and the Port Authorities.

The Whalebone Pier

The Umhlanga Rocks promenade has undergone a major revamp with the construction of a ’21st-century pier’. The goal of the project was to contribute to reducing the unsightly pools of stagnant water that sometimes form on an otherwise pristine beach. The pier is unlike any other constructed in the region with long-span sections on columns to permit continuous access along the beach. The architectural styling has been an essential element of the design and is in keeping with the proposed improvements to the promenade. The pier will have a ‘whale-bone’ theme that has received favourable public comment. Seating for the public is available along the pier with the latest trends in lighting for illumination at night.

The Coastal, Stormwater and Catchment Management Department of eThekwini Municipality awarded two contracts for the construction of major stormwater improvements at Umhlanga Rocks.

The first contract is for construction of a large underground box culvert from the intersection of Tanager Road and Lagoon Drive to the promenade at the lower end of McCausland Crescent. The second is for construction of the new Umhlanga pier.

The pier is, in fact, a continuation of the culvert and extends approximately 80 metres across the beach to a deep-water channel to ensure maximum dispersal of stormwater into the sea. 

Much of the stormwater that used to be discharged on to the beach at Granny’s Pool will be rerouted to the new system. While the Granny’s Pool outlet can never be eliminated entirely, the quality of the beach in this area is much improved.


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