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Escape from Whoonga Park

Escape from Whoonga Park

by Samora Chapman / 19.06.2013

If you wanna live to see tomorrow, don’t go to Whoonga Park in the Durban inner city. It is the scariest place on planet earth. The area caught my attention recently when it emerged that a convoluted network of storm water tunnels exist under Poison City – extending from the harbour to Whoonga Park (near Wawrick Junction), then branching off to Umbilo, Glenwood, Berea and Greyville. According to recent news reports – criminals, drug fiends and immigrants are living in the tunnels, klapping whoonga and getting up to all sorts of other nasty business.

When I was a kid I loved the Ninja Turtles. So I decide to go have a gander down at the tunnel entrance and maybe snap a few portraits of the candid locals.


On a bright Wednesday morning, I drop my son at playschool and head down to town. I pop into a garage to buy a muffin (blueberry) and get some change as an offering to the locals, which is my best practice when taking street portraits.

I park my limo at Albert Park, where the Durban hip hop scene was born, sling my camera over my shoulder, sniff the smoggy air and hit the inner city for a morning stroll.

I stop at the taxi rank under the highway to ask exact directions to Whoonga Park. “Walk over that bridge, by the train tracks,” a friendly gangster tunes me. I give him a cigarette and go on my way.


As I draw nearer I recognize the place and my skin starts tingling. I’ve been here before.

When I was a young graf fiend my friend and I explored this very corner of the city on a midnight mission. And things went horribly wrong. A naked lunatic burst out of a plastic tent, wailing like a werewolf and wielding a 6-foot sjambok. He came running at us with intent to kill and we fled into the night. But he wouldn’t give up chasing, hunting us through back alleys and whipping the air like demon sent straight from hell to drink our young white-boy blood and drag our bodies back to his den. We got away by the skin of our teeth.

Back to real time and my heart starts tryna climb out of my throat, which is drying up rapidly as I draw nearer. Whoonga Park is fairly abandoned but there is a gap in the wall to the train tracks and I can see a buzz of activity, like the entrance to a beehive.

Whoonga Park Gateway

Two guys approach me looking scary as fuck. The one has a gash on his head that looks festering… and I’ve got my camera tucked under my arm ready run faster than a thief in the night.

“What are you doing here,” the guy with the gash asks me.

“I’m looking for Whoonga Park and the tunnels.”

“This is Whoonga Park,” he says making a motion toward the patch of land between the highway and the train tracks. There’s a pile of rusty barb-wire and a dark hole, which I’m guessing could be the tunnel entrance.

Before I can take a photo, the gash says: “Get out of here. They’ll keeeeel you.”

I don’t need to be told twice – I’m already running as a couple of rogues start to spill out of the hole in the wall. As I climb back on the bridge, I hang over the edge and see an incredible sight. There are about hundred people milling about… smoking, staggering and wailing in a strange trance. It looks like a refugee camp. I pull out my camera and take a few snaps… but in moments the crowd is buzzing like an angry mob.

Suddenly the sky is filled with rocks, which whistle through the morning air past my head like bullets. I hear a series of cracks as the stones start striking the bridge.

View from the bridge

So I duck down and start running for my precious little life. Under the bridge… Through the taxi rank and into my little blue Honda that my granny gave me.

Turn the ignition, rev that shit and flee. Just another day in the jungle.

Read the next instalment of our Whoonga investigations here.

* All images © Samora Chapman.

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  1. you did what? says:

    …….you got big cahonies. I would also be intrigued to check it out……..if I could astral travel……or shape shift…..

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  2. Herman Lategan says:

    A brilliant story, thank you.

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  3. Raheem says:

    yeah bra i checked that spot out tons of times. it filters into the road as well just beneath the bridge next to the robots. some shady shit. dope article though. one

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  4. Cde Tjatjarag says:

    Go back and get inside Samora… don’t quit

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  5. Dazla says:

    Nice one Joogz! Those gullies are bad ass! When you mission through those areas above, you can’t help feeling like a little white rabbit lost in a field of hungry wolves.

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  6. Luke says:


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  7. marcus says:

    The real durban..pushed under the rug..well in this case,the ground…great article

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  8. Russell says:

    Wow man. Scary shit. Reminds me of those zombies in the jut flick “I Am Legend”

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  9. you're a bitch says:

    you’re a pussy bitch! what a kak story

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  10. you're a bitch says:

    and kak photos fag

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  11. Dazla says:

    @ You’re a bitch: You’re a bitch!

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  12. kitty says:

    Scary shit about the tunnels too, like some kind of no-man’s land, criminal underground network. Holy crap.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    Go back and get inside Samora… don’t quit

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  14. Sonja says:

    Thanks for this story – keep on telling us more. So insightful – glad its you though and not me!!!

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  15. clint says:

    That is season 4 of the Walking Dead right there..

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  16. Bronx says:

    I love Durban, best place on earth, I am just surprised all my friends have either gone overseas or to the western cape

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  17. BereaCrimewatch-FB says:

    A large bag of whoonga, laced with arsenic would do the trick. !! hahah, Nice article, great photos

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  18. max says:

    Just look under the railway next to M4 south. Thousands of people living under the bridges with no facilities. The city \ government is doing nothing to support poor people but they do have enough cash to have city police doing private errands or driving around with people violating every rule of the road around them and the just ignore it. or the is enough money to buy palms for beach front @ 10k a palm when you can buy the same palms in Mozambique for R150

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  19. Point Blank says:

    Also under the Francois Rd steel bridge you will find them converging and smoking whoonga. Some in overalls with the company’s logo on it, they go there during lunch break and go back to work flying off their trolleys. Some could be crane/forklift drivers…

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  20. Anonymous says:

    Scarey shit

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  21. Mayuri says:

    I drive past there under the bridge every day after work on my way home. You have balls. My boyfriend’s phone got stolen out his car from the robot once too. Intense section that.

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  22. derek says:

    Ja – that’s a weird part of town – also had my phone nicked from dashboard – and then ended driving halfway to sydney road with this leech stuck on the side of my mazda – he wanted my wife’s phone as well! Max – why would you wanna buy palms in mozam? Even for 150? Nice take Samora!

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  23. Matizo says:

    Every city has it’s own whoonga park situated not far from the train/taxi station under a bridge that reeks of all things godforsaken. careful not to step on fresh faeces as you walk the alley to your city’s whoonga joint.
    Good article, but it would’ve been exceptional if you would charmed your way into the realm and actually exchanged words with those inhabitants.
    KIF none-the-less

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  24. serame says:

    hey!U must really thank god that ur alive; what gave u the edge to go thare, thats is a no go area unless u smoke wunga and they know u.COS EVEN THE PARENTS OF THE POLICE SAPS & METRO DONT ENTER THAT PLACE,u must count your bleesings u are a very lucky person not to say you still had your camera with u

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  25. DrMarx says:

    I’m sure you’ve seen the place has been in the news again recently. A cop shot someone there. anyway it’s a heroin dealing spot. if you want to buy heroin it’s a good place to go, lots of dealers and generally good shit. better to go with someone who knows a dealer, looking lost can get you in trouble. be especially careful at the moment cos theres a supply problem in Durban generally which is why there’s all this trouble

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  26. Adam says:

    Sometimes I miss Durban. Drug addicts are way friendlier over here in oz, its just not the same.

    Cool pics bru I love keeping in touch. Does anyone remember the pedestrian tunnel at the esplanade that went under the tracks and reeked of piss? I reckon that would be a perfect whoonga hangout.

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  27. Glenn the red hen says:

    You have a cool style of writing…..and Balls of Steel!

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  28. Steve who likes to heave says:

    This is exactly where Mike Sutcliffe should be forced to hang out… especially now that he’s divorced, and is a free man… He’s bound to find a soul-mate…

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  29. cocohavana says:

    Interesting story but for fuck sake how bad was the writing..I actually lost interest in reading further.

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  30. jones says:

    Awsome story and well written dig the durb lingo.

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  31. IOIIOOIO says:

    Great article. You should probably update it though; with links to the next part in the series.

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  32. margie says:

    your pics must have been done after a clean up cause it is usually far dirtier than in these pics and the stench as you drive past is aweful. I have to drive past that every day to get home at 7pm and I tell you it is nerve racking and shouldn’t be allowed. I agree Mike Sutcliffe should hang out there and see how he likes it

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  33. Anonymous says:

    You are an idiot. This is a glib, sensational view of a problem from on top of a bridge. You don’t understand anything about fellow humans, Africa or your new digital camera. Your photographs are very poor.

    ‘But he wouldn’t give up chasing, hunting us through back alleys and whipping the air like demon sent straight from hell to drink our young white-boy blood and drag our bodies back to his den.’

    Like the black man is going to eat the white man?

    If you have one pixel’s worth of balls, care about other people or plain intelligence you’d go down and forge a relationship with these cats.

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  34. Umberto says:

    You’re lucky no one took your camera. Now, that’s big BALLS.

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  35. Mike says:

    Sad, but awesome read….I love the showstopper photograph.
    Talented writer in my opinion.

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  36. Ivan says:

    Lived in Lagos Nigeria for a year, and this looks exactly like an everyday scene there. Durban has in the last 8 years come to resemble Lagos in many ways.

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  37. Rich says:

    I drive past them every day…. feel for them all but scared as shit to do anything about it!

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  38. Heath says:

    My father once told me to catch the train home from Tech…he was joking but I still thought it would be a good idea. This was ten years ago but that place was insane…think it’s ‘Berea’ Station that’s right by the small Durban Technicon? Mad place…with a weirder market inside the station…could by anything from dead monkeys to cheap Chinese radios. That made my gonads shrivel…so can only imagine what this spot must be like…only ever saw it from the safety on my bright red ‘sports’ Uno.

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  39. Sash says:

    Whoonga is a problem just like every other drug . But drug addicts are people too . Try being more approachable and friendly next time . Lots of journalists , foreign and local have done articles on this area . Even a white female journalist got some good pictures . Go with a small pocket camera . Ask them permission . Offer them something in return .

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  40. tom van niekerk says:

    I always go past there in the day it has become a swerious problem for everyone.It can only become worse except if something become worse now.The only way for them to get drugs is by robbing people as they are not working

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  41. tom van niekerk says:

    They have n0thing t0 live f0r 0nly the next big fix is all they care f0r can y0u blame the residents fr0m dalt0n f0r atta0king them I’m n0t in fav0ur 0f them being hit 0r injured but kn0w that they have bec0me the enemy as the pe0ple in the area is n0t safe in the area arr0und there

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  42. Anonymous says:

    all we need to eliminate that plek is Osama bin laden

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  43. Bubesi says:

    Go down there with a gpmg, blow the fuckers away… Get the council to clean the bits up… Then build a wildlife sanctuary in the spot!
    F%#k those demons! They destroy a beautiful city and plague this earth with filth!! We could do with less mouths to feed, after all they are sub human!?

    Anybody remember the tropicana? Was the little things that made my childhood awesome. Going there with the family on Sunday for a milkshake was a family treat.

    Let’s vote to rid Durban of s/%# and make it a beautiful and safe place to grow children 🙂

    Yours faithfully.

    The brutal truth. X

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  44. Bubesi says:

    Anyone watching the series ” walking dead “? ??
    Anyway… Just for those who are curiois…

    Definition of subhuman in English:
    Line breaks: sub|human
    Pronunciation: /sʌbˈhjuːmən /

    1Of a lower order of being than humans.
    1.1 Zoology (Of a primate) closely related to humans.
    1.2Not worthy of a human being; debased or depraved:

    If you are ” herding ” like a zombie, taking drugs to the extent you are a zombie, attacking and killing other humans like a zombie, not being very proactive with your day, and contributing to society… Like a zombie… You probably are… A freekin ZOMBIE! !
    Hense the link to ” sub-human “above ^ ^

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  45. Bubesi says:

    This one puts it all in perspective…

    Definition of zombie in English:
    Line breaks: zom¦bie
    Pronunciation: /ˈzɒmbi /

    1A corpse said to be revived by witchcraft, especially in certain African and Caribbean religions.
    1.1(In popular fiction) a person or reanimated corpse that has been turned into a creature capable of movement but not of rational thought, which feeds on human flesh:

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  46. lord k says:

    brave you are young jedi grow you must. learn more i say that plce is death my jedi but one must speak of these ills so ppl can know what really goes on in the city. police make money from this place so why shut it down

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