Mangrove swamps have been rated amongst the rarest and most scientifically interesting eco-systems that occur in the tidal environment. The Beachwood Mangroves are of significant botanical, educational and historical value, and being located near one of the country's largest cities, they benefit a number of important educational institutions. It was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 18 July 1980
Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve is located on the northern side of the Umgeni River Mouth as it completes its terrestrial course and drains into the Indian Ocean. The river is the divider between Durban, with its impressively revamped beachfront (on the southern bank) and Durban North, a large residential area.
The reserve is small (only 76 hectares) but filled with endemic treasures. It’s one of the last remaining fragments of protected mangrove habitat on KZN’s coast, on one of the most polluted rivers in the country. Mostly used by researchers and school groups for educational purposes, it’s a relief that this under-the-radar reserve is protected as a National Monument rather than being exploited.
A trail through the mangroves
An elevated boardwalk has been laid out as a trail around Beachwood, so even when the tide is in it’s still possible to explore the reserve. Although you’re free to take the self-guided option, we chose to join a group tour led by one of the knowledgeable officers.
Flora and fauna at Beachwood
Most of the Beachwood Mangrove residents are invisible during the winter months, so we missed a lot of the fauna – although the fiddler crabs and climbing whelks were out in full force. The flora, however, in true KZN form, was flourishing in a riot of green.
The way mangroves work is fascinating. At Beachwood you’ll find three types: red, black and white. Each one has a distinct role to play in the mangrove ecosystem. Together they protect land masses against extreme weather (especially hurricanes and tropical storms), stabilise the shoreline and provide a living, breeding and feeding habitat for birds, fish and other creatures.
The boardwalk winds along next to a distributary of the Umgeni, through a cool Black Mangrove forest and out into the mudflats. The mudflats are punctuated with sparse tufts of Ncema Grass, a popular hideout of the spotted bush snake. If you look carefully, you might see a threatened KZN dwarf chameleon hanging off a grass blade.
-29° 48', 31° 1' 48"