Durban’s Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve is so secret it’s closed to the public.
You can however unlock it’s secrets on the third Saturday of each month. This is when the North Durban Ezemvelo Honorary Officers open the gates to the public.
Last month I was free, so decided to explore this tiny green spot in the middle of bustling busy Durban and unravel it’s mystery.
As I arrived I was warmly welcomed by Lynne Johnson one of the Officers in attendance. She offered to share with me Beachwood Mangrove’s secret treasures.
A trail among the mangrove trees
The reserve is home to the largest saltwater mangrove trees in Durban. An elevated boardwalk winds itself through the reserve making it easy to explore.
With a little help from Lynne, I learned how to tell the difference between the black, white and red mangrove trees found here. To the untrained eye they look pretty similar.
“Look at the roots” says Lynne. The white mangrove looks like straight sticks growing out of the mud. The black mangrove is knobbly around the base and the red mangrove grows its roots a bit higher up and spreads them wide like cables.
Beautiful Views from Durban to Umhlanga
By crossing a wooden bridge over a stream we made our way to the beach through pristine sand dunes covered with intriguing plants. The day was bright and sunny so I was treated to picture perfect panoramic views from Durban to Umhlanga.
Weird and Wonderful Creatures
The boardwalk takes you over the mudflats to what I call Crab Heaven. Never have I seen so many crabs all in one place.
Four types of crabs live in the mangroves, but the most entertaining is the red clawed mangrove crabs. They are shy and bolt into their holes as you approach.
But here’s another secret. You can entice them out.
All you need to do is collect a handful of yellow leaves from the black mangrove trees. So during your walk collect any you find lying around. When you get to Crab Heaven gently drop a leaf and let it float down. You will be rewarded with a crab running out his hole, grabbing it and bolting back with the leaf in tow. You may even be lucky enough to see a tussle between two of them fighting over the prize.
Tree Climbing Snails
Be sure to look out for mangrove molluscs or climbing whelks. As the tide rises so they climb up the trees. At low tide they descend again to feed.
A Fish out of Water
Among the crabs you may see a strange looking rather large sort of tadpole clumsily propelling himself half in the water and half out. Your eyes are not deceiving you.
You have found the mudskipper which seems quite at home in or out of the water
The Mangrove Celebrity
Beachwood Mangrove’s most sought after celebrity is none other than the highly threatened dwarf chameleon. I am yet to see one. It’s difficult enough to find any chameleon and is easier at night. So to find one the size of your thumb makes it almost impossible.
Our Feathered Friends
I didn’t see many birds. I heard a sunbird, but was too busy having fun in Crab Heaven to confirm which one. However, there is a bird walk when the gate opens at 8 am. I plan to be there next time.
So now you know the secrets, what you going to do?
Whether you are a birder like myself, a nature lover, just free on the third Saturday of a month, then make a point to uncover this nature reserve’s secrets. The reserve is a haven for young children to explore and learn the wonders of nature.
Another secret – its free, there is no charge. Yip you read that correctly. Donations toward the conservation efforts are welcomed but not compulsory.