Durban – As places to kick back and relax, there is much more to Durban’s beaches than just sand. The city’s 97km coastline includes rocky shores, mangrove forests, coral reefs, coastal forests, wetlands and sandy beaches. Mole crabs, plough snails, clams and a variety of other creatures, including sea birds, make their homes along the beach.

iol travel sep 29 nt Hiking in Shongweni

Pack a day-pack and head into the great outdoors to explore parts of your city you dont normally see.Pack a small day-pack and head into the great outdoors to explore parts of your city you may not normally visit.

If you are interested in walking and exploring the area but don’t want to do it on your own, join up with a group such as Durban Ramblers, the Amblers Hiking Club, Mountain Backers or the Mountain Club. Either way, get out and enjoy a day exploring aspects of your environment we so often miss living in a city.

Beachwood Mangroves Reserve

Beachwood is a 76 hectare reserve on the northern bank of the Mngeni River that is home to the largest of Durban’s three remaining mangrove communities.

iol travel sep 29 hike nt durban mangroves
You can learn a lot while walking along the board walk that winds through the Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve. Pictures: Sue Derwent

It is also a Natural Heritage site where, by walking along the boardwalk that winds through the mangroves, you can learn a lot. Mangroves are a fascinating plant that once grew prolifically alongside KwaZulu-Natal’s estuaries. The birding is excellent on the mudflats and you will also find Red Mangrove crabs, mudskippers and the funny looking fiddler crabs.

Don’t miss: The wattle-eyed flycatchers, Mangrove Kingfishers (winter) and Purple-banded Sunbirds.

Facilities: There are picnic and braai facilities, guided and self-guided walks, birding and educational group tours and a small, wooden “conference” centre.

Inquiries: 083 293 3611 or 082 699 4501.


Blue Lagoon and Mngeni River Trail

The Mngeni River estuary is home to a large variety of water birds. A trail winds along the northern bank of the river from Beachwood Mangroves to the Umgeni River Bird Park, and there are also wooden benches at view sites along Riverview Road if you just want to stop your car and enjoy the scenery.

The facilities on the southern bank have also been cleaned up and Blue Lagoon is a great place to spend time with family and friends if it gets too windy for the beach. Cycle and canoe tours are also available.

Facilities: Picnic areas, great birding, canoeing and self-guided walks.


Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve

There is a lovely boardwalk through the reed beds on to the beach, a wide lagoon, wetlands, a sandy shore and a dune forest ecosystem to enjoy in this 26ha reserve.

You will also have a chance to see beautiful examples of the threatened and protected coastal milkwood trees and, if you’re lucky, you may spot some shy blue duiker. The entrance to the reserve and start of the boardwalk trail is right at the end of Lagoon Drive, Umhlanga Rocks.

Don’t miss: The brown-throated weavers and wattle-eyed flycatchers.

Inquiries: 031 561 2271


Treasure Beach reserve

At the southern end of the Bluff lies the 2ha Treasure Beach Reserve, where the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa has established a nature reserve and environmental education centre.

Some of the best wild flowers in Durban can be enjoyed in the grasslands in the spring and many visitors have wandered along the rocky shores learning about the marine and coastal ecosystems.

Don’t miss: Guided night-time beach walks.

Inquiries: Call 031 467 8507 or e-mail


Did you know?

  • South Africa is the third most bio-diverse country after Brazil and Indonesia, and Durban is in the centre of one of the most biodiverse of these regions.
  • There are about 46 nature reserves in the Durban region covering a total area of 5 430 hectares.
  • The greater Durban area contains three of the country’s eight terrestrial biomes – savanna, forest and grassland.
  • Durban’s marine and freshwater habitats include 98km of coastline, 18 major river catchments and 16 estuaries.
  • Seven vegetation types and 2 500 species of plant occur naturally in Durban.
  • Eight-two terrestrial mammal species have been recorded, of which 77 are indigenous. (Sadly, 10 of our bat species, 10 shrew species, two antelope, two mice species, the Striped Weasel and the Water Rat are listed as Red Data species.
  • There are 69 species of indigenous reptiles: 41 are snake species, 26 are lizards and two are terrapins. Thirty-seven frog species are thought to occur here. Three rare and endemic species of reptile are the Burrowing skink, the Black-headed dwarf chameleon and the Pickersgill’s reed frog.
  • Twenty invertebrate species are endemic to KwaZulu-Natal and have been recorded in the greater Durban area.
  • There are about 380 different species of bird recorded regularly. This is about half of the 740 bird species found in the country. Durban is home to 40 species of birds listed as threatened in the The Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.
  • A stand of massive old, indigenous fig trees right in the city centre near the City Hall and central Post Office are declared Natural Heritage Sites.
  • The inner city is home to several pairs of Lanner Falcon, a Red Data species that feeds on the city’s burgeoning pigeon population.
  • About 15 pairs of the African Crowned Eagle breed in the eThekwini region. They are capable of carrying off a small antelope.
  • The Durban Metropolitan Open Space System aims to protect conservation worthy areas of the city and support the biodiversity and the ecosystem goods and services, provided by those areas.

-Taken from the Sunday tribune, Independent Newspapers