Trek through Hawaan Forest

The property market has slowed, but that hasn’t stopped Durban’s growth as a busy economic hub of KwaZulu-Natal. Local residents see more and more buildings going up and changing the face of not only Durban’s CBD, but also the Golden Mile and the more popular holiday areas like Umhlanga Rocks. On each visit, you’ll see new holiday apartments, high-rises, hotels, and other spots for accommodation in Umhlanga. One area that’s remaining as ancient as the day it was declared a private, protected area, is the Hawaan Forest, which is located on the Umhlanga coastline, and as appealing as it may appear to be, it’s a fiercely protected reserve that’s not open to the public.

What is the Hawaan Forest?

The reason why the Hawaan Forest is so strictly protected is because it’s an ancient primeval forest and the last of its kind – a climax dry coastal dune forest. The dune and much of the forest is at least 18 000 years old and because of its age and nature, it’s protected by the Wildlife and Environment Society of Southern Africa (WESSA). It’s on a piece of private land owned by the Tongaat Hulett Group, which grows cane in the region, but it’s been protected since 1860 when the land was owned by the Campbell family. If popular tourist spots are, however, more appealing to you than a protected reserve, check out www.isibindiafrica.co.za.

What’s so great about the Hawaan Forest?

This 114-acre (or 47-hectare) patch of dune forest is home to more tree species than the number of species that grow in the whole of Europe. The current number of tree species is at 175. The biodiversity within this tiny patch of land is what makes the forest so special. The animals that reside in the forest include feisty bush pig, vervet monkeys, mongooses, bushbuck, red and blue duiker, and genet; there are also mambas and rock pythons, so if you get the chance to trek through the forest, remember to wear closed-toed shoes. The bird watching opportunities in the forest are seemingly endless and birders will be ecstatic to see the endangered spotted ground thrush, as well as eagles and guinea fowl.

Why do you need to phone in advance?

If the Hawaan Forest was open to the public, chances are it would not be as bio-diverse as it is today, and it would also not be so well-preserved. Since it’s on a private piece of land, interested visitors need to call in advance (+27 (0) 31 566 4018) and book a spot on a Saturday morning guided walk. You’ll need to be up early, though, as guided walks start at 08:00 and take approximately two to three hours to complete.