If there existed a place where crabs are king, the Beachwood Mangroves Reserve in Durban North is that kingdom.

I’d read little titbits of mentionings of this protected wild spot in Durbs, where the mangroves and their wildlife stayed hidden. The small reserve is only open to us humans on the 3rd Saturday of each month, and when we realised that we were around town on one such lucky Saturday, we jumped at the opportunity to explore such a place.

Beachwood Mangroves Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal

Between the mangroves.

The morning was warm; armed with sunscreen and a camera we went on a bout of easy-going discovering there. The Beachwood Mangrove Reserve crouches next to the Umgeni River, at its mouth, right by the M4 Highway. The city bustles outside its leafy barriers, but inside it is quiet wildness and feels far-flung and wonderful.

We arrived and parked near the little thatched info centre where the Honorary Rangers, who are custodians of the reserve, were on hand and oh-so-happy to chat about the eco systems, creatures and general loveliness of this hidden spot. Visitors can join a guide and walk the route through the reserve whilst learning about what they see. We chose to wander along the boarwalked route alone, taking it all in slowly.

Exploring the Beachwood Mangrove Reserve

Wooden boardwalks- full of character- connecting us to the reserve’s secrets.

The wooden boardwalks allowed safe and sure footed passage for our slip-slopped feet, over the marshiness below. They add character to the setting too. There was something fun and free about following our feet on a wooden, elevated boardwalk through the thick shade of the mangroves. Three types of mangroves stand guard over their territory in the reserve- the black, white and red mangroves.

In that muddiness beneath the boards is crab country. There were hundreds of them, busily protecting their holes, fighting with their neighbours and leering at us. They’re comical to watch and we found ourselves leering back at them, watching their funniness and busy nature.

Red Mangrove Crabs at  the Beachwood Mangrove Reserve

Territorial Red Mangrove Crabs, guarding their holes. Funny guys.

It is estimated that the reserve is also home to over 1 million crabs including the Red Mangrove Crabs we saw so many of, Fiddler Crabs, Marsh Crabs, Ghost Crabs and even the large Tangoman Crab. The Red Mangrove Crabs eat the fallen mangrove leaves but we also saw one nibbling on his dead former neighbour.

Climbing Whelk in the Beachwood Mangroves Reserve

A Climbing Whelk, very attached to his tree.

We were thrilled to see a Mudskipper jump out of the river and onto a rock beneath us too. They are such strange looking chaps; a mixture between a big tadpole and a crawling frog thing. He and a crab challenged each other to the rights to that rock and the crab won, scaring the Mudskipper back into the depths from where he came. Other wild things that can be found in the reserve are the KZN Dwarf Chameleons, Water Mongoose and climbing Whelks (a type of sea snail). The estuary is home to a number of bird species too and is just generally a nature-lovers wonderland.

crab and mudskipper at Beachwood Mangrove Reserve

The stand-off between crab and Mudskipper

It was something quite special to be able to spend a few hours in a crab kingdom with the mangroves for company too.

king of the mangrove swamp in KwaZulu-Natal

King of the mangrove kingdom

Beachwood Mangroves Reserve (Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife) Details:

Tel: +27 (0)82 559 2839
Email: info@kznwildlife.com
Where: The Beachwood Nature Reserve is just off Riverside Road in Durban North.
Times: Third Saturday of every month from 8am to 1pm
Cost: Free