Durban’s bay and extensive harbour is home to a remaining 15 hectare stand of mangroves – where formerly there were extensive mangroves (438 hectares) right around the edges of the bay – that is today a protected natural heritage site.
Known as the Bayhead Mangrove Swamps it is home to the mud-skipper fish, various crabs, including the one talon bigger than the other fiddler crab, red mangrove crab, and the mangrove kingfisher – more than likely attracted by the amazingly high number of crabs that make the mangrove swamp their home.
It may lie in the middle of the city but the area attracts a surprisingly high number of waterbirds and Durban’s bay has recorded 120 species of aquatic birds. Put aside at least an hour and you can almost guarantee sightings of at least 30 different birds.
The adjacent tidal flats also attract an amazing number of birds – pelicans, gulls, terns – and a waterbird hide overlooking the flats makes viewing, particularly between low tide and the high tide when birds end up concentrated right in front of the hide as they lose ground.
There is a lovely boardwalk that winds its way through the mangroves in similar fashion to Durban’s Beachwood mangroves.
Because of where it lies, in the harbour, these mangroves are under constant threat from environmental pollution, such as the recent cooking oil spillage from the Africa Sun Oil fire in Mobeni. The fire ruptured one of the pipes resulting in the leaking of unprocessed oil into nearby canals, ending up in the mangroves.
Bayhead Natural Heritage Site is a 20ha nature reserve, which protects a pocket of mangroves and coastal grassland within the Durban Bay. Three species of Mangrove occur within the reserve, as well as an area of coastal grassland. A number of water birds and crabs can be seen on the intertidal mudflats.
Managing Agency: National Ports Authority