The Hawaan Forest is one of very few remaining climax coastal forests in southern Africa, and it is imperative that it is conserved. Situated in the rapidly developing town of Umhlanga on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, a mere hip and a hop from King Shaka International Airport, it is bordered by the coastal M4 freeway, the Ohlanga River and rapidly developing residential areas. The forest, which is approximately 80 ha in extent, is privately owned. The Hawaan Investments helps to preserve 31ha of the forest and a portion of the adjacent coastal grassland as a nature reserve. The remaining forested 49ha area belongs to Tongaat Hulett Limited and is maintained as a private conservation area.

Author by Jocelyn Sutherland

Forest Guardianship
The Hawaan Forest has been maintained by a succession of dedicated volunteers. Bill Duthie, the Conservation Officer for the then Umhlanga Town Board, together with Dr Vincent Wager, a retired plant pathologist and frog and spider expert, originally got permission to maintain the forest on behalf of WESSA. They mapped out the paths, started to label some of the trees and together with two rangers patrolled the forest on a weekly basis. Over the years Bill and a tireless band of volunteers kept alien plants from taking hold in the forest.

When Bill retired, Phoebe Carnegie took over the reins of forest management and did a sterling job for many years with little assistance until Umhlanga UIP (Urban Improvement Precinct) provided a worker to help with clearing. Jocelyn Sutherland joined Phoebe’s Thursday work party two years ago on my retirement. And so began Jocelyn initiation into Hawaan forest maintenance. From November last year, when Phoebe stood down, Jocelyn has been responsible for maintenance of the forest. Every Thursday, ably assisted by Ann Lawson, Rob Little, Musa or Bongani from UIP and various other helpers who come now and again, we walk the paths keeping them clear, label trees and remove any alien plants which may be coming up, especially in the clearings. Tongaat Hulett periodically carry-out alien eradication, supplying and funding a team of workers to do alien plant removal. This amazing team of 15 ladies, who were originally trained by WESSA in alien removal, are self-employed. They periodically spend 15 days working in the forest removing aliens. However, approximately a 50 m wide strip alongside the M4 which has been left to form a barrier against intruders and vagrants, the forest is now almost entirely alien free. Author by Jocelyn Sutherland

Interesting Sighting

Natal Hickory (Cavacoa aurea) is dioecious, i.e. male and female flowers are born on separate trees, and they have distinctive fluted trunks which resemble a bunch of sticks. In September, when in flower, their creamy yellow, fragrant flowers lighten up the forest. The male trees invariably flower slightly before the females.

— photo by Hilton MacLarty
Mystacidium venosum, very rarely seen in the forest. However, it is very impressive when it flowers. Found on branches in at least two location in the forest.

— photo by Hilton MacLarty

Southern Cola (Cola natalensis) is also easily identified by its bark, which is flaky and splotched with green-grey splodges, and its leaf stalk has a distinct elbow-like bump at the base of the blade.

— photo by Hilton MacLarty


Please contact us for any inquiries about the forest and future walks. Our office is open part-time on Mondays and Thursday from 13h00 to 16h00. 

Guided walks thought the forest are open to the public on the first Saturday of the month from February to December. The meeting place for walks is at the forest gate. Walks are given by volunteer guides, who have a passion for different aspect found in the forest environment.  


cnr of Herald and Portland drive
Umhlanga Rocks
South Africa
Directions to the forest entrance gate, Click here

Contact Information
+27 31 201 5111

Contactable on Mondays and Thursday from 13h00 to 16h00


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The Hawaan Forest