The Hawaan Forest

 

No-one would dream that a few 100 metres from the luxury flats and homes in Umhlanga Rocks there lies a pocket of primeval dune forest whose dense foliage is scarcely penetrated by sunlight.

 

Described by JPH Acocks in 1953 as a “last relic of coastal forest” the Hawaanis a unique indigenous woodlands area that has remained in its natural state for centuries.

 

Thanks to the forthought of the late Sir Marshall Campbell the land was set aside as a nature reserve. Subsequently the Umhlanga centre of the Wildlife Society has taken significant interest in the forest and the prevention of its natural state.

 

The beautiful forest is characterised by the important presence of many notable species of trees with tropical attributes. The Cavacoa aurea and Cola natalensis are extremely rare but are found in the Hawaan. Approximately 10 species of climbers (liane) assist in providing the relatively dense canopy. These climbers give the forest a rare atmosphere, providing ‘monkey ropes’ and spikey and knobbly stems which intertwine amongst the branches.

 

 

Aerial Image 1937

 

The beautiful forest is characterised by the important presence of many notable species of trees with tropical attributes. The Cavacoa aurea and Cola natalensis are extremely rare but are found in the Hawaan. Approximately 10 species of climbers (liane) assist in providing the relatively dense canopy. These climbers give the forest a rare atmosphere, providing ‘monkey ropes’ and spikey and knobbly stems which intertwine amongst the branches.

 

Aerial Image 2003

 

The origin of the name Hawaan is obscure. This is not an isiZulu word, and the closest words in isiZulu are hawe usually used as hawe ma and used as an exclamation of surprise or disappointment, and ihawu meaning "small shield". Neither of these words seem appropriate as an origin for the name Hawaan. It has been suggested that the name stems from indentured Indian labourers who were brought to South Africa to work on sugar-cane plantations. Much of the area surrounding Hawaan Forest was sugar-cane plantations, and it is thought that the Indian labourers who practiced Hinduism used the forest for religious ceremonies, particularly those associated with Havan. A Havan is a sacred purifying ritual in Hinduism that involves a fire ceremony and is a ritual of sacrifice made to the Fire god, Agni. The vessel used to perform the havan is called the Ôhavan kund. After the fire is lit in the Ôhavan kund, things such as fruits, honey and wooden goods are placed in the sacred fire. It is thought that the forest now known as the Hawaan Forest was a source of fruits, honey and wood to be used in the Havan ceremonies and that the forest was thus called Havan or Hawan, now Hawaan.

 

 

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