ISimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal
iSimangaliso (formerly the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park) is the largest protected wetland in southern Africa stretching 220 kms along the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal from St Lucia to Kosi Bay.
The park was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999 in recognition of its unique global importance.
iSimangaliso’s Ten Jewels:
Kosi Bay is made up four lakes linked by a network of channels. The Kosi estuary offers extraordinary snorkelling opportunities and is one of the world’s top fly-fishing destinations. Traditional fishing practices dating back 700 years are still passed down from one generation to the next. This is the only place where all South Africa’s mangrove species and the only stand of naturally occurring Raphia palms occur.
Accessible only by off-road vehicles, this section of the park includes the pristine beaches of Mabibi, Island Rock, Rocktail Bay and Black Rock. Snorkelling and scuba diving are popular activities. Large Strelitzias and beautiful dune vistas are a feature of this section of the park.
Sibaya is South Africa’s largest fresh-water lake. Tucked against forested coastal dunes, its crystal clear waters are home to KwaZulu-Natal’s second largest population of hippo and crocodiles.
Kian Barker, iSimangaliso Wetland Park
"Itís the mixture of ecosystems that gives the Park such huge species diversity. Almost double any other area."
Sodwana Bay is rated as one of the top ten dive destinations in the world. The coral reefs contain over 1200 species of fish as well as a variety of underwater seascapes and marine flora and fauna. The Coelacanth was discovered in the deep Jesser Canyon offshore from Sodwana Bay in 2000. There are large outcroppings of underwater reefs which are home to brightly coloured fish and corals. Some of the most spectacular coral diversity in the world is located in Sodwana Bay. The reefs are inhabited by colour-changing octopuses and squid ready to ambush unsuspecting prey. Occasionally gigantic whale sharks can be seen gliding through the water, mouth agape to scoop up tiny plankton.
More than 420 species of birds can be found in this 38 500-hectare bird-lovers’ paradise. Leopard, black and white rhino, elephant, giraffe, wild dog, cheetah, hyena and various antelope are also to be seen. A guided walk through the Sycamore Fig Forest and a visit to the Nsumo Pan are favourite activities for visitors to uMkhuze.
This area includes sand forest, thornveld and open savannah. Popular activities here include boating and fishing.
Enjoy the view of Lake St Lucia at its widest point. Marine fossils – animal and plant – can be viewed in the local interpretive centre.
Western Shores and Charters Creek
See elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard, as well as giraffe, tsessebe and other antelope species – or sit back and enjoy panoramic views of Lake St Lucia and the Eastern Shore dunes.
Lake St Lucia
Lake St Lucia is Africa’s largest estuarine system. It is 80 kms long and 23 kms wide at its widest point. Home to over 800 hippos and 1200 crocodiles, this dynamic system hosts large flocks of pelicans, flamingos, ducks, waders and a variety of fish and other aquatic species.
Eastern Shores and Cape Vidal
The Eastern Shores is the ideal beach and safari destination. A number of game viewing roads offer intimate access to varied habitats including dunes, grassland, lakes, pans and coastal dune forest.
Lookout points provide panoramic vistas over a landscape shaped by human residence in Iron Age times and by the Bhangazi people. Popular beach destinations are found at Cape Vidal and Mission Rocks.
Maphelane is a popular base for fishermen and nature lovers. There are two self-guided trails: one tracks the edge of the estuary while the other ascends the dunes to offer spectacular views of the ocean and river mouth. The Maphelane dune, at 183m, is iSimangaliso’s highest vegetated dune.
KwaZulu-Natal nature and wildlife
KwaZulu-Natal marine life
KwaZulu-Natal whale watching
Bird watching in KwaZulu-Natal