There is much to draw travelers to South Africa - including the stunning coast, incredible wildlife, and diverse cultures. But perhaps its enduring appeal is also down to how easy it is to travel in a country whose attractions are so wild - with superb roads, fantastic cuisine and comfortable lodging at all budget levels.
Things to see & do in
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
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.
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Top 10 highlights of iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Kosi BayKosi 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.
Lake SibayaSibaya 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
"It’s the mixture of ecosystems that gives the Park such huge species diversity. Almost double any other area." [3:24]
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Sodwana BaySodwana 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.
False BayThis 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 center.
Western Shores and Charters CreekSee 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 VidalThe 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.
MaphelaneMaphelane 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.
More about KwaZulu-Natal
With hot, humid summers and dry, mild winters, KwaZulu-Natal offers warmth and sunshine most of the year.
Perfect for South Africa second-timers or for travelers who prefer something a little wilder and more remote, KwaZulu-Natal seduces with swathes of white-sand Indian Ocean beaches, extraordinary wildlife and a unique Zulu heritage.
Our favourite things to see and do in KwaZulu-Natal include hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains, spotting the Big 5 on safari in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, picking up exquisite pottery along the Midlands Meander, visiting the Zulu battlefields and snorkelling, hippo-spotting and some seriously chilled beach time in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Forget Kruger, head east into KwaZulu-Natal for a wildlife extravaganza that goes beyond the Big Five.
The beaches of KwaZulu-Natal stretch along 600km of coastline with beaches to match the very best on the planet.
Few places in Africa combine Big Five safaris with beach time quite as well – or as conveniently – as KwaZulu-Natal.
From vast Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, credited with saving the white rhino from extinction to conservation-focussed private reserves, safaris in KwaZulu-Natal are second-to-none.
KwaZulu-Natal self drive vacations open up big game parks and battlefields, Zulu culture and an idyllic protected coral coastline.
From endangered wildlife monitoring to community construction projects, KwaZulu Natal volunteering vacations offer a unique way to experience this vibrant South African region.
The Battlefields Region of KwaZulu-Natal is a landscape of rolling hills and grasslands over which were fought a total of 63 battles that shaped the history of South Africa.
Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal is the highest mountain range in Southern Africa and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Durban in KwaZulu-Natal is a modern city of 4.
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal is the oldest nature reserve in Africa.
The food and drink of KwaZulu-Natal is a reflection of the diversity of cultures that have inhabited the city over the years.
Read insider tips and KwaZulu-Natal travel advice from our South Africa vacation experts and our travelers – from how to get the most out of your safari to discovering authentic Zulu culture.
Responsible tourism in KwaZulu-Natal is being managed by Tourism KwaZulu-Natal who have developed guidelines for environmental protection, as well as socio-cultural and economic policies for tourism businesses.