The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in South Africa and comprises a series of beaches, coral reefs, lakes, swamps, wetlands, woodlands, coastal forests and grasslands that stretch all the way from Kosi Bay near the Mozambican border to Cape St Lucia in the south.
The park is incredibly beautiful and diverse, with a wealth of bird and animal life, including whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and a wide variety of waterfowl such as storks, pelicans, terns, and herons; as well as over 500 South African bird species including the Madagascar fish eagle, the Nile crocodile, South Africa’s largest hippo population, elephant, black and white rhino, giraffe, buffalo, and a range of antelope that includes waterbuck, impala, and kudu.
The park encompasses 328,000 hectares of pristine natural ecosystems, including Lake St Lucia, the St Lucia and Maputaland Marine Reserves, the Coastal Forest Reserve, the Kosi Bay Natural Reserve and Mkuze Game Reserve, making it the country’s third largest protected landmass. A significant part of the park centers around the massive estuary, Lake St Lucia, which is part of the largest estuarine system in Africa and runs parallel to the coastline with the world’s highest forested sand dunes sandwiched between the estuary and the sea.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park is one of South Africa’s most popular destinations and offers a wide range of activities such as hiking trails, fishing, rock and surf fishing, estuary fishing and deep sea fishing, as well as diving, horse riding, game viewing and whale and bird watching. It’s a perfect destination for nature and outdoor enthusiasts, with an abundance of natural beauty and wildlife to explore.
The name iSimangaliso means miracle and wonder, which aptly describes this unique place. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999 in recognition of its superlative natural beauty and unique global values.
Elephant, Rhino and Leopard at the Isimangaliso Wetland Park
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a Big 5 game area that offers visitors the opportunity to see a variety of African wildlife, including elephants, rhinos, and leopards, as well as giraffes, tsessebe, and other antelope species. The park is located on the edge of the popular seaside resort of St Lucia and can be accessed through two gates, the Dukuduku Gate and the Charters Creek off-ramp, both of which are easily accessible from the major N2 highway.
The park’s managing authority has made significant improvements to the infrastructure in recent years, with modern facilities such as modern ablution blocks, lookout points, and hides, and a canopy walk. The park offers several new game drives, including the uMphathe Loop, which features the Kweyezalukazi Lookout and the uMdoni Loop. The uMthoma Aerial Boardwalk provides a panoramic view of Lake St Lucia’s narrows, with views as far as Cape Vidal in the north and Maphelane in the south. Visitors can enjoy a comfortable and exciting experience in this Park, with all the necessary facilities, it is a perfect destination for a family trip.
Eastern Shores and Cape Vidal – Isimangaliso Wetland Park
Cape Vidal on the Eastern Shores is the perfect destination for those looking for a combination of beach and safari experiences. The resort is situated in a marine reserve, offering visitors the opportunity to see humpback whales, dolphins, rare turtles, whale sharks, marlin, and sailfish. However, it’s also a short drive away from game areas, where visitors can see a variety of wildlife such as elephant, rhino, buffalo, crocodile, hippo, hyena, leopard, and many species of smaller game.
The area around Cape Vidal offers a variety of activities for visitors, including bird-watching, game viewing and scenic lookout points. From St Lucia to Cape Vidal, several loop roads lead to excellent natural features, providing visitors with an ideal beach and safari experience. The Eastern Shores section is a perfect spot for nature and wildlife enthusiasts, with a vast array of biodiversity that’s worth explorin
False Bay – Isimangaliso Wetland Park
iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a place of ancient secrets and abounds with treasures, both old and new. Sixty million years ago, this strip of land on the western side of Lake St Lucia was covered by the sea. Fascinating marine fossils of both animals and corals can still be found scattered throughout the area.
The park offers visitors the unique opportunity to experience the thrill of discovering the Small Five, a term used to describe the smaller species of wildlife, such as the antelope and primates, birds, and butterflies. The False Bay, the widest section of Lake St Lucia, is hemmed in by two peninsulas – the Nibela to the north and the Nhlozi to the south – and is comprised of a variety of habitats, including woodland, thornveld, open savannah, shoreline, and one of the richest remaining pockets of sand forest left in Southern Africa. These habitats provide excellent bird-watching and are home to an abundance of smaller game species. Visitors can explore the park on foot or horseback and discover the little wonders of nature.
Kosi Bay – Isimangaliso Wetland Park
The Kosi Bay region of iSimangaliso, a protected area on the border of Mozambique, features a network of interconnected lakes, channels, and diverse ecosystems such as beaches, wetlands, palm forests, and mangrove swamps. This untouched African paradise can only be explored by 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Experience the rich culture of the Thonga community at Kosi Bay. The Tembe people have been using traditional woven fish traps and palisade kraals for over 700 years, passed down through generations. These unique fish traps consist of a guide fence that leads fish into a trap, while allowing small fish to escape, preserving the local fish population.
Kosi Bay beaches are a crucial breeding ground for leatherback and loggerhead turtles. Witnessing one of these majestic creatures, weighing up to 450kg and measuring over 2m in length, as they make their way uphill from the surf to lay their eggs is an unforgettable experience. Nesting season runs from October to February. However, it is important to note that only a small fraction of hatchlings survive to adulthood and return to nest on the same beach two decades later.
Explore Africa’s lake district at Kosi Bay, a system of four interconnected lakes – Amanzimnyama, Nhlange, Mpungwini, and Makhawulani – connected by winding channels and surrounded by wetlands, leading to the Indian Ocean through a shallow estuary. Take a boat tour from Lake Nhlange to Lake Makhawulani, and enjoy the scenic view of the reed channels, as well as the opportunity to snorkel along the mangrove banks or visit the Thonga fish traps on Lake Makhawulani.
Lake Sibaya, Southern Africa’s largest natural freshwater lake
Lake Sibaya, Southern Africa’s largest natural freshwater lake, is situated adjacent to forested coastal dunes along the iSimangaliso coastline. At an impressive 7,750 hectares, it has been designated as a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance. The presence of marine canyons offshore and relict estuarine fauna suggest that it was once connected to the sea by a large river. Its crystal-clear waters and white sandy shores are fed solely by run-off from the towering 165m dunes, with no rivers flowing in or out.
Lake St Lucia
Lake St Lucia is a large estuarine lake located on the northeastern coast of South Africa, within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. It is the largest estuarine system in Africa and one of the most important wetlands on the continent. The lake is fed by several rivers and comprises of several interconnected systems of lakes, lagoons, and estuaries. The lake is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including various species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. It is also a popular spot for ecotourism activities such as boat cruises, fishing, and birdwatching.
The lake is also of great ecological importance as it forms an important breeding ground for several species of marine and freshwater fish, as well as reptiles and amphibians. The lake also serves as a vital feeding ground for many species of migratory birds. The lake also plays an important role in the local ecosystem, providing a habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal species. The lake is also an important cultural and historical site, with a long history of human habitation and use.
Maphelane – Lake St Lucia
Located at the southern end of the Lake St Lucia Estuary basin, Maphelane is situated on the banks of the uMfolozi River and at the base of the towering 183m Maphelane dune – the highest vegetated dune in South Africa. A hike to the viewpoint offers stunning views of the ocean and river mouth. This small, rustic resort, nestled in lush coastal forest, is a popular destination for fishermen and nature enthusiasts. Ski boats are permitted to launch and shore fishing is excellent, drawing many local families back year after year. The rocky intertidal areas also provide opportunities for musseling and crayfishing. While swimming in the sea is risky due to strong currents, low tide reveals shallow areas suitable for swimming.
Sodwana Bay, located on the northeastern coast of South Africa, is a popular destination for beach and water activities, known for its crystal clear waters, beautiful beaches and year-round sunshine. It is also a world-renowned diving spot, boasting over 1,200 species of fish and a diverse array of marine life and coral reefs. The area is also home to the Coelacanth, a rare species of fish that was discovered in the deep Jesser Canyon offshore from Sodwana Bay in 2000.
Visitors can also catch a glimpse of bottlenose dolphins and various whale species that migrate through the area, including Southern right and Humpback whales between June and November.
Sodwana Bay is a short drive from the Big 5 uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso, making it a unique destination where visitors can spot the “Big 7” – lion, rhino, elephant, leopard, buffalo, Humpback whales and whale sharks.
Sodwana Bay is a popular destination on the northeastern coast of South Africa, located within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The area is known for its crystal clear waters, beautiful beaches, and year-round sunshine, making it a great spot for beach and water activities. It is also a renowned diving destination and considered one of the top ten dive sites in the world, boasting over 1,200 species of fish and a diverse array of marine life and coral reefs. The area is also home to the Coelacanth, a rare species of fish that was discovered in the deep Jesser Canyon offshore from Sodwana Bay in 2000.
The area is also known for its marine wildlife and visitors can spot pods of bottlenose dolphins and various whale species that migrate through the area, including Southern right and Humpback whales between June and November. The area is also a short drive from the Big 5 uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso, making it a unique destination where visitors can spot the “Big 7” – lion, rhino, elephant, leopard, buffalo, Humpback whales and whale sharks.
Sodwana Bay offers a wide range of activities, including scuba diving, snorkeling, beach activities, fishing, boat trips and eco-tours, and there is also a variety of accommodations available in the area, from campsites to self-catering chalets, and hotels.
uMkhuze is a section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park located in the northeastern part of South Africa. It is known for its diverse array of ecosystems, which include savannah, forest, and wetlands, as well as its rich biodiversity. The area is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, including the Big 5 – lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, and buffalo – as well as many other mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
The area is also a popular destination for eco-tourism and offers a variety of activities such as game viewing, bird watching, hiking, and guided walking safaris. Visitors can also explore the area by boat or 4×4 vehicle, which allows them to see the different ecosystems and wildlife in the area.
One of the major attractions in uMkhuze is the hide located on the edge of Nsumo Pan where visitors can watch wildlife coming to drink at the pan, specially during the dry season. The pan is also home to a variety of waterfowl, including flamingos, pelicans, and herons.
uMkhuze is also home to many cultural and historical sites, including the graves of some of the last of the Zulu kings, as well as traditional Zulu homesteads, and ancient rock art sites. The area is also home to several communities of the local AmaKhosi and AmaTfwala tribes, who continue to live and work in the area.
The Isimangaliso Wetland Park
iSimangaliso Wetland Park, also known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. The park spans an area of 328,000 hectares and is made up of a diverse range of ecosystems, including beaches, coral reefs, lakes, swamps, wetlands, woodlands, coastal forests, and grasslands. The park stretches from Kosi Bay, located almost on the Mozambican border, to Cape St Lucia in the south.
The park is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including over 500 bird species, including the Madagascar fish eagle, and many species of mammals such as the Nile crocodile, South Africa’s largest hippo population, elephants, black and white rhinos, giraffes, buffalo, and a variety of antelopes such as waterbuck, impala, and kudu. It is also an important site for marine life, with several marine reserves, including the St Lucia and Maputaland Marine Reserves, that protect the coral reefs and a wide variety of marine species such as whales, dolphins, and sea turtles.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a popular destination for tourists and offers a wide range of activities such as hiking, fishing, rock and surf fishing, estuary fishing, and deep-sea fishing, as well as diving, horse riding, game viewing, and whale and bird watching. The park is also home to several cultural and historical sites, including the oldest known human settlement in South Africa, dating back to around 200,000 years ago.
The park has a well-maintained infrastructure with several rest camps and picnic sites, as well as well-marked hiking trails, and guides are available for tours. The park’s management also supports conservation efforts to protect the park’s unique biodiversity and the livelihoods of local communities.
We highly recommend the Isimangaliso Wetland Park (St Lucia Wetland Park) as a top tourism spot in South Africa
If you’re looking for a truly unique and unforgettable experience in South Africa, then the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, formally known as the St Lucia Wetland Park, should be at the top of your list. This breathtaking natural wonder, located in KwaZulu Natal, offers visitors a chance to explore a diverse array of ecosystems, from pristine beaches and coral reefs to wetlands, forests, and savannah.
One of the biggest draws of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is its incredible biodiversity. The park is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, including the Big 5 – lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, and buffalo – as well as many other mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Visitors can take game drives, guided walking safaris, or boat trips to get a closer look at the incredible wildlife that call the park home.
But the iSimangaliso Wetland Park isn’t just about wildlife – it’s also a cultural and historical treasure trove. The area is home to several communities of the local AmaKhosi and AmaTfwala tribes, who continue to live and work in the area. Visitors can explore traditional Zulu homesteads, ancient rock art sites, and the graves of some of the last of the Zulu kings.
If you’re a fan of water activities, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park has plenty to offer as well. Sodwana Bay is considered one of the top ten dive destinations in the world, with over 1,200 species of fish and a diverse array of marine life and coral reefs. The area is also home to the Coelacanth, a rare species of fish that was discovered in the deep Jesser Canyon offshore from Sodwana Bay in 2000. Visitors can also catch a glimpse of bottlenose dolphins and various whale species that migrate through the area, including Southern right and Humpback whales between June and November.
In short, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park offers a wide range of activities and experiences that will appeal to nature lovers, adventure seekers, and culture enthusiasts alike. It’s no wonder that it’s considered one of the top tourism spots in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. So why wait? Book your trip to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park today and discover why it’s a destination not to be missed!