This 332,000-hectare park has three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, 700-year-old fishing traditions, the majority of South Africa's remaining swamp forests, Africa's largest estuarine system, 526 bird species and 25,000-year-old coastal dunes – among the highest in the world. The name iSimangaliso means miracle and wonder, which aptly describes this special and scenic place.
- Superb fishing - saltwater, flyfishing, night fishing, deep sea
- Numerous hiking trails
- Turtle tours from November to February
- Birder's paradise – over 500 birds listed
- Excellent subtropical scuba diving at several spots
- Coastal drives
- Sea and lake kayaking and canoeing
- Whale and dolphin watching
- Guided and self-guided game viewing drives and walks
iSimangaliso Wetland Park became South Africa's first listed World Heritage Site in December 1999, attributed to its incredible natural beauty and global values; an incredibly rich biodiversity thanks to a great variety of different ecosystems in a relatively small area. This ranges from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannahs and wetlands. Wildlife in the park includes elephant, leopard, black and white rhino, buffalo and various antelope. In the ocean, there are whales, dolphins and marine turtles including the leatherback and loggerhead turtle.
In the words of late former president and South African icon, Nelson Mandela:
"iSimangaliso must be the only place on the globe where the oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world's biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world's oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the world's biggest marine mammal (the whale)."
Some of iSimangaliso's jewels include:
Kosi Bay consists of a system of four lakes linked by a network of channels. Its estuary offers superb snorkelling and it's a world-class flyfishing destination. Ancient traditional fishing is still practised here. It's also the only place where you'll find all South Africa's mangrove species together, as well as the only area of naturally occurring Raphia palms.
Coastal Forest is only accessible by 4x4 and includes the pristine beaches of Mabibi, Island Rock, Rocktail Bay and Black Rock. Sweeping beaches and beautiful dunes are common sights. Snorkelling and scuba diving are outstanding.
Lake Sibaya is South Africa's largest freshwater lake. Set into forested coastal dunes, its crystal clear waters teem with hippo and crocodile. Birdlife is incredible.
Sodwana Bay is one of the world's top 10 diving destinations. Its coral reefs are home to over 1,200 species of fish, marine flora and fauna. It is where a prehistoric Coelacanth was discovered in 2000.
uMkhuze Game Reserve
uMkhuze Game Reserve is a 38,500-hectare birding paradise with over 420 species of birds listed. You'll also have an excellent chance to spot leopard, black and white rhino, elephant, giraffe, wild dog, cheetah, hyena and various antelope are also to be seen. Lions have recently been reintroduced after an absence of 44 years!
False Bay is a scenic area including sand forests, thornveld and open savannah. Boating and fishing are popular pursuits as well as hiking, horseback riding and birding, or you can simply enjoy the views out over Lake St Lucia.
Western Shores and Charters Creek
Western Shores and Charters Creek offer you the chance to see elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard as well as giraffe, tsessebe and other antelope species set against the panoramic backdrop of Lake St Lucia and the impressive sand dunes.
Lake St Lucia
Lake St Lucia is Africa's largest estuarine system at 80 km long and 23 km across at its widest point. With over 800 hippo and 1,200 crocodile, this dynamic ecosystem hosts large flocks of pelican, flamingo, duck, wader and a huge variety of fish and other aquatic species.
Eastern Shores and Cape Vidal
Eastern Shores and Cape Vidal offers you the ideal beach and safari destination. There are a number of game-viewing roads that criss-cross over a variety of habitats from dunes and grasslands to lakes, pans and coastal dune forests, interspersed with panoramic lookout points. Popular beaches include Cape Vidal and Mission Rocks.
Our take on iSimangaliso Wetland Park
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park has so much to offer. From snorkelling or diving in deep tropical waters with coral reefs to freshwater marshes, hiking coastal dunes, riverine forests, mangrove marshes and open grasslands and vast stretches of pristine beach, game viewing by open safari vehicle, on foot or offshore encounters with dolphins and whales - there's something bound to thrill you.
You may also want to look at
Kosi Forest Lodge is a 16-bed wilderness lodge located in the Kosi Bay Nature Reserve, almost on the South African/Mozambiquan border. Set in a beautiful, unspoilt sand forest on the banks of the Kosi Lake, the lodge offers a variety of unique experiences, including turtle tracking and exploring this pristine wetland environment in guided canoes and vehicles.
Thonga Beach Lodge is a luxurious lodge set on the pristine shores of the Maputuland coast in northern KwaZulu-Natal, on South Africa's east coast. Private, exclusive and remote, with only 12 spacious thatched suites, the lodge is metres from the unspoilt wilderness beaches of Mabibi, with easy access to some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving in southern Africa.