iSimangaliso Wetland Park Parks and Reserves
This 332 000 hectare Park has three major lake systems, eight inter-linking 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.
* iSimangaliso Wetland Park Highlights
- ∞Superb fishing: salt-water, fly-fishing, night-fishing, deep-sea
- ∞Numerous hiking trails
- ∞Turtle tours (November – February)
- ∞Birder’s paradise – over 500 birds listed
- ∞Excellent sub-tropical 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 was 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 occurring in the park includes elephant, leopard, black and white rhino, buffalo and various antelope. In the ocean: whales, dolphins and marine turtles including the leatherback and loggerhead turtle.
In the words of former president and the late 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:
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 fly-fishing destination. Ancient traditional fishing is still practiced 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 – this area is only accessible by 4WD vehicle 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 fresh-water lake. Set into forested coastal dunes, its crystal-clear waters teem with hippo and crocodiles. Birdlife is incredible.
Sodwana Bay is one of the world’s top 10 diving destinations. Its coral reefs are home to over 1200 species of fish, marine flora and fauna. It is where a prehistoric Coelacanth was discovered in 2000.
uMkhuze 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 re-introduced, after an absence of 44 years!
False Bay A scenic area including sand forests, thorn veld and open savannah. Boating and fishing are popular pursuits as well as hiking, horse riding and birding, or you can simply enjoy the views out over Lake St Lucia.
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 is Africa’s largest estuarine system: 80 km long and 23 km across at its widest point. With over 800 hippos and 1200 crocodiles, this dynamic eco-system hosts large flocks of pelicans, flamingos, ducks, waders and a huge variety of fish and other aquatic species.
Eastern Shores and Cape Vidal offers you the ideal beach and safari destination. There are a number of game-viewing roads which 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.
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 off-shore encounters with dolphins and whales; there’s something bound to thrill you.
Related Tours and Safaris Bush, Beach & Battlefields Tour - 11 Days
A good all-round tour experience that takes in some of the best highlights South Africa has to offer: game viewing in the famous Kruger National Park by open vehicle safaris and night game drives, exploring the waterways of Isimangaliso (Greater St Lucia) Wetlands World Heritage Site; enjoying pristine beaches with excellent scuba, snorkelling, whale and dolphin watching and seasonal turtle watching; absorbing the Zulu culture and impressive history of the KwaZulu-Natal battlefields.
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