iSimangaliso Wetland Park

enter image description here iSimangaliso encompasses a variety of terrains that make it an important biodiverse region of the South Africa

South Africa’s third-largest protected area and oldest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 3,320 square km iSimangaliso follows the Indian Ocean coastline for a full 220 km north of Lake St Lucia (Africa’s largest estuarine system) to Kosi Bay on the border with Mozambique. It is easily the country’s most biodiverse reserve, incorporating five separate Ramsar Wetlands, a lush tropical mosaic of mountains, bushveld, palm groves, wooded dunes, grassland and coastal forests, as well as a 5 km-wide marine section that harbours Africa’s most southerly coral reefs. The faunal diversity of iSimangaliso (Zulu word meaning ‘something wondrous’) was encapsulated by Nelson Mandela, who described it as “the only place on the globe where the oldest land mammal (rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest terrestrial mammal (elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (whale)”. Indeed, iSimangaliso can boast a higher count of vertebrate species than any other African conservation area with 129 terrestrial and aquatic mammals, 525 birds, 128 reptiles, 50 amphibians, and 991 marine as well as 48 freshwater fish. Despite this, while wildlife is abundant in parts, the stunning coastal scenery is at least as big an attraction as the game viewing.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park_Hippo Hippos fight for territory in lake St Lucia | Credit: Scott Ramsay

Jungle-swathed St Lucia Village, fringing the freshwater estuary for which it is named, stands at the far south of iSimangaliso and is the park’s main travel hub. A contender for South Africa’s most wildlife-friendly settlement, it is home to plentiful hippos and crocs, as well as the likes of porcupine, bushbuck and warthog. The tropical birdlife includes African fish eagle, Trumpeter hornbill, Purple-crested turaco and Mangrove kingfisher. Popular activities include visits to an out-of-town crocodile farm and launch trips on the St Lucia Estuary.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park_Turtle Tracking Turtle tracking at iSimangaliso | Credit: Donna Scherer

Set below forested dunes on a reef-shielded beach north of St Lucia, Cape Vidal is a superb beach that offers good low-tide snorkelling and seasonal land-based whale and dolphin viewing. It also forms a vital seasonal nesting site for loggerhead and leatherback turtles.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park_Vervet Monkey Vervet monkeys in Cape Vidal

Halfway between St Lucia and Cape Vidal, the forested dunes around Mission Rocks are some of the world’s tallest and provide sanctuary to the secretive red duiker and localised blue monkey. Buffalo, rhino, elephant and possibly cheetah might be seen on the game-viewing loop to Lake Bhangazi.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park_Nyala antelope The nyala antelope

The 400 km2 uMkhuze Game Reserve offers the finest game viewing within iSimangaliso. Home to elephant, buffalo, giraffe and and elusive populations of leopard and cheetah, it is popular with wildlife photographers thanks to some well-sited photographic hides that attract a steady stream of nyala, kudu, zebra, warthog, white rhino and black rhino. More than 420 bird species include the localised Yellow-spotted nicator, Livingstone’s turaco, Neergaard’s sunbird and African broadbill.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park_Reef Snorkelling and diving are popular activities near Sodwana Bay

Africa’s southernmost coral reefs stand offshore of Sodwana Bay, whose Seven Mile Reef is ranked among the world’s most beautiful dive sites, with overhangs, drop-offs and mushroom rocks reaching around 20 m below the surface, and a dazzling array of colourful reef fish to be seen.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park_Lake Sibaya Lake Sibaya

South Africa’s largest natural freshwater body, Lake Sibaya is backed by tall forested dunes and supports around 150 hippos along with a wide diversity of aquatic birds.

Comprising eight lakes and a series of connecting channels that drain into the Indian Ocean through a sandy estuary, scenic Kosi Bay offers unusually calm snorkelling conditions and the opportunity to seek out 150 marine fish species on the rocky reef in the estuary mouth. The complex fishing traps set in the estuary by the local Thonga people represent a highly sustainable form of traditional resource management, since the estuarine fish are readily replenished from the open sea.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park_family vacation iSimangaliso is a wonderful family safari destination

St Lucia village is a convenient base for day safaris to the nearby Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, providing refuge to all the Big Five, including the world’s densest populations of both white and black rhino. Other wildlife includes African wild dog, giraffe, zebra, impala, nyala, greater kudu, warthog, Vervet monkey and almost 400 bird species.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park_Cheetah in Phinda A cheetah family in the Phinda Game Reserve

Sharing its eastern boundary with iSimangaliso, the private Phinda Resource Reserve is KwaZulu-Natal’s most prestigious safari destination. All-inclusive packages with guided game drives in an open 4x4 are also certain to yield all the Big Five over the course of a two- to three-night stay. A dense population of habituated cheetahs allows for great close-up behavioural viewing.

Not strictly speaking a private reserve, but effectively functioning as one, the 300 km2 Tembe Elephant Park is best known for its giant tuskers, but the rest of the Big Five are also present, and the birdlife is fantastic.

Practical advice

  • Several scheduled flights daily connect Johannesburg to Richards bay, a large industrial port town about one hour’s drive southwest of St Lucia Village by road. There are also regular flights from most major South African cities to Durban, about three hours’ drive from St Lucia along the N2. Some visitors to Phinda and other private reserves use direct charter flights.

  • Most Durban-based tour operators offer overnight trips to southern iSimangaliso and/or Hluhluwe-Imfolozi. The region is also well suited to self-drive visits, though 4x4 is required for most places that lie north of Mkhuze Game Reserve and east of the N2.

  • A varied selection of budget to mid-range accommodation can be found in St Lucia Village. Most reserves set within or associated with iSimangaliso have inexpensive but comfortable rest camps. Upmarket bush camps can be found in Phinda, on the outskirts of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, and at certain sites along the iSimangaliso coastline north of Sodwana.


You might also like

South African food and tipping

Restaurants operate on a similar basis to those in Europe or North America. A 10-15% tip to the waiter is standard, depending on the quality of service. At hotels, it’s usually easier to sign drinks and meals to the room than to pay cash, but you could still leave a tip for an individual waiter or bartender, or add one to the bill before you sign it. Hotel porters usually expect a tip…

Stellenbosch and the Winelands

The beautiful landscape of the Stellenbosch wine valley The scenic Boland (literally ‘Upland’) immediately inland of Cape Town enjoys twin claims to fame. Not only is it home to some of South Africa’s oldest and most vivid towns (most notably Stellenbosch and Franschhoek), but it also forms the hub of the Cape’s burgeoning wine industry. Characterised by lush vine-planted…

City and bush safari holidays in South Africa

Cape Town by night | Credit: SA Visas No other country matches South Africa when it comes to offering a world-class city and bush holiday. Cape Town is quite simply the most beautiful city in Africa, and also arguably the best equipped when it comes to urban attractions such as museums, live music, restaurants and wine-tasting venues. Cape Town also offers access to some fabulous…

South Africa in November

You can expect thundershows in the Kruger during November Johannesburg and the Highveld is hot by day, cool at night and receives regular rainfall often in the form of afternoon thunderstorms. Cape Town and the Western Cape is hot by day, cooler at night, and dry. The Kruger Park and surrounds is hot by day, warm at night, and dry. November is an ideal time for beach holidays…

A South African holiday as a couple

There are plenty of romantic getaways in South Africa that are perfect for couples | Credit: Madikwe Safari Lodge Most parts of South Africa are suited to couples. However, it’s easier for couples travelling without children to self-drive (which also helps keep costs down) and ensures plenty of privacy and quality time together. Many couples opt to visit areas like the Garden Route,…

Big Five safari holidays in South Africa

The most elusive of the Big Five; the leopard will drag its prey high up into the trees to escape scavengers For many first time visitors to Africa, a top priority is ticking off the so-called Big Five: lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino. South Africa offers many excellent opportunities to do this, and it is the easiest place in Africa to see rhinos, since it supports more than…

Popular South Africa Safaris

These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates

Aerial View of Sun City | Sun City & Madikwe Luxury Safari (SA 6 days)

Sun City and Madikwe Luxury Safari

From Sun City's hedonistic pleasures to the majesty of nature at Madikwe Game Reserve, this journey combines the best of two very different worlds...

 | South Africa and Zambia honeymoon

South Africa and Zambia honeymoon

Explore the romantic Atlantic Ocean with it's multi-cultural heritage and a Big Five safari in the Sabi Sands, finally ending off at Victoria Falls from the Zambian side...

 | Highlights of Southern Africa

Highlights of Southern Africa

Exploring these areas of the Southern African continent should on top of your bucket list...

 | Cape Town, Winelands & Kruger Luxury Journey (SA 9 days)

Cape Town, Winelands and Kruger Park Journey

Experience Cape Town, the lush Cape Winelands and a safari in the Kruger National Park and you'll fall under South Africa's spell...

Elephant on Game Drive | Cape Town & Kruger Luxury Safari

Cape Town and Kruger Luxury Safari

Combine Cape Town and the surrounding Cape Winelands with a safari in the Kruger National Park for a relaxing and exhilarating South African safari...

 | Garden Route Adventure on a  Royal Enfield motorcycle

Garden Route Adventure on a Royal Enfield motorcycle

Experience the Cape and Garden Route in a thrilling motorcycle safari ...

 | 5 Day Greater Kruger & Sabi Sands safari

5 Day Greater Kruger & Sabi Sands safari

Enjoy an authentic African safari. Game viewing possibilities are unparalleled and include the Big Five in the Sabi Sands and white lions in the Timbavati Nature Reserve....

 | Luxury South Africa to Zimbabwe safari

Luxury South Africa to Zimbabwe safari

Spot the Big Five in Thornybush Private Game Reserve and enjoy the majesty of Zimbabwe's roaring Victoria Falls ...

 | Thornybush Game Reserve Safari

Thornybush Game Reserve Safari

Enjoy the city life in Johannesburg and track the Big Five in the Thornybush Game Reserve...

 | Sabi Sands & Madikwe Combo

Sabi Sands & Madikwe Combo

Our selection of South Africa's top safari lodges and game reserves are guaranteed to suit every taste and budget. Consider this exciting safari package...

Ready to start your adventure?

Your tailor-made African holiday starts here...

How can we get hold of you?

How many people will be travelling?

Details

Please tell us more about your travel plans?


Discover Africa Group needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at anytime. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, check out our Privacy Policy.

Submitting your inquiry

Thank you, your enquiry has been received

Thank you, your enquiry has been received

Reference:

 +27 21 422 3498
   discover.africa
    info@discoverafrica.com
    8AM - 5PM GMT+2