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Zululand & St Lucia Wetland Tourism Information

Quick Facts: Zululand & St Lucia Wetland

  • The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park was renamed the iSimangaliso Wetland Park
  • The iSimangaliso Wetland Park covers about 240,000ha and a further 84,000ha in, on or under the ocean
  • The park is a vast area of sub-tropical paradise stretching 220km along the East Coast of South Africa in KwaZulu-Natal from St Lucia to the Mozambique border
  • Home to many natural ecosystems: dune, swamp and coastal forests; rocky and sandy shores; coral reefs and Submarine canyons; mangroves; savanna grassland; thickets; woodlands
  • Long sandy beaches
  • Coastal dunes
  • Lake systems and swamps
  • Extensive reed and papyrus wetlands
  • The mosaic of landforms and habitat types creates breathtaking scenic vistas
  • The park contains critical habitats for a range of species from Africa's marine, wetland and savannah environments
  • Town of Eshowe
  • Hluhluwe Game Reserve
  • Mkhuze Game Reserve & Phinda Game Reserve
  • Town of Pongola
  • Pongola Game Reserve
  • Town of Richards Bay
  • St Lucia
     

Introducing Zululand & St Lucia Wetland

The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park / iSimangaliso Wetland Park nestles on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa about 275 kilometres north of Durban. It is South Africa's third-largest protected area, spanning 280 km of coastline, from the Mozambican border in the north to Mapelane south of the St Lucia estuary.  The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park / iSimangaliso Wetland Park covers about  3,280 km² of pristine natural ecosystems and is managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

The Greater St Lucia Wetlands region of South Africa was renamed the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.  The word 'isimangaliso' is Zulu for 'a marvel'.  Covering about 240,000ha, with a further 84,000ha in, on or under the ocean, the Greater St Lucia Wetlands / iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a vast area of sub-tropical paradise stretching 220km along the East Coast from St Lucia to the Mozambique border.

The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park / iSimangaliso Wetland Park is home to many natural ecosystems, ranging from dune, swamp and coastal forests to rocky and sandy shores, coral reefs and submarine canyons, mangroves, savanna grassland, thickets, woodlands, and the largest protected wetland in southern Africa.  Game viewing opportunities range from self-drive to luxury lodges, and the birding in this region of KwaZulu-Natal is excellent.

The Greater St Lucia Wetlands region, KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa)

The Greater St Lucia Wetlands region of South Africa includes the following areas, towns and game reserves:

  • Town of Eshowe
  • Hluhluwe Game Reserve
  • Mkhuze Game Reserve & Phinda Game Reserve
  • Town of Pongola
  • Pongola Game Reserve
  • Town of Richards Bay
  • St Lucia.

The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park / iSimangaliso Wetland Park includes the following areas:

  • St Lucia Game Reserve
  • False Bay Park
  • Kosi Bay
  • Lake Etrza Nature Reserve
  • Lake Sibhayi
  • St Lucia Marine Reserve
  • St. Lucia Marine Sanctuary
  • Sodwana Bay National Park
  • Mapelane Nature Reserve
  • Maputaland Marine Reserve
  • Cape Vidal
  • Ozabeni
  • Mfabeni
  • Tewate Wilderness Area
  • Mkuze Game Reserve.

Snorkelling and diving

The snorkelling at Cape Vidal, Black Rock and Kosi Bay provides for great excitement.  For divers, Sodwana Bay is still the most popular diving destination in South Africa. For a more exclusive diving experience, Rocktail Bay or Mbibi are recommended.

Hiking trails

The spectacular hiking trail at Kosi Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, offers terrain ranging from grassland, beach and mangrove forests to mysterious waterways.  Visitors have the opportunity to join a short or multi-day horse trail, watch turtles laying eggs or baby turtles hatching on the beach, or go out in a boat to see dolphins and humpback whales.  Community run trails offer the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the area and to explore the history and culture of this region in South Africa.

History of the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park / iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa)
 
St. Lucia was first named in 1554 as "Rio de la Medaos do Oura" ("River of the Dows of Gold") by the survivors of the Portuguese ship Saint Benedict.   At this stage, only the Tugela River mouth was known as St. Lucia. Later, in 1575, the Tugela River was named Tugela. On 13 December 1575, the day of the feast of Saint Lucy, Manuel Peresterello renamed the mouth area to Santa Lucia.

In 1822, St. Lucia was proclaimed by the British as a township.  In 1895, St. Lucia Game Reserve, 30 km north of the town was proclaimed.  In 1971, St. Lucia Lake and the turtle beaches and coral reefs of Maputaland have been listed by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.  In December 1999, the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

World Heritage Site: Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park / iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa)

The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park / iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, was declared a world heritage site in 1999 at an unveiling ceremony where Nelson Mandela was guest of honor. The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park / iSimangaliso Wetland Park was proclaimed a world heritage site based on its wide biodiversity occurring in a relatively small area.

The reason for this enormous diversity in fauna and flora is the great variety of different ecosystems found in this park.  Coral reefs and sandy beaches combined with subtropical dune forests, savannas and wetlands provide a sheltered home for many animals and plans. Animals occurring in the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park / iSimangaliso Wetland Park include elephants, leopard, black and white rhino, buffalo, and in the ocean, whales, dolphins, and marine turtles including the leatherback and loggerhead turtle.  This park in South Africa is also home to 1,200 Nile Crocodiles and 800 hippos.

There are large outcroppings of underwater reefs where beautiful brightly coloured fish and corals can be found. Some of the most spectacular coral diversity in the world is located in Sodwana Bay. The reefs here are inhabited by colour-changing octopi 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.

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