It is also one of 38 trips worldwide that travel experts want you to take. “There might be better-known national parks in South Africa, but few can rival iSimangaliso Wetland Park for sheer diversity,” says travel expert.
“In this lush, coastal reserve you can safari-drive to spot rhino, elephant, buffalo, antelope and more before picnicking on the sweeping golden sands of Cape Vidal beach, swimming in the surf and (during the June to December season) scanning for humpbacks migrating by, just offshore.”
Ms Phindile Makwakwa, Acting CEO of Tourism KZN, said it was an honour for KwaZulu-Natal to have iSimangaliso, one of its iconic tourism destinations, chosen by leading travel experts who give plenty of ideas, itineraries and practical information to plan your next trip.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a unique mosaic of ecosystems – swamps, lakes, beaches, coral reefs, wetlands, woodlands, coastal forests and grasslands – supporting an astounding diversity of animal, bird and marine life.
Lying on the north-eastern coast of KwaZulu-Natal, stretching from Kosi Bay in the north to Cape St Lucia in the south, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park was the first site in South Africa to be inscribed on the World Heritage list by Unesco, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park includes a river mouth, 60 kilometres wide, that creates a huge estuary. This is Lake St Lucia, which runs parallel to the coast and is separated from the sea by the world’s highest forested sand dunes. The lake is part of the St Lucia estuarine system, the largest estuarine system in Africa.
The park incorporates the whole of Lake St Lucia, the St Lucia and Maputaland Marine Reserves, the Coastal Forest Reserve and the Kosi Bay Natural Reserve. The 40 000-hectare Mkuze Game Reserve is also in the process of being incorporated into the park.
A little-known fact is that iSimangaliso supports more species of animal than the better-known and much larger Kruger National Park and Okavango Delta. It is home to South Africa’s largest population of hippos and crocodiles. It also harbours giant leatherback turtles, black rhino, leopards, and a vast array of bird and marine life.
The variety of natural settings, the abundance of wildlife, and the sheer beauty of the place draw tourists to the area in increasing numbers. There is plenty to do – from fishing, boating and scuba diving to hiking, horse riding, game viewing, and whale- and bird-watching.
The park is also one of South Africa’s most popular fishing destinations, lending itself to rock and surf fishing, kite fishing, spear fishing, fly fishing, estuary fishing and deep-sea fishing.
With travel now open during Lockdown Level 2, and in an effort to rejuvenate tourism, several holiday venues are offering discounted packages which include accommodation, most meals, a hippo and crocodile boat tour, game drives in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Umfolozi/Hluhluwe game reserve (including a night drive) and snorkelling at Cape Vidal.
Accommodation options are extensive, ranging from camping to private game lodges, and including hotels, flats and chalets in the nearby town of St Lucia. Strict COVID-19 hygiene protocols are in place.
The travelling public is urged to frequently visit the TKZN digital platforms for great specials on offer.
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