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Isimangaliso Wetland Park – South Africa’s first World Heritage Site


The iSimangaliso Wetland Park was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999 in recognition of its superlative natural beauty and unique global values.

The 332 000 hectare Park contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, 700 year old fishing traditions, most 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 unique place.

Here you can experience the diverse experiences in the 10 jewels that make up the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Enjoy the endless beaches that stretch 220 kilometers from Maphelane in the south to Kosi Bay on the Mozambique border, view game on self-guided or guided trails and routes on the foothills of the Lebombo mountains in uMkhuze or in the coastal forests and rolling grasslands of Lake St Lucia’s Eastern Shores. See the spectacular coral reefs and colourful underwater life whilst diving or snorkeling or embark on adventures ranging from kayak trips to horse rides.

“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)” –Nelson Mandela

The diverse terrestrial and marine habitats of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park ensure that visitors have a wide range of activities to embark upon when they come to the Park.

  • Beaches
  • Birding
  • Deep Sea Charter Fishing
  • Estuary Boat cruises
  • Game viewing
  • Horse Riding
  • Kayaking
  • Scuba Diving
  • Turtle tours
  • Whale watching

 

The 10 Jewels

Kosi Bay

Kosi Bay – Kosi Bay comprises four lakes linked by a network of channels. The Kosi estuary offers extraordinary snorkeling opportunities and is one of the world’s top fly-fishing destinations. Traditional fishing practices dating back 700 years are still passed down from one generation to the next. This is the only place where all South Africa’s mangrove species and the only stand of naturally occurring Raphia palms occur.

Accommodation:

The Kosi Bay Camp is situated on the western shore of Lake Nhlange, the largest of Kosi’s 4 lakes and is run by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The camp consists of self-catering cottages that are set in the bush and the campsites are situated in the vicinity of the Lake’s shore.  Many private accommodation providers are in the area.

Activities:

  • Salt-water fly fishing
  • Fishing on the lake by boat, shore or from a jetty close to the campsite
  • Night fishing at the Kosi Bay Mouth
  • Hiking
  • Turtle tours (November – February)
  • Birding

Other places of interest nearby:

Kosi Estuary and viewing the fish kraals and snorkeling (permits obtainable from the Kosi Bay reception)

Bhanga Nek, Boteler Point, Dog Point, Black Rock

Park entry fee and opening times:

Gate opening and closing times: 06h00 to 18h00

Reception hours: 08h00 to 16h00 (Mon – Sat), 07h00 to 15h00 (Sun)

Entry fee: Vehicle charge R20, Adults R25, Children under the age of 12 R15

Community Levy: R5 per person

Camp contact details: +27 35 592 0236

Public facilities:

Ice, cold drinks and a small range of books are available at the Reception office. Annual fishing licences are also available. The Umdoni day-visitor area is shaded and has a number of braai facilities.

St Lucia Coastal Forest

Coastal Forest – Accessible only by off-road vehicles, this section of the Park includes the pristine beaches of Mabibi, Island Rock, Rocktail Bay and Black Rock. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities. Large Strelitzias and beautiful dune vistas are a feature of this section of the Park.

Accommodation:

There are four accommodation facilities in the Coastal Forest section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Rocktail Bay Lodge has 11 x twin / double en-suite units and 1 x 4-sleeper family unit and is situated at Rocktail Bay. Rocktail Beach Camp has 10 x twin / double en-suite units and 1 x 4-sleeper family unit and is situated at Island Rock. Thonga Beach Lodge with 12 x twin / double en-suite units and the Mabibi Campsite with 10 campsites (with no plug-points) are situated at the Mabibi Beach.  Many private accommodation providers are in the area.

Activities:

  • Scuba diving at Mabibi and Island Rock
  • Snorkeling and swimming at Mabibi, Island Rock, Lala Nek, Rocktail Bay, Black Rock, Dog Point
  • Kayaking on Lake Sibaya
  • Birding
  • Walking
  • Salt-water fly fishing and rock and surf fishing

The maximum number of vehicles allowed at day visitor sites are as follows:

Mabibi – 5 vehicles

Island Rock – 5 vehicles

Lala Nek – 5 vehicles

Rocktail Bay – 5 vehicles

Black Rock – 8 vehicles

Park entry:

Gate opening and closing times: 06h00 to 18h00

Reception hours: 07h00 to 16h00 (Mon – Sun)

Entry fee: Adults R25, Children (under the age of 16) R15, Vehicle charge R20

Community Levy: R5 per person

Manzengwenya Camp (Island Rock) contact details: +27 35 574 8998

Kosi Bay Camp contact details: +27 35 592 0235

iSimangaliso 24 Hour emergency hotline: +27 82 797 7944

Public facilities:

Cold drinks and ice cream and a small range of resource books are available at the Reception office. Annual fishing licenses are also available.

Lake Sibaya

Lake Sibaya – Sibaya is South Africa’s largest fresh-water lake. Tucked against forested coastal dunes, its crystal clear waters are home to KwaZulu-Natal’s second largest population of hippo and crocodiles.

Many private accommodation providers are in the area.

Activities:

  • Drive along the coastal forest road alongside Lake Sibaya.
  • Kayak on Lake Sibaya (booking through Thonga Beach Lodge)

Park entry:

Gate opening and closing times: 06h00 to 18h00

Entry fee: None

Sodwana Bay

Sodwana Bay – Sodwana Bay is rated as one of the top ten dive destinations in the world. The coral reefs contain over 1200 species of fish as well as a variety of underwater seascapes and marine flora and fauna. The Coelacanth was discovered in the deep Jesser Canyon offshore from Sodwana Bay in 2000.

Accommodation:

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife runs self-catering log cabins and a wide range of campsites. Coral Divers has a number of accommodation options ranging from safari tents to en-suite huts and has a communal kitchen and restaurant serving meals throughout the day. Mseni Lodge has various units that can sleep 2 – 8 guests, and also has a restaurant on site.  Many private accommodation providers are in the area.

Activities:

  • Swimming
  • Snorkeling
  • Scuba Diving
  • Walking (Mgoboseleni Trail)
  • Birding
  • Whale watching
  • Turtle tours
  • Fishing (shore, fly, deep-sea, fishing ski, fishing jetski)
  • Day Beach driving permit to Adlams or 9 Mile Reef (total of 10 permits issued per day) cost R300 per day, with R200 deposit payable Reception.

Private scuba divers are required to enquire about daily permits.

Park entry:

Gate opening and closing times: open 24 hours

Reception hours: 08h00 to 16h30 (Mon – Thur), 07h00 to 16h30 (Fri – Sat) 07h00 to 15h00 (Sun)

Entry fee: Adults R25, Children under the age of 12 R20

Community Levy: R5 per person

Camp contact details: +27 35 571 0051

iSimangaliso 24 Hour emergency hotline: +27 82 797 7944

Public facilities

Annual licenses to catch or obtain bait are available at the Reception office. A small supermarket is situated across the road from the main reception office. Fuel is also available.

umkuze

uMkhuze – More than 420 species of birds can be found in this 38 500-hectare bird-lovers’ paradise! Leopard, black and white rhino, elephant, giraffe, wild dog, cheetah, hyena and various antelope are also to be seen. A guided walk through the Sycamore Fig Forest and a visit to the Nsumo Pan are favourite activities for visitors to uMkhuze.

Accommodation:

There are three accommodation options in uMkhuze. On the western entrance to this section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is the eMshophi Campsite . The main accommodation facility is found in the Mantuma Camp which has a range of cottages, rest huts and en-suite safari tents. The 8 bed Nhlonhlela Camp is a bush lodge where the services of a cook and an own guide are included in the rate. Many private accommodation providers are in the area.

Activities:

  • Self-drive game drives throughout the Park
  • Guided game and bird trails
  • Guided fig forest walk
  • Animal and bird sighting at various hides
  • Guided night drives

Park entry:

Gate opening and closing times

April to October 06h00 to 18h00

November to March 05h00 to 19h00

Office hours: 08h00 to 16h00 (Mon – Sat), 07h00 to 15h00 (Sun)

Entry fee: Vehicle charge R44 if < 10 people; R80 for 10-20 people; R150 if >20 people, Adults R35, Children under the age of 12 R25

Community levy: R5 per person

Camp contact details: +27 35 573 9004

Public facilities:

Ice, books, cold drinks and some basic supplies are available at the Reception office. The Rhin-o-Dino restaurant is open as follows: 07h00-09h30, 11h30-14h00 and 17h00-19h00.

False Bay

False Bay – This area includes sand forest, thornveld and open savannah. Popular activities here include boating and fishing. Enjoy the view of Lake St Lucia at its widest point. Marine fossils – animal and plant – can be viewed in the local interpretive center.

Accommodation:

Accommodation options at False Bay consist of campsites and the rustic Dugandlovu Camp.

The campsites are currently closed due to a water shortage. Many private accommodation providers are in the area.

Activities:

  • Fishing from the Lake shore and by boat (check levels of the Lake prior to arrival)
  • Hiking (two self-guided trails)
  • Horse Riding
  • Birding
  • Getting There

Park entry:

Gate opening and closing times: 06h00 to 18h00

Office hours: 08h00 to 16h00 (Mon – Sat), 07h00 to 15h00 (Sun)

Entry fee: Adults R25, Children (under the age of 12) R18

Community Levy: R5 per person

Camp contact details: +27 35 562 0425

Public facilities:

Ice, books and cold drinks are available at the Reception office.

Western Shores

Western Shores and Charters Creek – See elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard, as well as giraffe, tsessebe and other antelope species – or sit back and enjoy panoramic views of Lake St Lucia and the Eastern Shore dunes.

Accommodation:

Currently the accommodation at Charters Creek is closed due water shortage. There are many private accommodation providers in the area.

Activities:

New Western Shores Section

  • Self-drive game drives – enter at the NEW Dukuduku gate or the Nhlozi gate and enjoy the new section of the Western shores; key attractions include; uMphate Loop with Kweyezalukazi lookout Kwelamadoda Pan – abundant birdlife and amazibu water lily, uBhejane picnic site, eMgadankawu hide, Kwelezintombi Pan, uMdoni loop taking you to the uMthoma aerial boardwalk, uMthoma aerial boardwalk overlooping the Lake St Lucia narrows and with magnificent views from Maphelane to Cape Vidal.
  • Guided game drives and night drives can be taken in the NEW Western Shores section. The following operators can be contacted;
  • Heritage Tours & Safaris – 035 590 1555 heritagetoursandsafaris.com
  • Jabisa Tours – 035 590 1635 www.eurozulu.com

Charters Creek

Currently open to day visitors only

  • fishing from the shore and by boat (enquire about Lake levels prior on arrival)

Park entry:

New Western Shores section – Dukuduku and Nhlozi gates

Gate opening and closing times

April to October – 06h00 to 18h00

November to March – 05h00 to 19h00

Entry fee: Adults – R35

Children under the age of 12 – R25

Community Levy: R5 per person

Vehicle charge R45 if < 10 people; R80 for 10-20 people; R145 if >20 people,

Western Shores (Charters Creek entry)

Gate opening and closing times: 06h00 to 18h00

Reception hours: 08h00 to 16h00 (Mon – Sat), 07h00 to 15h00 (Sun)

Entry fee: Adults R25, Children (under the age of 12) R15

Community Levy: R5 per person

Camp contact details: +27 35 550 9000

Lake st Lucia

Lake St Lucia – Lake St Lucia is Africa’s largest estuarine system. It is 80 kms long and 23 kms wide at its widest point. Home to over 800 hippos and 1200 crocodiles, this dynamic system hosts large flocks of pelicans, flamingos, ducks, waders and a variety of fish and other aquatic species.

Accommodation:

There are two campsites situated close to the Lake St Lucia Estuary and the Iphiva Campsite is situated close to the Crocodile Centre, north of the town of St Lucia. There are many private accommodation providers in the area.

Activities:

  • Fishing (shore, deep sea, jet ski, fishing ski, boat)
  • Whale watching (June – Nov)
  • Horse Riding
  • Birding
  • Self-guided nature trails
  • Walking or swimming at the beach
  • Guided night drives
  • Visit to the Crocodile Centre
  • Boat cruise on Lake St Lucia
  • Kayaking on Lake St Lucia

Public facilities:

Ice, books and cold drinks are available at the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Reception office. Monthly and annual licences to catch fish or obtain bait are also available.

Eastern Shores & Cape Vidal

Eastern Shores and Cape Vidal – The Eastern Shores is the ideal beach and safari destination. A number of game viewing roads offer intimate access to varied habitats including dunes, grassland, lakes, pans and coastal dune forest. Lookout points provide panoramic vistas over a landscape shaped by human residence in Iron Age times and by the Bhangazi people. Popular beach destinations are found at Cape Vidal and Mission Rocks.

Accommodation:

A range of accommodation is available at Cape Vidal, all of which are operated by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The campsite consists of 50 sites for camping and caravans, there are a number of 8 and 5 sleeper log cabins, a range of other self-catering units known as the Fishing Cabins and the 8-sleeper Bhangazi Bush Lodge. There are many other private accommodation providers in the area.

Activities:

  • Fishing (shore, deep sea, fishing ski, jet ski)
  • Game Viewing (guided and self-guided)
  • Walking on the beach
  • Birding
  • Turtle tours (November – March)
  • Horse Safaris
  • Guided Night Drives
  • Kayaking on Lake St Lucia

Park entry:

Gate opening and closing times

April to October 06h00 to 18h00

November to March 05h00 to 19h00

Reception hours: 08h00 to 16h00 (Mon – Sat), 07h00 to 15h00 (Sun)


About Meredith Haywood

Meredith Haywood
I'm the Editor and Creative Director of 5 Star Durban, I Instagram a bit, I cook sometimes, but mostly I write, and edit... a lot... I'm a philanthropist at heart, and I can't resist fluffy bunnies, kittens and puppies... recently I have started to ponder what owning a goat in a flat could be like...

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