About St Lucia
The Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, now iSimangaliso Wetland Park, is one of those rare and beautiful areas which everyone should visit at least once in their lives. In 1999 it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status, marking it as a place of 'outstanding value to humanity'. The Park is situated on the north eastern coast of KwaZulu-Natal and covers 328,000 ha with an impressive 280 kms of pristine coastline. This Natural World Heritage Site is a unique mosaic of culture, wildlife, plant life and scenery. Comprising lakes, islands and the St. Lucia estuary, the area incorporates no less than five separate eco-systems and is unique in its diversity, supporting critical habitats for a range of species from Africa's marine, wetland and savannah environments. For the eco-enthusiast, there are an astonishing variety of habitats ranging from the Lebombo Mountains to grasslands, woodlands, mangroves, dunes and coastal forests, all of which exist alongside the magnificent beaches and coral reefs of the warm Indian ocean.
Nelson Mandela said of the area: "The St. Lucia Wetland Park must be the only place on the globe where the world's 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 largest mammal (the whale)". But don't take his word for it - come and see for yourself!
This unique destination offers visitors an ideal beach-and-bush holiday combining subtropical coastline and classic African game parks and promises some of the most diverse wildlife and outdoor experiences imaginable. This area of the north coast, known as the Elephant Coast, offers a diverse selection of activities including:
- Big 5 Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Game Reserve
- Cape Vidal
- Hippo & crocodile boat safaris on Lake St. Lucia
- Horse riding on the beach or in the bush
- Night game drives in St. Lucia Wetland Park
- Surf, fly, rock, deep sea bottom and game fishing
- Turtle tours (seasonal)
- Whale watching (seasonal)
- Zulu cultural village tours
The area supports the country's largest populations of hippo and crocodile and seeing a hippo wandering through the village at night is not at all unusual.
St. Lucia village has the friendliness of a small African village coupled with a superb location for exploring the area. The bustling main street has two well-stocked supermarkets, banks and ATMs, internet cafes, a selection of restaurants, a post office, a number of bait and fishing tackle shops plus curio and craft stalls selling locally made beadwork, woodcarvings and basketry.
Just 30kms north of St. Lucia lies Cape Vidal - a beautiful stretch of beach along St. Lucia's 25,000 year old fossil shoreline, nestled amongst towering dunes and dense evergreen coastal forests. You can swim, snorkel, fish and sail in the clear, warm waters of the Indian Ocean and explore the ancient coral reefs that line the coast. If you're a fisherman, the area is renowned for its record catches of marlin, tunny and barracuda. Many visitors also enjoy Cape Vidal for its walking trails, which vary in length and offer the opportunity to get close to the area's spectacular wildlife.
Horseback safaris are available within the nature reserve for confident riders - most wild animals feel less threatened by the presence of a horse and are more likely to let you get really close.
The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park displays an incredible diversity of cultural and ecological treasures. The park is home to hundreds of species of animals and plant life - almost 50 of which are considered threatened. The area's fragile combination of social diversity and natural beauty has elevated the Wetlands to an iconic status in the ongoing environmental struggle. As a result, conservation of the area and its inhabitants has become vitally important, not only to those who live here, but to the whole of South Africa and indeed the world. The Wetlands Park is groundbreaking in its management, following the unprecedented decision by the South African government in the 1990s to turn the running of the park over to a coalition of local people, non-governmental organisations and government representatives, aptly named the Wetlands Authority. This was the first time that local residents were fully represented in the decision-making body of an important conservation area.
Because of the importance of conservation to the area, there are plenty of conservation-related activities for the eco tourist to enjoy. Observation of spectacular wildlife is hard to avoid, as the area boasts the country's largest populations of hippo and crocodile, as well as black rhino, leatherback and loggerhead turtles, leopard and a whole plethora of marine and bird life. Wildlife experiences include turtle safaris - a fascinating seasonal phenomenon in which giant leatherback and smaller loggerhead turtles come ashore at night to nest and lay their eggs. Guided tours of this amazing sight are available from November to January.