Coast KZN

23 Sep 2020

iSimangaliso named ‘must-visit’ destination

Ronelle Ramsamy (Zululand Observer) Picture: Elephants can be seen on the road to Cape Vidal

Zululand’s World Heritage site – and South Africa’s first World Heritage Site – iSimangaliso Wetland Park has entrenched itself as a jewel in South Africa’s tourism crown. It is now one of 38 trips worldwide that travel experts want you to take, according to the September’s issue of Wanderlust – the UK’s leading independent travel magazine.

The renowned magazine delivers inspiration and advice to travellers seeking unique and enriching travel experiences.

‘There might be better-known national parks in South Africa, but few can rival iSimangaliso Wetland Park for sheer diversity,’ said Wanderlust.

Hippos are in abundance in and around St Lucia estuary

‘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 offshore.’

Acting CEO of Tourism KZN, Phindile Makwakwa, said it was an honour for KZN 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.

‘Opportunely, the endorsement of iSimangaliso as a must-visit world destination coincides with Tourism Month this September which has the theme ‘Tourism and Rural Development’.

‘The wetland park stands out as a textbook example of how tourism can be a catalyst for economic empowerment and employment creation in rural areas.’

Mosaic of ecosytems
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 KZN, 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 km 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.

Hippo and croc boat tours on St Lucia estuary is one of the many activities on offer

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, spearfishing, fly fishing, estuary fishing and deep-sea fishing.