iSimangaliso Wetland Park, formerly known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, is located on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and offers eco-tourists some of the most diverse outdoor experiences. Spanning 280 kilometres of coastline, the variety of fauna and flora here is unique and protects rare swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuary and some of the world’s highest coastal vegetated dunes. In 1999, the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site at an unveiling ceremony, where Nelson Mandela was the guest of honour. The variety of habitats is unbelievable. From the Ubombo Mountains and ancient dunes to the coral reefs, mangroves, and forests, iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a rare natural attraction. The Wetland Park is the third-largest protected area in South Africa and sits about 235 kilometres from Durban, stretching from the Mozambican border to Mapelane on the Zululand coast.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park boasts an impressive variety of ecosystems, and because of this, the park’s biodiversity is astonishing. From subtropical dune forests and wetlands to coral reefs and sandy beaches, these unique ecosystems provide shelter for many species of the natural world. Wildlife in the park include elephants, black and white rhinos, Cape buffalos, and leopards, while marine life includes dolphins, whales, and leatherback and loggerhead turtles. Furthermore, the park is home to some 1,200 crocodiles and hippos. A whopping 521 bird species have been recorded in the park, including the African jacana and several migratory waterfowls and wetland birds.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a fantastic destination all year round. From November to March, the weather is humid and wet. However, this is the time to spot nesting turtles. For game viewing, the dry winter months offer incredible opportunities to spot wildlife, and from June, the whale migration begins.
There is plenty to do in iSimangaliso Wetland Park—from fishing, boating and scuba diving to hiking, horseback riding, game viewing, and bird-watching. For avid anglers, the park is also one of South Africa’s most popular fishing destinations, and those with a keen interest in the sport can enjoy plenty of options. This includes rock and surf fishing, kite fishing, spearfishing, fly fishing, estuary fishing and deep-sea fishing.
Accommodation options are varied, ranging from camping to private game lodges, as well as hotels, Airbnbs and self-catering cottages in the nearby town of St Lucia.
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