Discovering the Magic of iSimangaliso Wetland Park

iSimangaliso Wetland Park, previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, is situated on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It is South Africa’s third-largest protected area, spanning 280 km of coastline, from the Mozambican border in the north to Mapelane south of the Lake St. Lucia estuary. 

A herd of hippos native to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park

The park is a part of a transfrontier marine park, the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay Transfrontier Conservation Area, straddling South Africa, Mozambique, and Eswatini.

A Rich History

The bay had been home to the Tsonga people for over a thousand years, with the area being referred to as Tembeland or Thongaland. The area was governed by the Tsonga branch of the Vahlanganu, with the Tembe Royal Family holding sway around St Lucia. The language spoken in and around Maputo and St Lucia bay is Ronga, which is a dialect of Xitsonga.

The Park’s Unique Offerings

At the heart of the park lies the vast Lake St. Lucia, home to a large number of hippos, crocodiles, pelicans, and flamingos. iSimangaliso Wetland Park is truly a paradise for nature enthusiasts and adventure-seekers, offering a variety of activities:

  • Bird Watching: The park is home to around 530 bird species, making it a paradise for bird watchers.
  • Deep Sea Fishing: The waters off the iSimangaliso coast are ideal for game fishing due to warm currents and deep ocean trenches.
  • Estuary Boat Cruises: Visitors can see hippos and crocodiles in their natural habitat from the comfort of a custom-built passenger ferry.
Small bird sitting on a branch

A convenient way to reach these wonderful sites is by renting a car from SANI, a reliable and customer-friendly service that offers comfortable vehicles for your journey.

  • Game Drives: Licensed operators offer guided tours across all sections of the Park, providing a chance to see the Big 5 and much more.
  • Guided Walks: Tourists can explore the Park’s splendour at their own pace under the guidance of an experienced ranger.
  • Horse Riding: Tours of iSimangaliso’s unspoiled beaches or game reserves on horseback.
A herd of zebras

For those starting their journey from the coastal town of Umhlanga, there’s a convenient option of [Umhlanga Car Hire](link to homepage) that can facilitate your travel to iSimangaliso.

  • Kayaking: Full and half-day itineraries on the waters of Lake Sibaya are available.
  • Scuba Diving: iSimangaliso’s coral reefs, sustained by the warm, nutrient-rich waters of the Agulhas Current, are among the world’s best diving spots.

The 10 Jewels of iSimangaliso

The park is known for its unique interlinking ecosystems, often referred to as the ’10 Jewels of iSimangaliso’.

  • Coastal Forest
  • Cape Vidal
  • False Bay
  • Kosi Bay
  • Lake Sibaya
  • Lake St Lucia
  • Maphelane
  • Sodwana Bay
  • uMkhuze
  • Charters Creek

Discover the Unseen

The Western Shores and Charters Creek sections have been newly opened to the public, allowing visitors to explore parts of the park that were once inaccessible. They offer a stunning combination of terrestrial wildlife, marine life, and birdlife, making them must-visit destinations for anyone visiting the park. For tourists looking to explore these areas and others in comfort and convenience, companies like SANI Car Rental can provide reliable transportation options.

End your day with a leisurely stroll on the 220 kilometers of pristine, protected coastline, offering a vast range of beaches to enjoy throughout the Park. And if you’re visiting between June and November, don’t miss the opportunity to go whale watching, one of the most popular tourist activities in iSimangaliso.

For the full iSimangaliso experience, get a vehicle from Sani Umhlanga Car Hire and enjoy the park on your own schedule.

Bird living in the wetland

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an adventure-seeker, or a history buff, iSimangaliso Wetland Park has something to offer everyone. With its rich history, diverse ecosystems, and array of activities, it truly lives up to its name, which means “a miracle” or “something wondrous” in Zulu.

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