The iSimangaliso Wetland Park - previously known as the St Lucia Wetlands – lie on the east coast of South Africa north of Durban, stretching up in a narrow coastal belt to the border with Mozambique.
This is stunning wild ocean, fringed in places with immense dunes, tens of thousands of years old and dense coastal vegetation. But be aware that other than in a few selected spots, it’s not somewhere you’re likely to want to plunge into the sea, not least because of the frequent signs advising you of the likelihood of meeting not only sharks, but also hippo and croc on your morning paddle.
Isimangaliso covers more than 300,000 hectares of mostly low lying impenetrable swamp forest, interlaced with eight interconnected waterways. In ecological terms it’s remarkable and home not only to the majority of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, but also bursting with birdlife (over 500 species) as well as hippo and crocs. You can also expect to see traditional (several hundred year old) fishing methods being used in the inland lagoons and waterways, which is fascinating to see.
However – this area does come with a serious health warning. In our opinion you’ll want to avoid the area around St Lucia itself as it’s teaming with visitors, mostly towing vast fishing boats. The town itself is dominated by shops selling carvings and “cultural” treasures as well as a number of restaurants selling (in our experience) pretty questionable seafood. Much of this area feels more like Florida than Africa and there are numerous “themed” experiences on offer from croc farms to quad biking.
You need to pick very carefully if you’re travelling to this part of S.A. But assuming you do so you wont be disappointed. Talk to us about planning an itinerary with Isimangaliso in.