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iSimangaliso Wetland Park

iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of South Africa’s most significant natural treasures.

The name iSimangaliso in Zulu means ‘miracle and wonder’. There couldn’t be a more fitting name to describe iSimangaliso Wetland Park; it is simply miraculous and wondrous.

In December 1999, it was recognised as South Africa’s first World Heritage site, for it’s awe-inspiring natural beauty and unique value in global conservation. And the park is nothing short on unique: 332 000 ha of indescribable beauty, containing three major lake systems, eight different ecosystems, South Africa’s largest estuarine ecosystem, some of the last remaining swamp forests in South Africa, 526 bird species and some of the oldest and largest coastal dunes in the world. Unique probably does not begin to describe it.

Isimangaliso Pano

The number of animal species in the park is also unrivalled. There are more than 3400 species including 120 mammals (including elephants, rhino, buffalo, wild dog and hyena), 526 birds, 128 reptiles, 50 amphibians.

But famously, Nelson Mandela attempted to describe it: “iSimangaliso must be the only place on the globe where the 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 biggest marine mammal (the whale)”

Location: iSimangaliso Wetland Park is located in the northeastern part of South Africa, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It stretches along the coastline for about 220 kilometers.

Key Features:

Biodiversity: The park is renowned for its exceptional biodiversity. It encompasses a wide range of ecosystems, including coral reefs, coastal dunes, estuaries, lakes, swamps, wetlands, and coastal forests. This diversity of habitats supports a rich variety of wildlife, including numerous bird species, hippos, crocodiles, and various types of fish.

Marine Life: The park’s marine component includes a pristine coastline with warm Indian Ocean waters. It is home to diverse marine life, including dolphins, whales, and sea turtles. The coral reefs offshore are particularly noteworthy and offer excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities.

Lake St. Lucia: The park includes Lake St. Lucia, which is the largest estuarine system in Africa. The lake and its associated wetlands provide critical habitat for numerous bird species, including flamingos, pelicans, and many migratory birds.

Wildlife Viewing: Visitors to iSimangaliso Wetland Park can enjoy wildlife viewing through guided game drives and boat safaris. The park is home to a variety of animals, including elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo.

Activities: In addition to wildlife viewing, the park offers a range of activities such as hiking, bird watching, kayaking, and boat cruises. There are also opportunities for cultural experiences, including visits to local communities.

Conservation: iSimangaliso Wetland Park plays a crucial role in conserving South Africa’s natural heritage. It is involved in various conservation initiatives aimed at protecting the park’s ecosystems and the species that inhabit them.

UNESCO World Heritage Site: The park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 in recognition of its ecological importance and unique biodiversity.

Visitor Information: iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a popular destination for both nature enthusiasts and tourists. It offers a range of accommodation options, including campsites, lodges, and guesthouses, to cater to different budgets. Visitors can access the park from several entry points, including St. Lucia and various other gates.

Please note that specific details about the park, such as entry fees, accommodation options, and regulations, may change over time, so it’s advisable to check with local authorities or the official iSimangaliso Wetland Park website for the most up-to-date information before planning a visit.

Getting there: from Durban, take the N2 going to Richard’s Bay. Continue through Richard’s Bay on the N2 and turn off at the R22 going to isiMangaliso.

For more information visit this excellent article from Getaway Magazine.

Visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park


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