For many years our coastal destination of choice was the small town of St. Lucia situated in the northern regions of our east coast as it was only a five hour drive from where we lived in Pretoria. When we first started coming here, the “town” consisted of a supermarket where one could buy almost anything, a fuel station and a tiny bank plus various kinds of accommodation. Besides fishing in both the sea and estuary, there was not much else to do so it remained a place which was peaceful and one could relax and enjoy yourself in the surrounding nature reserve.
The area is run and preserved by the Kwazulu Natal Park Board (KZN Wildlife) and the camping areas are neat, clean and only a few steps from the estuary and beach.Lake St. Lucia which it is situated on, is the largest estuary in South Africa. In 1984 Cyclone Demoina closed the estuary mouth and this has led to a greater wetlands area. For the nature lover, large amounts of crocodiles and hippo which have adapted to the salty water, can be seen. There are over 500 bird species to be found including Purplecrested Lourie, Paradise Flycatcher and breeding Pelican not to mention the stunning Fish Eagle who’s call is synonymous of Africa.
4x4 Vehicles and motorcycles have been banned on the beaches since 2001 in order to preserve the breeding ground for the Giant Leatherback and Loggerhead Turtles. Small Red Duiker, Bushbuck and Banded Mongoose are often seen but since the inclusion of the area in the Maputo Corridor which was established many years ago, it would not be unusual to see an elephant or two as well.
Amongst others, it boasts of the following:
8 interlinking ecosystems
3 major lake systems
350 kms of water surface
220 kms of coastline and beaches
190 kms of marine reserve
100 species of coral
1 200 species of fish
25 000 year old coastal dunes
36 snake species
80 dragonfly species
110 butterfly species
Sunset cruises on the estuary are available as well as kayaking, deep sea diving/fishing and whale watching tours. Small boats are allowed on the estuary from which fishing can be done but a permit is required and can be bought at the KZN office in town. Certain fish are limited to the amount you may catch per day and the size. Beautiful hiking trails are available where one can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature at its best including miles of beach where one can find spectacular shells washed up on the shore.
Although St. Lucia was first discovered as far back as 1554 by Portuguese explorers and called Rio de Areias de Ouro, it was renamed in 1575. It was declared a Nature Reserve in 1897 and proclaimed a World Heritage Site in December 1999. The area was renamed iSimangaliso Wetlands Park in 2007. Because of its current status, new businesses bloomed. Now there are many different kinds of restaurants and shops available but it still remains a small town and many tourist buses use it as part of their itinerary. Vendors selling a variety of African curious and crafts line the street and many beautiful articles can be bought from them.
The beaches have no protective shark nets so swimming is not allowed within 100m of the estuary mouth.
This is a malaria area and precautions should be taken especial pregnant woman and older people.
For more information about accommodation and activities, please go to: http://www.isimangaliso.com/