The iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the east coast of South Africa is arguably among the finest in a country that boast some of the richest and most exciting wildlife in the world.
What makes South Africa’s third-largest protected area such a living treasure is that within its boundaries lies a unique combination of ecosystems, ranging from open sea to estuary, sand dunes to swamps – and all surrounding the shimmering waters of Lake St. Lucia.
The Indian Ocean acts as the park’s eastern border. Humpback whales and great white shark swim here, as do coelacanths, living relics from 400 million years ago. Nearer to the shore you will find the underwater splendour of Africa’s most southerly coral reefs, thanks to the warming effect of the Agulhas Current.
Moving inland over the sandy beaches, where leatherback and loggerhead turtles come to lay their eggs, there is the tallest forested coastal dune system in the world. Of the larger mammals that live here, reedbuck are the most numerous, but a few black rhino live here too.
Further west lie the park’s shimmering lakes, translucent blue jewels splashed with the pink and white of flamingos and pelicans. Hippos live here too – around 800 of them. For much of the day they laze about in the water. By night, however, they come ashore to graze the grassy banks in grumbling herds. More numerous still are the Nile crocodiles. Great care needs to be taken around these formidable 5 meter-long predators.
Comprising an awesome 332 000 hector area, iSimangaliso Wetland Park is without a doubt a wildlife wonderland. It is no wonder then, that in 1999 it was also declare a World Heritage Site.