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iSimangaliso Wetlands Park

If you giant sea turtles want to see subtropical corals, dolphins and saw tooth sharks, then the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park along South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal North Coast is a sublime destination. It is even on the World Heritage list of the world. In this part of the world there are some fantastic game lodges, some of which are run by the local community. Formerly known as the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park and the name is now changed to the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park.

The park was the first park placed on the World Heritage List in South Africa in December 1999 and the Wetlands Authority was established to manage the area, but before that first 16 plots of land had to be assembled - a combination of state lands, former military zones and forests for economic exploitation. With a size of 260 000 hectares, the park, which grows into a major national park, is now one of the largest parks in South Africa. It is therefore a surprising natural phenomenon with five ecosystems. Here are coral reefs, beach and coastal forests, salt and freshwater marshes; open estuaries; lush coastal plains and drier woodland areas. There are thick forested coastal dunes, some of which are among the largest vegetated dunes in the world, separating the sea from the land along the 280 km long coastline. This park takes you back in time with the sand forests of the fossil-rich, western beaches of Lake St Lucia. Here the sedimentary rocks marine fossils show an amazingly well-preserved collection of exceptional scientific and geographical significance.

Big Five nature area:

The iSimangaliso Wetlands Park is one of the few unspoiled natural areas in the world and is part of a three-country ecotourism project: the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative. This is a project of both South Africa and Mozambique and Swaziland and initiated by Nelson Mandela. The intention is that the border gates are taken down so that a huge Big Five'-nature territories of all three will cover the countries.

Lake St Lucia:

The gigantic Lake St Lucia is located in the middle and is one of the largest freshwater lakes of Africa. Taking a trip on the lake, you will find thousands of flamingos, pelicans, waders and other waterfowl. 1500 Nile crocodiles 900 and hippos also live here. It is the largest concentration of crocodiles and hippos in southern Africa. You are guaranteed to see many of them.

Southern right whales:

Every year, from June to September, the impressive Southern right whales swim along the shore. These are accompanied by whale sharks and schools of dolphins on their way to their feeding grounds in Antarctica. And are you looking for adventure? Then you can enjoy spectacular wildlife in the game reserves around the lakes. You can spot countless species of antelope, giraffes, lute horses, buffaloes, rhinos and elephants here. This can be done from the safety of your car and, a little more daring, on foot.

Excursions in St Lucia Wetlands Park:

The town of St Lucia is a popular destination and tourists go here in vacations. There is a variety of accommodation. Several tours are offered from the largest resort, the St Lucia Estuary, to explore the park. To the north of this village is the Crocodile Centre, the best in the country. Only 32 km north of St Lucia is Cape Vidal. This is a beach protected by cliffs and tropical waters and a freshwater lake. You can swim here, go snorkelling and scuba diving. In the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park, there are several possibilities to hike, especially in the Eastern Shores (Mfabeni). You can do it both yourself and accompanied by a guide.

Malaria area:

Note: the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park is a malaria area, and there are a lot of ticks and leeches. You also need to watch out for crocodiles and hippos. Especially the latter can wander around at night and cause a lot of damage. During the day you can see them go into remote areas. Keep your distance and then move back as quietly as possible.

The iSimangaliso Wetlands Park is located in the northeast of KwaZulu-Natal and is accessible via the N2.