We recommend iSimangaliso Wetland Park to travellers seeking the best of both worlds for their holiday – not only the thrill of seeing plenty of big game, but also some wet-and-wild watersports and even a little laidback beach time. In Zulu, iSimangaliso means ‘something wondrous’ or ‘a miracle’, and the park’s combination of bush and beach does seem miraculous to us at YZ!
iSimangaliso is situated on KwaZulu-Natal’s east coast, approximately 275 kilometres north of the city of Durban. Made up of lakes, reserves, and other wilderness areas, iSimangaliso stretches for 280 kilometres beside the sea and covers over 3,000 square kilometres inland. Its coastline runs from the Lake St Lucia estuary all the way up to the border of Mozambique!
The park used to be known as the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park. This is because it surrounds St Lucia, the holiday town established by British colonists in 1822. Before colonisation, the area had been home to the Tsonga people for over a thousand years. Today the Tsonga continue to live in the northern region of the park. iSimangaliso was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, and the park is managed by the iSimangaliso Authority.
The big five & other wildlife
iSimangaliso contains an astonishingly wide range of ecosystems. Inland, there are various savannas, mixed woodlands, wetlands, and subtropical dune forests. On the coast you’ll find gloriously sandy beaches, and within the water colourful coral reefs abound.
All Big Five species – lion, rhino, leopard, elephant, and buffalo – are in residence, alongside numerous smaller predators and herbivores. For example, uMkhuze Game Reserve is home to cheetah, hyena, wild dog, giraffe, blue wildebeest, plains zebra, kudu, steenbok, and hippo! There’s ample birdlife too, including flocks of flamingos, pelicans, and storks, in addition to a few specials, among them pygmy geese, lesser jacana, and pink-throated longclaw. And the sea life is also pretty spectacular, featuring immense southern right whale, dolphins, octopus, squid, and turtles.
As iSimangaliso is a bush-and-beach destination, there are lots of things to do here! You can enjoy guided game drives during the day and the night. Guided walks are also available, providing exciting opportunities to take a look at the birds, insects, and plants of the reserves. Horse riding is possible both inland and along the coast. Estuary cruises bring you close to crocs, hippos, and waterfowl, and kayaking is highly recommended for anyone interested in a thorough exploration of iSimangaliso’s lakes. Heading out to the coast, you can watch whales from the shore, or embark on a scuba dive to see a real treasure trove of corals, sponges, and over 1200 fish species! Turtle tours can also be arranged, depending on your time of travel. Deep sea fishing can be organised too, and in between activities you can relax on the beach and soak up some sunshine.
Time/s of year to travel
iSimangaliso is a great holiday destination all year round. Turtle tours are available from November to March, so that’ll be your time to travel if you’re hoping to enjoy this activity. Safari activities vary with seasons. During the dry season (May to September), wildlife viewing tends to be easier, as animals cluster around scarce water sources. However, the wet season is a less expensive time to visit, and the park looks gorgeously green. Sea temperatures vary too, from a minimum of 19 degrees during June and July to a maximum of 29 degrees from December to February.
We recommend Makakatana Bay Lodge for a really comfortable stay and lots of activity options! The accommodation consists of five standard rooms, two family rooms, and one room for honeymooners.
For more information about iSimangaliso Wetland Park, please contact a member of the YZ team!