Bold facelift for iSimangaliso’s St Lucia Estuary and Beaches

23 May 2016

As the World Heritage Site’s infrastructure plans roll out throughout iSimangaliso, the next area earmarked for a dramatic facelift is the Lake St Lucia Estuary precinct.

iSimangaliso is in the process of redeveloping the Park in a section by section approach and is nearing completion with the Eastern Shores, Western Shores and uMkhuze sections. Rehabilitation and improving ecosystem functioning are important components of this and are well advanced in these sections.

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The St Lucia Estuary section is an integral and highly valued part of iSimangaliso, both from an ecological and tourism perspective. A hugely popular destination, the estuary is by far the most visited part of the Park, freely accessible to all.

Millions of locals and visitors have appreciated the estuary’s natural beauty over several generations. It is now iSimangaliso’s intention to implement 15 projects (see map below) that will rehabilitate and upgrade this section of the Park, specifically to address ecological issues in and around the estuary and beaches, improve ecological functioning, and modernise day-visitor facilities – with a view to improving their experience, and optimising economic opportunities and job creation.

iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis says, “Finally, we can add the finer details and finishing touches to a project that has been 15 years in the making. Until now, we have concentrated hard on the foundations – including building relationships, empowering local communities, settling land claims, fencing, alien plant clearing, animal reintroductions, regularisation of commercial activities, creation of co-management structures and much more that goes on unseen in the creation of a great African conservation-based tourism destination. During recent years, we have been able to capitalise on this with the construction of visitor facilities such as new gates, hides, boardwalks and viewing decks. It is rewarding for us and the public to see the Park take shape as envisioned.”

The proposed developments and rehabilitation of the St Lucia Estuary precinct involves undertakings along the beaches and the public-use areas from the estuary mouth to the Siyabonga Centre near the bridge into the town of St Lucia. All of the developments are aimed at aiding in the rehabilitation and restoration of disturbed areas along the estuary banks and the beach environments, while simultaneously relieving congestion within these areas by providing focus areas for infrastructure and the movement of visitors. Ablutions and viewpoints will also accommodate disabled users.

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Key developments

The proposed redevelopment of the St Lucia Estuary precinct is anticipated to include the following:

  • Extend the current Estuary boardwalk, with new ablution facilities; construction of a meet and greet zone; paving of surfaces; improved parking areas.
  • St Lucia Ski-Boat Club facilities upgrade with additional parking to the west of the Ski-Boat Club.
  • Sugar Loaf Jetty – create a formalised entrance to pedestrian trail and picnic area with the introduction of trail identifying signage.
  • Honeymoon Bend – provide additional grassed picnic areas; upgrade existing and build additional ablution facilities; construction of access road; create a trail path from Honeymoon Bend to link to Sugar Loaf.
  • Sunset Jetty – additional parking including two bus parking bays; formalise areas for informal and formal traders; upgrade ablution facilities including disabled access.
  • Igwalagwala Trail – create new parking and ablutions.
  • Estuary View Boardwalk – construction of a 1.5m wide by ±1.5km long concrete Park boardwalk linking Siyabonga to Honeymoon Bend along the estuary, with links from the proposed boardwalk to the existing bridge into St Lucia town, Siyabonga Centre and Igwalagwala Trail; proposing a 1.5m wide ‘Clip on’ Viewing Deck onto the existing bridge; formalised craft market near the Siyabonga Centre for informal traders; a new trail to link up with the existing trail.
  • iSimangaliso South Hiking Trails network to create new linkages with existing self-guided birding and game trails.

Environmental Authorisation Process

The proposed redevelopment of the St Lucia Estuary Precinct has been divided into three separate Basic Assessments to be undertaken concurrently within one Basic Assessment process, and the public is invited to participate between 19 May and 20 June 2016. To register as an Interested and/or Affected Party and to obtain further information related to the proposed redevelopment, please contact ACER (Africa) Environmental Consultants: Giles Churchill; Tel: 035 340 2715; E-mail: stlucia@acerafrica.co.za.

Media enquiries should be directed to Bronwyn Coppola on 083 450 9111 or bronwyn@abetterworld.co.za.