Festive season in iSimangaliso kicks off with the opening of the Bhangazi Berm bridge

14 Dec 2016

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park anticipates a busy festive season as many South Africans head for the Park’s golden beaches, especially Cape Vidal, St Lucia, Sodwana Bay and Kosi Bay.

Kicking off the season is the welcome news that the extremely popular Grassland Loop on the Eastern Shores is open once again, as is the newly constructed Bhangazi Berm bridge, which was officially opened yesterday by Mtubatuba Mayor MQ Mkhwanazi and the Bhangazi Land Claimants’ Trust Chairperson, Mrs SJ Gumede.

This 18km game drive through sweeping grasslands and past unique red dunes is a favourite amongst visitors. The bridge rebuild was carefully designed to mitigate environmental impacts so as not to impede one of the great natural spectacles of the area – the occasional migration of catfish from Lake Bhangazi to the Mfabeni swamp, when wetland conditions are optimal.

This is part of the extensive revamp of visitor roads and facilities throughout the Park, which will be open for the enjoyment of our visitors from 15 December 2016. The only facility that will not be open is kuMfazana Hide on the Eastern Shores.

Visitors who wish to avoid crowds and take a break from the beaches are encouraged to explore other sections of the park such as uMkhuze (only an hour from Sodwana Bay) and the Western Shores near St Lucia, for a spectacular summer bush experience bursting with new life. uMkhuze has the Big 5, and visitors have been regularly enthralled by sightings of lions, cheetahs, wild dogs and other rare species. Accommodation is selling out fast but there are some vacancies at several of the camping areas including Sodwana Bay, uMkhuze and Sugarloaf at the Lake St Lucia Estuary.

Wherever you choose to spend your time in this spectacular Park, we ask that you observe the rules and make a note of the season arrangements set out below. These tips are for the safety of our visitors as well as animals in our protected areas. We trust you will appreciate the ongoing developments aimed at improving your visitor experience.

iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis says: “We encourage our visitors to play an active role in our conservation and protection efforts this season by being extra eyes and ears on the ground. If you observe any snares, animal injuries, or human misbehaviour around wildlife – please do contact our emergency line 082 797 7944 with details”

“Our joint safety planning team includes the iSimangaliso Authority, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, SAPS, Mtubatuba and uMhlabuyalingana Local Municipalities, the KZN Road Traffic Inspectorate and St Lucia Ratepayers, and we have implemented plans to assist visitors to have an enjoyable time and go home with great memories of a relaxing stay in our World Heritage Site. We wish local residents and visitors an enjoyable and safe holiday.”

Detailed festive season information

  • Amongst the improvements this year is the recent implementation of new Park gate access procedures at the Bhangazi, Dukuduku, Nhlozi, eMshophi, Ophansi, and Sodwana gates. The new system automates some of the current manual systems and assists with security in the Park. On entry the driver’s licence and car licence are scanned and drivers are asked to sign acceptance of the terms and conditions of entry to the Park. Car licences will also be scanned at selected points such as St Lucia beaches and Sodwana beach ramps.
  • Cape Vidal (Eastern Shores), and Western Shores have day visitor limits of 120 and 50 vehicles respectively.
  • Sodwana Bay has a gate limit of 500 vehicles. Overflow parking is available at the boundary of the Park. The 500-vehicle limit includes the 200 daily permits issued to 4×4 drivers wishing to park on the beach. The permit is issued at no charge on a first-come first-served basis daily.
  • Gates are cash only (please visit www.isimangaliso.com for entry charges).
  • Gate operating times for iSimangaliso are 05:00 to 19:00, except for Sodwana Bay which has 24 hour access. There is strictly no late entry at any gates throughout the Park. Maps are available for purchase at gates.
  • No alcohol is allowed into public areas of the Park. Visitors will be offered the option of surrendering alcohol or choosing not to enter the Park. Vehicle searches are conducted at check-points. iSimangaliso exercises a “zero tolerance” policy in this regard for the benefit and safety of all Park users.
  • Swimming in the sea is at your own risk and not advised at the St Lucia beaches. There are strong currents and bathers are reminded to be cautious. iSimangaliso does not have shark nets and Zambezi sharks have been seen recently off the shores of St Lucia and Maphelane.
  • Swimming in lakes including Lake St Lucia and Estuary, and Lake Sibaya, is prohibited due to the presence of crocodiles and hippos.
  • Feeding wild animals is strictly forbidden such as crocodiles and monkeys is strictly forbidden. A selfish ‘thrill’ may put people and animals at risk as animals often become aggressive, and ultimately have to be put down. Please keep foodstuffs securely stored out of sight.
  • Hippos and other potentially ‘dangerous’ animals at night in all sections of the Park, even St Lucia town.
  • Beach monitors will assist bathers at popular beaches including Sodwana, Cape Vidal and Main and Jabula on the St Lucia Estuary beaches, from the 16 December. The presence of SAPS, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and iSimangaliso staff and Siyabuya Security will be visible between 5 December 2014 and 5 January 2015.
  • Please adhere to safety advisories and speed limits, and take special care to look out for small creatures such as tortoises, dung beetles, snakes and birds on the roads.
  • Drones are not permitted.
  • All weapons must be declared on entry.
  • Finally – access permits into the Park list the emergency number should anyone need assistance or wish to report incidents.

EMERGENCY NO: 082 797 7944

Media enquiries should be directed to Bronwyn Coppola +27 83 450 9111 or bronwyn@abetterworld.co.za.