iSimangaliso – a family destination

20 Nov 2017

South Africa’s busiest holiday season is around the corner and visitors from near and far are revving their engines for the Great Trek eastwards, ready to explore the wonders of the country’s most diverse bush and beach destination – the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site. With 332 000ha of marine and terrestrial interlinking eco-systems, the Park offers a bit of magic for all.

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It goes without saying that the Park’s 220km of golden beaches lapped by the warm Indian Ocean are a universal drawcard. The busy hubs of St Lucia, Sodwana Bay and Kosi Bay are traditionally the most frequented coastal areas. Accommodation resorts like Maphelane in the south, Cape Vidal on the Eastern Shores, Thonga Beach Lodge and Mabibi campsite and Rocktail Beach Camp offer a measure of relief from the pressure of more freely accessible areas. At the hugely popular Jabula Beach in St Lucia, additional picnic tables will be welcomed by beach-goers.

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Popular activities for all ages include boat cruises on the Lake St Lucia Estuary, boat-based whale watching (until late November), turtle tours (November – March), horse riding (St Lucia & False Bay), snorkelling, scuba diving (from 10 years old, at Sodwana Bay), bicycling, guided kayak tours and fishing. The popular Charters Creek day visitor area also reopens in December with new ablutions and improved facilities.
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iSimangaliso boasts excellent game and bird viewing on the Eastern and Western Shores as well as uMkhuze section, which host the ‘Big Five’ along with numerous other terrestrial animals, and 530 bird species as well.
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Offshore, iSimangaliso offers one of the richest warm water coral reef systems at Sodwana Bay. You need not even be a scuba diver to enjoy the variety as shallow, safe snorkelling trips are also available, even for beginners.
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Maphelane, the southernmost jewel in iSimangaliso, really comes into its own at this time of year with the simple self-catering log cabins and campsites offering a peaceful destination in the lee of Park’s highest vegetated dune. Aside from the obvious attraction of the beach, the dense coastal forest offers lovely walks and trail running possibilities, including the lovely Sand Dune Trail to the high viewpoint with sweeping views towards St Lucia in the north.
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In the centre of the Park, False Bay is starting to re-emerge as a destination as the Lake St Lucia water returns after a long drought, and thanks to the ongoing rehabilitation of the estuarine system by the iSimangaliso Authority. Camping is available on grassy lawns at the lake’s edge. An intensive tree-labelling exercise has added great value to the self-guided walks in this section. Trail running and birding are excellent.
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Kosi Bay, the Park’s northernmost destination, is truly a place out of a time. The recent addition of activity licences in this section means that there are even more ways in which one can enjoy this spectacular region with its sheltered beaches, natural aquarium, fishing and boat cruises. Kosi happens to offer the best opportunity to witness one of nature’s miracles: turtles nesting and laying eggs on the beach. Book a walk with a licensed community guide – contact details are on the iSimangaliso website.
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The newly upgraded hides, entrance gates and day visitor facilities in the uMkhuze section have made visiting this oldest portion of the World Heritage Site even more of a pleasure, with additional disabled access and ablution sites improving the offerings of this ‘Big Five’ destination. With the addition of more cheetah and lions in the next few weeks, chances are even better of spotting these magnificent predators along with wild dog, hyaena, elephant and leopard.

As always, we suggest the following guidelines and remind you of pertinent rules to ensure you have a happy and safe visit:

  • Jet skis, ski boats and paddle skis are permitted to launch from official public sites at Maphelane, St Lucia, Cape Vidal and Sodwana Bay – please check the daily limits and conditions of use with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s marine office.
  • There are no shark nets and beaches are unprotected, so swimmers are cautioned to be careful to avoid deep swimming, rough conditions and fast moving rip tides.
  • Please adhere to Park rules about no alcohol in public areas. Routine checks will be undertaken for the safety and enjoyment of our visitors.
  • Any emergency or negative incidents should be immediately reported to the 24-hour iSimangaliso Emergency line 082 797 7944.

Media enquiries should be directed to Slindile Msweli at sli@isimangaliso.com or on 079 632 0363.