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Isimangaliso Wetland Park Landscape
Herd Of Hippos Sleeping, Isimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa
Isimangaliso Wetland Park Landscape

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

iSimangaliso Wetland Park covers 3,280 km2 of beautifully unique land in the South African province of KwaZulu Natal. The park offers its visitors a remarkably diverse ecosystem, from wetlands, lakes, beaches and coral reefs, to coastal forests, woodlands and grasslands.

For more than a century, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park went by the name Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park. After the assassination of King Shaka kaSenzangakhona, Jeqe, one of the King’s most trusted servants, fled Zululand. He came across the Tsonga Land, a place so beautiful he described it as a ‘miracle land’. In Zulu, ‘iSimangaliso’ means ‘something wondrous’ or ‘a miracle’. Years later, the park was renamediSimangaliso Wetland Park, an apt name for this spectacular place.

Sections of iSimangaliso Wetland Park

  • Cape Vidal
  • Kosi Bay
  • Lake Etrza Nature Reserve
  • Lake Sibhayi
  • Lake St Lucia Sanctuary
  • False Bay Park
  • Mapelane Nature Reserve
  • Maputaland Marine Protected Area
  • Mfabeni
  • Mkuze Game Reserve
  • Ozabeni
  • Sodwana Bay National Park
  • St Lucia Game Reserve
  • St Lucia Marine Reserve
  • St Lucia Marine
  • Tewate Wilderness Area.

History of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park

  • 1554: St Lucia Bay, which then covered just the Tugela River Mouth, was named Rios Medos Do Ouro by the survivors of Saint Benedict, a Portuguese ship. Rios Medos Do Ouro means River of the Gold Dunes.
  • 1575: On the day of Saint Lucy’s feast, Manuel Peresterello renamed the Tugela River Mouth to Santa Lucia.
  • 1822: Under the British rule, St. Lucia has proclaimed a township.
  • 1895: iSimangaliso Wetland Park, formerly known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, was established. According to Reverend Heri-Alexandre Junod, a Swiss missionary who produced a map of the region, the Tsonga People resided in the bay area. The area was known as Temeland or Thongaland. The Tsonga People occupied these lands for more than a millennium, however, they had to leave the region once the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park was established.
  • The early 1900s: The name Temeland/Thongaland stopped being used.. Vahlanganu, a branch of Tsonga people, ruled the land.
  • 1971: Several turtle beaches and coral reefs of Maputaland and St Lucia Lake became Ramsar Wetlands. One of these wetlands is known as the St Lucia System.
  • 1999: Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the presence of Nelson Mandela.
  • 2007: On November 1, the park was renamed iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Wildlife In iSimangaliso Wetland Park

ISimangaliso Wetland Park has 129 species of land and marine mammals, 32 of which are marine mammals. Bottlenose dolphins, humpback dolphins, spinner dolphins, humpback whales, and southern right whales are some of the most popular marine mammals in the park.

Isimangaliso has a substantial Big 5 population consisting of elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, and leopard. It also has cheetah, giraffe, hippo, impala, kudu, spotted and brown hyena, wild dog, warthog, and zebra.

The park has 991 recorded fish species in its marine protected areas. The impressively large number is due to the park’s unique ecosystem, which has allowed freshwater, marine, and estuarine environments to co-exist harmoniously. In October 2000, Coelacanth, a critically endangered species, was discovered in the Jesser Canyon.

Amongst the 109 species of reptiles in the park, there is one species of crocodile, 12 species of Cheloniidae, 42 species of lizard and chameleon, and 53 snake species. Around 1500 Nile crocodiles of over 2 meters in length inhabit Lake St Lucia.

The park also has 40 amphibian species. Green hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback, and olive Ridley are some of the sea turtles observed in the park. With over 521 recorded species of bird, the park is also a prime destination for bird-watchers.

Camps In iSimangaliso Wetland Park

  • St Lucia Estuary: One of four Ramses Wetlands in the park, St Lucia has abundant wildlife. It is a great location for both bird watching and game viewing. It is also known for its frequent crocodile, leopard, buffalo, warthog, blue wildebeest, and kudu sightings.
  • Cape Vidal Campsite: Named after Cape Vidal, the camp is located in a dune forest near the beach in Cape Vidal. Antelope, buffalo, crocodile, hippo, and reedbuck are some of the wildlife that can be spotted here, along with a variety of bird species. The camp offers activities such as ski-boat fishing, surf-fishing, and scuba diving.
  • False Bay Campsite: This camp is ideal for viewing corrals and fossil marine animals. It is also a wonderful spot for bird enthusiasts. In False Bay, visitors can enjoy game viewing, boating, fishing, photography, and hiking. Mpophomeni Trail and Ingwe Trail are two well-known hiking trails in the area.
  • Sodwana Bay Resort: This resort is ideal for tourists with a scuba license and an interest in snorkelling, sport fishing, and deep-sea fishing. Sodwana is also the perfect spot for spotting leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles at night.

When To Visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park

The dry months from May to September are the best time to visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park for wildlife viewing. Avoid making any plans for the months between December and February, as the region is plagued with thunderstorms during this time. From November to March the park has guided leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles tours. From November to January, the turtles lay eggs and the hatchlings emerge after a period of 2 months. This takes place between January and March, and is an experience visitors will never forget.

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