(The iSimangaliso Wetland Park)
“The St Lucia Wetland Park must be the only place on the globe where the world’s oldest land mammal [the rhinoceros] and the world’s biggest terrestrial mammal [the elephant] share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish [the coelacanth] and the world’s biggest marine mammal [the whale]. There can be no better icon for the holistic approach we are taking to conservation and development of the St Lucia Wetland Park…”
– a speech by Nelson Mandela, 2000
The Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park (locally officially renamed as iSimangaliso Wetland Park on 1 November 2007) was declared South Africa’s first Natural World Heritage Site on 1 December 1999. It is considered South Africa’s third largest park and extends from Mapelane (near St Lucia on the Indian Ocean coastline of KwaZulu Natal province) in the South to Kosi Bay in the North.
The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park (iSimangaliso Wetland Park) incorporates the entire Lake St Lucia, the St Lucia and Maputaland Marine Reserves, the Coastal Forest Reserve, and Kosi Bay Nature Reserve. The park has 280km of near pristine coastline and comprises of 328 000 ha of exquisite scenery.
It encompasses a great mix of habitats ranging from marine systems such as coral reefs and beaches, and coastal forests; from salt and fresh water marshes to the open estuarine waters of Lake St Lucia itself; from lush coastal plains to the drier woodland areas.
The park is situated in the southern end of the Mozambique coastal plain near the towns of St Lucia, Mtubatuba, Hluhluwe, Mkuze, Mbaswana and Manguzi. The protected area is home to the largest and southernmost population of hippos and approximately 1000 crocodiles, as well as a wealth of plant and animal life.
The Park is already a fast-growing premier tourism destination and offers a wide range of tourist activities that range from fishing, boating and birdwatching, to scuba-diving, hiking and camping as well as offering outstanding photographic opportunities to the amateur and professional alike.