The circular Igwala Gwala Forest Trail leads through coastal forest next to the estuary. Igwala is the Zulu name for Purple Crested Turaco. Birders should check the ground, mid-stratum and canopy. You can expect White-eared Barbet, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Goldentailed Woodpecker, Scalythroated Honeyguide,
Yellow breasted Apalis, Rudd's Apalis, Green Malkoha, Southern Boubou, Red-capped Robin-chat, Scrub Robin, Grey Waxbill, Green Twinspot and many more.
The trail is about 1.5km and suitable for all ages and fitness levels, even for mothers with prams.
Along with being a renowned birding spot, there are regular sightings of Red Duiker, Tree squirrels, the odd Bushbuck, Vervet Monkeys and even hippos who use the trail at night. The trial connects with a short path leading to the estuary where water birds can be seen.
The trail is open to all and no bookings required or fees payable. Should there be a problem KZN Ezemvelo must be contacted. Do watch out for the odd low hanging branch and berthing roots. Wear hats and proper shoes, also insect repellent. No bikes, motorcycles allowed and dogs must be on leashes to avoid being shot when they chase wild animals. This trail is part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Things to do near
Greater St Lucia Wetland Park
*Distances are shown as the crow flies and not necessarily the actual travelling
Mkhuze Game Reserve (9.4 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
Renowned as a place of great beauty and high contrasts, Mkhuze Game Reserve is also known for its rich birdlife. Situated in northern Zululand, the park forms the north western point of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Boasting more than 420 recorded bird species, it is a popular spot for birdwatchers.
Two magnificent pans are home to families of hippo, crocodile, pink-backed and white pelicans, as well as numerous waterbirds. The Mkhuze River forms the reserve's northern and eastern borders and supports a lovely stretch of fig forest along its banks. Fish eagles can regularly be seen swooping to catch fish over the pans.
Visitors have the chance of spotting black and white rhino, elephant, giraffe, leopard, buffalo, nyala, blue wildebeest, warthog, impala, kudu and smaller antelope. Look out for rare sightings of cheetah, hyena and tiny suni antelope. There is excellent bird and animal viewing opportunities from three hides. A trip to the Zulu cultural village inside the reserve offers an interesting view of the lifestyle and crafts of the KwaJobe community.
Sodwana Bay (42.9 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
Sodwana Bay offers an incredibly long stretch of pristine beach to explore and walk. During December and January, thousands of Gautengers come here for their summer holiday, so keep this in mind if you’re seeking a quiet break.
Scuba diving is very popular, and dive boats launch daily to the outlying coral reefs. There's great horse riding on the beach and in the reserve.
Bird watchers and hikers have the option of a 5 km walking trail through the coastal forests and sand dunes. Summer nights see Loggerhead and Leatherback Turtles coming in to nest on this sandy beach.
Phongolo Game Reserve (54.9 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
Stretching from the Lebombo Mountains down across the Phongolopoort Dam, Phongolo Game Reserve has much to offer visitors.
From a conservation perspective, the reserve contains a large number of special ecosystems and habitats with the unique Golela veld providing an important breeding habitat for rare Suni antelope. Other habitats are the species-rich Lobombo Mountain forests and the Themeda grassveld scattered with knobthorn and maroela trees.
Phongolo Game Reserve is home to over 300 bird species and a range of plains game including white rhino, giraffe, blue wildebeest, kudu, impala, nyala, warthog, waterbuck, common and mountain reedbuck and zebra.
The dam has large families of hippos, crocodiles as well as numerous fish species. One of these is the tiger fish, a highly desirable catch at fishing competitions taking place here throughout the year. Facilities offer two boat launch sites, a campsite with cold showers, flush toilets and an adjacent picnic site for day trippers.
Phongolo Game Reserve lies within a malaria area and visitors are advised to take precautions. Swimming is prohibited in the dam because of crocodiles and hippos.
+27 (0) 34 435 1012
Gate Entry Times:
Summer 05:00 – 19:00
Winter 06:00 – 18:00.
Mabibi (55.5 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
One of the last pristine and undeveloped wilderness beaches left on the African coastline, Mabibi Beach is a sub-tropical paradise and perfect playground. This magical sandy Maputaland beach is hidden in a sheltered bay surrounded by coastal forest. The crystal clear, warm water offers tranquil swimming, awesome snorkelling on coral reefs and exclusive offshore scuba diving. Situated in the heart of iSimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly Greater St Lucia Wetland Park), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mabibi is just 25 km north of Sodwana Bay in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Hluhluwe (56.4 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
Check out the coolest of Africa's cats Just outside Hluhluwe is the only wild cat rehabilitation facility in Zululand, situated on Emdoneni Lodge and Game Farm, a private game reserve with sand forest vegetation. Emdoneni Cat Rehabilitation Centre offers twice-daily educational tours, with informative talks by an experienced guide and feeding during the afternoon. Orphaned or injured wild cheetah, serval, African wildcats and lynx are rehabilitated for release back into their natural habitat where possible.Funding for the project comes from tour fees or an ‘adoption’ programme which allows visitors to contribute to the centre. These funds go directly to veterinary care, feeding, camp and fence maintenance, as well as workers’ salaries. By implementing a system based on donations, it is hoped to improve each cat’s stay at the centre.The aim of the project is to keep as few cats as possible in captivity. Once their numbers increase, suitable animals are released back into the wild.
Hluhluwe (65.1 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
Established in 1895, wildlife viewing has always been the prime attraction at Hluhluwe, close range sightings made all the more exciting with viewing hides conveniently overlooking waterholes.
Today the reserve is part of the greater Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park covering 96 000 hectares and containing an immense diversity of animals, birds and plant life.
Home once more to the Big Five, Hluhluwe Game Reserve is also the headquarters of Operation Rhino and is internationally renowned for its white rhino conservation.
Hluhluwe makes up the northern section of the park, characterised by undulating hills of savannah vegetation and woodlands. Along with game-viewing drives, there are two self-guided drive routes which give insight into the management and natural history of the park. Highly recommended are the early morning and late afternoon guided walks.
Tembe Elephant Park (76.5 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
Situated in an area that was once the ancient ‘Ivory Route' linking Mozambique and Zululand, Tembe Elephant Park is renowned for having the largest elephants in Africa – and the planet!
The park is remote, lying deep in the sand forests and wetlands in northern Tongaland, right on the border between KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique. You will need a 4WD vehicle to negotiate the sand tacks and only ten vehicles are allowed into the park daily, but it’s definitely worth the effort. This is where you can meet over 220 of these elephants thriving in their ancestral birthplace.
Along with seeing these gentle giants, you can also spot the rest of the Big Five – lion, leopard, black and white rhino and buffalo. There is also the tiniest antelope, the Suni, and a spectacular variety of animals and over 340 bird species. The park consists mainly of closed woodland but offers a great diversity of vegetation, lying within a transition area between tropical and sub-tropical forms.
Hluhluwe (77.1 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
If you like wild more than mild wilderness hiking, spend three or four nights backpacking and sleeping under the stars in Big Five territory. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi’s Primitive Trail provides equipment and food but without tents or permanent campsites. Their strict ‘no trace’ ethic means bathing is done in the river. Although walking distances are not tough, this is not for slackers and you will carry your own food and gear. Primitive Trails are open from March to November.
Duration: 3 – 4 days
Kosi Bay (78.3 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
The guided slack packing trail at Kosi Bay offers terrain ranging from beach and mangrove forests, grasslands to mysterious waterways. Evenings are spent in comfort at various lodges so you don’t have to carry heavy packs.
Hiking in this spectacular wild paradise offers the chance of spotting humpback whales, dolphins, hippos, leatherback and loggerhead turtles, tiny Suni antelope; Pel’s fishing owls, palmnut vultures and numerous sub-tropical species of birds.
Hikes are tailored to suit each group and you can choose to walk for two or three days, over distances ranging from 8 km to 15 km a day. Find out more about guided hiking trails and other awesome activities when you make an enquiry at one of the Kosi Bay lodges – Maputaland Horse Safaris & Bush Camp, Amangwane Camp and Kosi Forest Lodge.
Kosi Bay is in a malaria region. If you are planning to travel to iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Kosi Bay please consult your doctor or travel clinic for advice and refer to our article on malaria.
Ndumo Game Reserve (79.5 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
Situated near Tembe Elephant Park on the Mozambique border, Ndumo Game Reserve is celebrated for its magnificent bird life and is home to a staggering 430 bird species.
Not only does Ndumo boast the highest bird count in South Africa, the reserve has a variety of habitats with many beautiful pans fringed by yellow fever trees, vast wetlands, acacia savannah and unique sand forest. The Pongola River flows through it to the confluence with the Usuthu River on the park’s northern boundary.
Birders should keep a keen lookout for Pell's fishing owl, the broadbill, southern banded snake eagle and a variety of tropical East African birds at the southernmost limit of their range. The wetlands are home to an astonishing range of waterbirds including pelicans, black egrets and pygmy geese.
Suni antelope, nyala, bushbuck, impala, red duiker, black and white rhino, hippo and crocodile are regularly spotted. Entomologists find Ndumo particularly exciting with a fascinating array of insects including 66 recorded species of mosquito!
Guided day walks or morning and afternoon drive tours can be arranged at the reception office. Certain areas of the reserve can be explored by visitors in their own vehicles.
St Lucia (86.4 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
Start at the Iphiva camp just north of St Lucia village. The three-hour Iphiva Trail leads through open grassland and floodplains into dense coastal dune forest, a hotspot for forest birds. Small antelope, zebra and wildebeest are frequently sighted.
Keep your eyes open for crocodiles in the pans and hippos out of the water. Trail maps and guide books are available from the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife office in St Lucia.
St Lucia (86.6 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
Visiting the iSimangaliso Wetland Park with kids? March them straight to the St Lucia Crocodile Centre to see some really big crocs and informative displays. Time your visit to be there during the feeding demonstrations on Saturday at 15:00 or Wednesday at 18:30.
Not only are there various African and exotic crocs, you’ll be able to see American alligators, tortoises and an amazing collection of snakes. Stretch your legs in the cycad garden and finish off with a cold beer and a light meal at the coffee shop.
Open daily except Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
St Lucia (87.1 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
Explore the iSimangaliso Wetland Park on an adventurous walking safari over lake, forest and dunes. Feel the thrill of sighting hippo, buffalo or other wildlife while on foot. All walks are led by experienced professional guides and depart early in the morning or late afternoon.
St Lucia (87.1 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
Step into the heart of a working Zulu community where tradition meets contemporary Zulu society just outside St Lucia. Meet the Sangoma (traditional healer) and experience the timeless traditions of the Khula Village. On this cultural village tour you will be entertained with singing performances and daily life re-enactments.
St Lucia (87.1 km from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park)
Check out winged beauties while supporting the local community at the Isiphaphalazi Butterfly Dome. Here you will see butterflies indigenous to the local Dukuduku coastal forest. Walk the interesting Rasta Trail or Community Trail and enjoy freshly baked treats at the tea garden afterwards.
Butterfly attracting plants are available for purchase from the indigenous nursery. Look out for the signs to Isiphaphalazi and the Manukelana organic nursery just outside Khula Village on the way to St Lucia.