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The Playground of iSimangaliso

Description

Discovering Adam and Eve’s Playground

St Lucia – top eco destination in South Africa

The Elephant Coast in KwaZulu Natal, embraced by the warm Indian Ocean, the Umfolozi River and Mozambique is one of South Africa's most beautiful and unspoiled travel destinations. It is a perfect destination for everyone - be it for the sensitive ecologist, the great outdoors fan or the happy camper sitting on the boulders at Mission Rock sporting his hook, line and sinker. At the heart of this heaven-on-earth is a popular holiday village with a saint-like name - St. Lucia, the only private village surrounded by a Natural World Heritage Site (iSimangaliso / Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park). 

Adam and Eve and their pet hippos

St. Lucia is an eco-tourism Mecca, and centre point to an incredible 21 different eco-systems. Adam and Eve’s playground lures with dense evergreen forests of towering fig trees, a lush undergrowth of ferns and wild orchids hanging from the trees. Palm savannahs with thousands of wild date and Lala palms dot the white sand, and swamp forests are home to myriads of exotic birds. A paradise in which you would expect our biblical ancestors to have had their own pet hippos! But beware, the hippos’ laid back yawn hides a force not to be messed with!

A safe way of getting up close and personal and tickle their incisors is a trip down the estuary on one of the river touring boats such as the Advantage. This luxurious passenger ferry was custom built to venture into shallow waters – you might even be able to inspect a croc's 66 pointy teeth!

We boarded the ferry for the sundowner tour on a beautiful late summer’s evening, arguably the best time to visit the Greater Wetlands, when mosquitoes are few, but Gin and Tonics still flow. The first 12 km upstream passed with great anticipation, alas with not much else to do than getting the camera lenses ready and the glasses full. Soon enough though our captain spotted the first herd of river horses and the crowd on board shifted dangerously to the very lee of the boat! The imbalance was easily taken care of by the captain's next heart-beating announcement: crocodiles on the shores under the mangrove trees, at three o'clock! And a few meters away from the ancient reptile, there was a Kudu busy eyeing us out, while a Giant Kingfisher was perched watchfully in the tree above - picture perfect.

Teeth to Teeth with Dwarfs and Long Snouts

Encounters with crocodiles can also be safely undertaken at the Crocodile Park a few minutes outside St. Lucia - as long as one keeps from climbing the fences, and approaches the enclosures at a steady pace (anything on wheels ought to get an overhaul on the braking system first). An ideal family getaway, the centre is representative of the whole St Lucia Region and not only features local crocodile, but has a breeding programme for two endangered African crocodile species - the Dwarf and the Long Snout. (And they serve some of the best coffee we had on our trip!)

Sleep under stars in Zulu huts and five star lodges

In the days of Shaka, the black sands of Zululand were known to contain useful minerals. A small clan of Zulus fashioned weapons with iron by smelting minerals found in the area's sand dunes - the highest vegetated sand dunes in Africa. Zulu traditions are being revived at the community-run cultural village at Veyane. The land of he Khula Dukuduku settlement, where the Veyane Cultural Village is situated, was originally awarded to a brave Zulu warrior, Veyane Mkhwanazi, by King Cetshwayo in recognition of his heroism at the battle of Isandlwana in 1879. We visited the centre and called on traditional healers, watched Zulu beadworkers and weavers at work; and were spellbound by magical storytelling accompanied by talented traditional musicians. We had a good night’s rest in authentic Zulu huts, furnished with double beds, and electricity!

While staying over at the Veyane Cultural Centre is highly recommendable, nothing compares to the magical views of St. Lucia and surrounds, where an entire range of accommodation options are available: from humble backpackers and ultra-luxury lodges, to self-catering options located close to all amenities - ideal for a longer stay in the area. Most of these establishments are situated in the main road where restaurants such as the Pizza Seafood Grill and Pub, Fuer Elize and Alfredo's await hungry adventurers with an array of mouthwatering dishes.

Taking a bite off the apple – St. Lucia offers many eco-friendly tours and activities

  • Many guided tours into restricted areas give visitors a greater knowledge and insight into the varied ecosystems and habitats of the region. Most of the tours operate throughout the year - with the exception of whale and turtle watching, as these species migrate seasonally. From May to October, there are daily trips to view some of the many Humpback whales migrating to the tropics. Another spectacular tour of the area are the turtle tours, available form November to March, when sightings are made of Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles nesting in the titanium-rich sands.

  • Explore the eastern shores on night drives to investigate the nocturnal activities of chameleons, aardvark, antelope, owls, nightjars, porcupine, elephant, the occasional leopard and yes, the hippo again! Or take part in game-watching, bird-watching, snorkeling, and hikes, during day time. Ecologically sensitive activities like guided hiking trails as well as kayaking, canoeing and horse riding tours enable visitors to glean environmental information in a fun-filled and informative way.

  • Anglers flock to this paradise to catch shad, grunter, rock cod, marlin, and sailfish. Registered guides offer guided fishing safaris, deep sea charters, boat-based spear fishing, shore angling, estuary fishing as well as kite fishing in July and August.

In and Around

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Accommodation near Greater St Lucia Wetland Park

*Distances are shown as the crow flies and not necessarily the actual travelling distance.

from $60
1 night, 2 adults

Mtuba Manor Guesthouse

Sleeps 14 Mtubatuba Guest House in Mtubatuba

Luxury 4-star accommodation suitable for easy access to safari in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve...

from $93
1 night, 2 adults

St Lucia Kingfisher Lodge

Sleeps 21 St Lucia Guest House in St Lucia

St Lucia Kingfisher Lodge is a grand old Colonial homestead offering luxury bed and breakfast accomm...

from $99
1 night, 2 adults

Leopard Corner Guest House

Sleeps 19 St Lucia Bed and Breakfast in St Lucia

Leopard Corner Guest House is located in the St Lucia which adjoins the iSimangaliso Wetland Park; S...

from $84
1 night, 2 adults

Lalapanzi Guest House

Sleeps 18 St Lucia Bed and Breakfast in St Lucia

Lalapanzi Guest House is considered St Lucia’s little paradise. This old Victorian house has six co...

from $60
1 night, 2 adults

Lake St Lucia Villas

Sleeps 56 St Lucia Guest House in St Lucia

Lake St Lucia Villas is family friendly and offers ground floor, second floor and duplex apartments ...

from $115
1 night, 2 adults

Forest Lodge

Sleeps 34 St Lucia Lodge in St Lucia

Forest Lodge is a brand new upmarket lodge situated in a natural forest in the town of St Lucia, iSi...

from $50
1 night, 2 adults

Flamingo Holiday Flats

Sleeps 40 St Lucia Self-catering in St Lucia

Flamingo Holiday Apartments is located on the Elephant Coast in the heart of the exquisite St Lucia ...

Samango Monkeys Clamber In The Treetops
Crocodile Smile
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