Do, dine and sleep: touring KwaZulu-Natal’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Posted by Taylah Strauss on 6 May 2022

It’s impossible not to fall in love with the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Known for being South Africa’s first World Heritage site, the park exhibits a wealth of extraordinary biodiversity, with a high density of indigenous flora and fauna.

If you don’t have it on your holiday agenda, here are a few reasons why you should.

Where to stay

1. Little Eden

Welcoming you to your home away from home, Little Eden St Lucia is set on the edge of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. With its ideal location, it is close to the beach, restaurants, and shops.

There are six self-catering units that are child and pet friendly, have secure parking, free WiFi, a private braai area, and a spacious swimming pool.

Breakfast and dinner are available for an additional fee.

Cost: from R600 per person.

Address: 159 Hornbill Street, Saint Lucia Estuary.

Contact details: 081 045 3381

2. Avalone Guesthouse

Located right in the heart of St Lucia, Avalone Guest House values comfort and warm hospitality.

You can enjoy breakfast on the patio with a beautiful view of the nature reserve. There is also a swimming pool and a braai area, and each unit has a secure parking area.

Cost: from R917 per person.

Address: 15 Sandpiper St, St Lucia.

Contact details: 035 590 2112

3. Triton Dive Lodge

In the tourist hub of Sodwana Bay, a mere twenty minutes from iSimangaliso, Triton Dive Lodge offers accommodation ranging from two to four sleeper cabins, en-suite rooms and en-suite chalets.

Additionally, two-bedroom self-catering houses are available. The units are scattered among the indigenous trees, surrounded by the sounds of wildlife.

Cost: from R200 per person.

Address: Triton Dive Lodge, Olakeni Reserve, Mbazwana, Sodwana Bay.

Contact details: 082 494 8761

Forest Lodge & Villas

Whether you are on a solo journey or traveling with a group, Forest Lodge & Villas is the perfect destination.

Suites are designed to provide comfort and luxury while still allowing you to enjoy the simplicity of nature.

Suites are connected by a wooden pathway over the garden, which also leads to the pool and sundeck.

Cost: from R700 per person.

Address: 15 Pelican Street, St Lucia.

Contact details: 035 590 1024

On the agenda

1. Turtle tours

Loggerhead turtle. Credit: actor212/Flickr Commons

iSimangaliso Wetland Park is part of a 200km stretch of coastline in KZN that is Africa’s only major nesting area for both loggerhead and leatherback turtles.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), loggerhead turtles are endangered, while leatherback turtles are vulnerable. These important nesting grounds have been protected by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife for more than 50 years.

These turtles only swim to shore to nest and recent research suggests that females return to the beach that they themselves hatched on. Tours operate from November until February, where visitors may get lucky enough to see eggs hatch.

Note: Turtle sightings are not guaranteed.

Who: Heritage Safari Tours

Cost: R1350 per person.

Where: 57 Mckenzie St, St Lucia.

Contact details: 064 037 6415

2. Game drives

Leopard spotted at night on game drive. Credit: Bernard DuPont/Flickr Commons

The park is home to an incredible diversity of African wildlife and is considered to be one of the most important mammal conservation areas in South Africa. Hyenas, painted dogs, leopards, hippos, and bush babies, among many others.

It’s better to arrange night game drives for a better chance of seeing the park’s nocturnal animals.

Who: Hluhluwe Imfolozi Accommodation & South African Big 5 Safaris

Cost: R395 per person.

Where: Heritage Tours & Safaris, Mckenzie street shop 1, St Lucia.

Contact details: 083 457 2147

3. Scuba diving

Credit: Pexels

iSimangaliso’s warm waters feature extraordinarily diverse marine life. This area is home to more than 1200 species of fish and 95 kinds of hard and soft corals. There are several spectacular reef complexes in Sodwana Bay, where most divers go scuba diving.

Who: Triton Dive Lodge

Cost: from R475 for a single dive if you bring your own gear. Note: air fills are an additional R65.

Where: Triton Dive Lodge, Olakeni Reserve, Mbazwana, Sodwana Bay.

Contact details: 082 494 8761

4. Walking trails in St Lucia

Vervet monkeys in St Lucia. Credit: Bernard Dupont/Flickr Commons

In St Lucia, there are several self-guided and guided walking trails where you can observe wildlife in its natural habitat.

Among the common sights are zebra, wildebeest, impala, vervet monkeys, and duikers. There are also 500 bird species in the park, including the endangered martial eagle.

Who: click here for a list of all the trails available.

Cost: Self-guided walking trails are free, but there is a park entry fee of R28 for adults and R16 for children, plus a vehicle entry fee of R29 and a community levy of R5 per person.

5. Boat cruises

Hippos and crocodiles at Lake St Lucia. Credit: Joe Townsend/Flickr Commons

At iSimangaliso, there are populations of over 1000 hippos and crocodiles, most of which live in the estuary of Lake St Lucia. If you’re thinking about dipping your toes in, don’t. It is home to one of the country’s largest gatherings of hippos and crocodiles.

You can still get up close to the hippos and crocodiles from the safety of a boat.

Who: Advantage Tours

Cost: R600 for two people.

Where: 166 Mckenzie St, Central, St Lucia.

Contact details: 83 487 27602

Bon appétit

If you’ve worked up an appetite, grab a bite at these amazing eateries.

1. Hippo Café

On the menu: pizzas, burgers, cakes and coffee.

Where: 70 McKenzie Street, St Lucia.

2. The Lighthouse

On the menu: Italian cuisine, seafood, burgers and vegetarian cuisine.

Where: Mahogany Way No. 1, Sodwana Bay.

3. St Lucia Ski Boat Club

On the menu: pizzas, pasta and burgers.

Where: Sugarloaf Street, St Lucia.

4. The Hippo Steakhouse

On the menu: full English breakfast and a-la-carte lunch and dinner.

Where: 3 Mullet Street, St Lucia.

Picture: Rickie rocket/Flickr Commons

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