Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa
Greater isiMangaliso Wetlands Park
The Greater (isiMangaliso) St. Lucia Wetlands Park
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Lake St. Lucia is 40kms long, 10kms wide and around two metres deep, occupies an area of 55,000ha and is the largest estuary on the African continent. It is also one of the oldest reserves in South Africa - proclaimed in 1897 to protect the dwindling herds of hippo.
The water evaporates easily in the hot environment and the salinity of the lake is generally very high unless the Hluhluwe and Mkuze Rivers which feed the lake come down in flood and flush the lake.
More than 600 hippos wallow in the water and graze the surrounding grass at night, sometimes travelling more than 15kms from the lake. Understandably, Lake St. Lucia is a paradise for water birds such as flamingoes, pelicans, avocets, cormorants, knysna loeries and others - more than 350 species of birds have been identified at the lake.
The margins of the lake are home to bush pigs and different species of buck and crocodiles (around 2,000) sun themselves on the sandy banks. As a result, there is no swimming in the lake but boating and wildlife viewing are very popular.
The St. Lucia system encompasses several ecological zones - coral reefs, beaches, dune forest (some of the dunes reach 450ft in height and are among the highest in the world), sedge swamps, sandveld and grassland.
Similarly, several separate parks make up the system - St. Lucia Park, St. Lucia Game Reserve, False Bay Park, Tewati Wilderness Area, Mfabeni Section, Ozabeni Section, Sodwana Bay National Park, Mapelane Nature Reserve and the St. Lucia and Mapelane Marine Reserves.
The total area of the combined parks is 260,000ha. Close to St. Lucia resort is the Dukuduku Forest ('groping in the dark') which is a remnant of the primordial forest that once covered much of this area.
The St Lucia Wilderness Trail operates between April and November and takes 4 days with the first and last nights being spent at the Bhangazi Base Camp. Rhino, hippo, buffalo and tremendous birdlife may be seen. Contact the Ezemvelo Wildlife.