iSimangaliso Wetlands Park

DESCRIPTION

South Africa is home to many diverse safari experiences and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a natural wonder, and notably a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Formerly known as the St Lucia Wetland Park, this area is a glowing testament to nature, comprising eight inter-dependent ecosystems all bursting with life.

This wet wonderland was declared South Africa's first World Heritage Site in December 1999, and encompasses beautiful landscapes, unique ecology and diverse wildlife (which include the famous Loggerhead and Leatherback sea turtles).

In a speech marking the historic 2002 reintroduction of elephants to its eastern shores, Nelson Mandela said: “The wetland park must be the only place on the globe where the world’s oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest land mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (the Coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale).”

Further along the coast lies Sodwana Bay, a top diving destination. More than 1200 fish species have been recorded along its bountiful reefs, including the Coelacanth, rediscovered in Jesser Canyon in 2000 after it was widely believed to be extinct.

The coastline of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is the only remaining major nesting site in Africa where Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles still lay their eggs, and it is a sight that should find its way on to every bucket list.

Then there’s the uMkhuze Ecosystem, which is a 38 500ha bird-lovers’ paradise that supports 420 species. Amongst the birds here, you can also spot leopards, black rhinos, white rhinos, elephants, giraffes, wild dogs, cheetahs, hyenas and various antelope.

ACCOMMODATION

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ITINERARY IDEA

Day 1 - 4: iSimangaliso Wetlands Park

Accommodation: Rocktail Beach Camp

Meal Basis: Full Board plus Activities

Isimangaliso means miracle, or the greatest thing you will ever see. You won’t be let down when you first glance at the amazing ecosystems of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Centred around the Lake St Lucia lagoon system, Isimangaliso was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999. The Park includes the lake, beaches, grasslands, dune forests and marine reserve. It is home to an exceptional biodiversity which is indicated by its 521 bird species. It is the largest estuarine system in Africa and includes the southernmost extension of coral reefs. Among its attractions are the world's highest forested sand dunes, large numbers of nesting turtles, whales, dolphins, whale-sharks and huge numbers of waterfowl including large breeding colonies of pelicans. In recent years, buffalo and elephant have been reintroduced onto the eastern shores of the lake.

Set well back in a lush dune forest, Rocktail Camp has 17 en-suite rooms, seven of which are family rooms each with a shared bathroom and two bedrooms, and one being a honeymoon suite. There is a central dining and lounge area with large wrap-around veranda and a raised deck, with wide views extending out to the ocean. A large pool, sunny deck and curio shop complete the main area.

The clear waters and endless golden sands of the Maputaland Marine Reserve allow for swimming, long walks and sandcastles, snorkeling and other seaside adventures. A range of family-friendly activities build wonderful childhood memories, and Ocean Safaris are the best way to explore the waters. World-class diving is conducted along coral reefs accessible only to Dive Center guests, with snorkeling at Lala Nek for the whole family. Excursions are available to Lake Sibaya, Tembe Elephant Park and the local community, where guests can observe authentic aspects of Zulu and Tonga culture through architecture, food and traditional lifestyles.

During summer, guests can join our guides on a night Turtle Drive, with a good chance of seeing nesting turtles. Watching a 750 kg leather back turtle heaving herself up the beach to lay eggs or hatchlings scrambling out of the sand and down the beach to the sea are both once-in-a-lifetime spectacles.

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