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.