The Isimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly known as the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park) is a 328,000 hectare wilderness reserve in the northeastern corner of KwaZulu Natal. Centred around Lake St Lucia, the park contains the largest estuarine system and the southernmost coral reefs in Africa, and its diversity – in terms of land and marine features as well as birds and animals – is staggering.
The topological features of the park include sandy beaches, underwater canyons, forested dune cordon and a patchwork of forests, lakes, wetlands, grasslands and savanna. Whales, dolphins, and whale sharks migrate along the park’s coastline, and sea turtles lay their eggs on the beaches in November. Great flocks of waterfowl including pelicans, storks, herons and terns make their homes here, contributing to a total of 521 bird species found in the park.
The fauna and flora of Isimangaliso Wetland Park are unrivalled anywhere in South Africa. Nile crocodile and hippo inhabit the waterways, and the park also contains elephant, buffalo, black and white rhino, giraffe, waterbuck, kudu, nyala, impala, duiker and reedbuck, amongst a host of other species.
The Isimangaliso Wetland Park incorporates thirteen-odd conservation areas including the Maputaland and St Lucia Marine Reserves, the Coastal Forest Reserve and the Kosi Bay Natural Reserve. Probably the most rewarding experience in the park is a boat trip on the lake, which provides encounters with waterfowl, hippos, crocs as well as the beautiful fish eagle.