A huge expanse of water unfolds before you, stretching endlessly towards the distant horizon. This is Lake St Lucia, the largest estuarine body of water in South Africa.
Around this shallow lake a complex body of vleis (wetlands), pans, swamp forests and grasslands is found. St Lucia Marine Reserve, which extends roughly from Sodwana in the north to Mapelane in the south, contains no less than five different ecosystems.
These include the lake itself, a wilderness area known as Mfabeni and Tewati, a marine conservation area, the reed and papyrus wetland of the Mkuze swamps and western shores, and a fossil shoreline more than 25,000 years old.
Iron Age people once inhabited this vast wilderness, but the ravages made by the white explorers and hunters on the wildlife of the area had a devastating effect. At one stage the damage seemed irreversible, but in 1897 some forward-thinking conservationists stepped in to have the area proclaimed a game reserve.
This was the first game reserve in South Africa. Today the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park stands as a beacon to the efforts for conservation in South Africa.