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The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, previously known as Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park, is one of the most diverse regions in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and very popular with tourists. In includes Mapelane Nature Reserve.


Hippos in iSimangaliso Wetland Park


The park extends over highly varied terrain and areas, with several smaller provincial and private game reserves and farms included within its boundaries.

Mapelane Nature Reserve's location on the Mapelane Peninsula, jutting out into the Indian Ocean, provides the reserve with a unique coastal ecosystem, including mangrove forests, sandy beaches, and rocky shores.

Flora and fauna[edit]

iSimangaliso is well known for its extensive wetlands, sand dunes and beaches, with large herds of game, visiting whales in the winter months (May to October), rafts of hippopotami and sun-basking crocodiles.

Mammals and reptiles that are regularly seen include Lion, African Wild Dog, Elephant, Green-backed Turtle, Leather-backed Turtle, Hippopotamus, African Rock Python, Mocambican spitting Cobra, Gaboon Viper, Forest Cobra, Water Monitor, Nile Crocodile, Leopard, Spotted Hyena, Samango monkey, White or Square-lipped Rhinoceros, Black or Hooked-lipped Rhinoceros, Cheetah, African (Cape) Buffalo, Waterbuck, Kudu, Nyala, Bushbuck, Grey duiker, Steenbuck, Red Duiker, Suni Antelope, Four-toed Elephant Shrew, Common Reedbuck, Blue Wildebeest, Burchells (Plains) Zebra, Giraffe, Water Mongoose.

Over 526 bird species have been seen. For bird-watching tourists some of the special birds include Great White Pelican, Pink-backed Pelican, Rufous-bellied Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, Yellow-billed Stork, Lesser Flamingo and Greater Flamingo, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Crested Guineafowl, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Lesser Jacana, Caspian Tern, Livingstone's Turaco, Green Malkoha, Swamp Nightjar, Mangrove Kingfisher, African Broadbill, Eastern Nicator, White-throated Robin-Chat, Brown Scrub-Robin, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Rudd's Apalis, Woodwards' Batis, Short-tailed Pipit, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Neergaard's Sunbird, Green Twinspot, Pink-throated Twinspot, and Grey Waxbill.

Mapelane Nature Reserve is home to a wide range of animal species, including several species of antelope, such as the bushbuck and the duiker, as well as the elusive leopard. The waters around the reserve are also home to a variety of marine life, including dolphins, whales, and a variety of fish species.

Get in[edit]

Follow the N2 from Durban northwards. You will have to turn right after around 250 km, 50 km before the town of Hluhluwe. The town of St Lucia is more or less the entrance to the park.

Fees and permits[edit]

Get around[edit]


  • Kosi Bay. An undiscovered bay that offers diverse and unique tourism activities and attractions in a fabulous subtropical climate.
  • 1 Mapelane Nature Reserve.


Most importantly for tourists, iSimangaliso Wetland Park provides opportunities for self-managed activities and guided activities by local service providers, lodges and guides. For budget or cost conscious travellers, most terrestrial activities can be done without assistance, including driving and walking safari's in the various parks and reserves within the boundaries of the Greater Park region. This includes day walking trails, swimming at the various beaches and overnight or multi-day hiking trails.

Areas with dangerous game (the Big-5 plus hippopotamus and crocodile) are sign-posted and walking activities may be restricted. Remember to check with the relevant park authority.

  • Go on a boat cruise to see hippos and the wetlands.
  • Crocodile Park
  • Bird-watching
  • Cape Vidal
  • Whale-watching
  • Snorkeling
  • Horse Safaris
  • Game drives and vehicle-based safaris
  • Hiking


  • Ocean Experience Whale Watching, 57 Mckenzie Street, +27 35 590-1555. Go in search of the mighty humpback whales as they migrate past the shores of St Lucia. This 2-hour boat-based excursion is operated by a legal permit holder. The vessel complies to all SAMSA legislation. See the third largest mammal in the world.
  • Heritage Tours Hippo & Croc Boat Cruises, 57 Mckenzie St, +27 35 590-1555. Cruise up one of Africa's largest estuarine systems. Hippos wallowing and Nile crocodiles basking in the African sun, birdlife abundant. R170.
  • Heritage Tours & Safaris, 57 Mckenzie Street St Lucia, +27 35 590-1555. Offers day excursion safaris and night drive excursions into iSimangaliso Wetlands Park. Discover this amazing World Heritage Site. Daily departures to Cape Vidal Western Shores and night drives into the Western Shores as we go in search of the elusive leopard and elephants that frequent this area.


  • The town of St Lucia offers a number of restaurants.



Plenty of camping nearby at Cape Vidal and in the town of St Lucia.

Stay safe[edit]

Go next[edit]

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