Located within the Elephant Coast region is the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s first proclaimed World Heritage Site, which together with Mozambique been protecting Africa’s first trans-frontier marine conservation area since 2009. It is an unspoilt area blessed with dense evergreen forests; lush ferns and wild orchids; wild date and Lala palms; swamp forests, mountainous sand dunes, thick coastal forest, pristine beaches as well as lakes and ocean. Whale watching is popular between the months of May and November, when humpback whales make their way north from their Antarctic feeding grounds, heading for the sea channels between Mozambique and Madagascar. Here they give birth to their calves in bathwater-warm temperatures, only leaving when the calves have developed enough thick blubber to withstand the icy temperatures down south. On their way there and back, they stream past the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. Enjoy a trip into these biodiversity-rich waters of the Indian Ocean with St Lucia Tours & Charters, the only operator with a licence in this region to take people out humpback whale watching. You might also spot turtles, whale sharks, dolphins, marlin and unusual pelagic birds. Another fun activity is a cruise up and down the St Lucia estuary where you’ll almost certainly spot hippos and crocodiles, admire the mangrove trees, see iridescent malachite kingfishers hawking for tiny tilapia fish, and almost certainly hear the wild call of an African fish eagle. Fishermen will enjoy a spot of deep-sea fishing, with Dorado, barracuda, tuna and snoek all a possibility – should a marlin or sailfish be caught, be sure to tag-and-release as is the practice with St Lucia Tours & Charters. Activities in the Eastern Shores area include swimming and snorkelling on Cape Vidal beach, and exploring the rocky shores of Mission Rocks at low tide. A game drive into the Western Shores area of Lake St Lucia offers a great opportunity to see elephant and giraffe (including young ones at this time of year). The uMkhuze section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is renowned for its game-viewing hides and often offers great sightings of African wild dog. The Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park is home to many species of antelope as well as large populations of elephant, buffalo and giraffe, the endangered rhino and predators such as the lion, cheetah and the elusive leopard. And Sodwana Bay, popular with both the diving fraternity as well as big game anglers is where the coelacanth – once believed extinct – is just one of the approximately 1200 fish species identified here.
whats on in elephant coast
did you know?
iSimangaliso Wetland Park currently has over 200 elephants that share the Western Shores, Eastern Shores and uMkhuze sections of the Park – quite an accomplishment considering that elephants were only reintroduced to this area in 1994! It is a privilege viewing these magnificent animals, but remember to be cautious, and ALWAYS maintain a reasonable distance – at least 50 metres is recommended.