The 332000ha iSimangaliso Wetland Park was inscribed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999. It is not only a marine World Heritage Site but also forms part of Africa’s first transfrontier Marine Protected Area together with Mozambique. Amongst other attributes, this marine area provides protection for five of the world’s seven sea turtle species, of which two (the loggerhead and endangered leatherback turtle) nest on its shores; 1200 species of fish; 100 species of warm water coral; whales, whale sharks, sharks and dolphins, and the world’s oldest fish – the coelacanth. The underwater reefs are home to a variety of brightly coloured fish and a spectacular coral diversity.
In addition to marine activities, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a ‘Big Five’ reserve, offers wonderful game viewing, bird watching, and canoeing. The uMkhuze section of the Park, boasts more than 420 recorded bird species and is renowned for its game-viewing hides, pans and the guided ‘fig forest walk’. The Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park, is also home to many species of antelope as well as rhino, large populations of elephant, buffalo and giraffe and predators such as the lion, cheetah and the elusive leopard. Safari experiences with local guides and rangers offer opportunities to learn about the significance of many plants and trees used in Zulu culture and traditions.
The indigenous Zulu and Tonga communities living in the Elephant Coast provide a unique opportunity for interaction and an authentic cultural encounters. These experiences provide visitors with a valuable understanding of the socio- economic realities, challenges and current traditional practices. Share in and experience the local traditions and customs of communities driven to preserve their culture with passion and pride. One of these is at the Veyane Cultural Village, an authentic Zulu attraction located adjacent to the Western Shores section of iSimangaliso and owned by the Induna himself, Phillip Mhkwanazi. Or on a visit to the Kosi Bay region, home to a Tembe-Thonga population. Experience the annual uMthayi (Marula) Festival takes place during the harvest period in late February, and marvel at the Kosi Bay fish traps which offer a striking example of this centuries-old practice of fishing. Within the Kosi Bay Nature Reserve, which surrounds the rare and beautiful Kosi Bay lake system, is a tropical paradise of crystal-clear water, marshland, swamp and coastal forests that is home to about 250 species of bird.
whats on in elephant coast
did you know?
Kosi Bay is the cultural capital of the Tembe-Tonga people who migrated to the area in the middle of the 17th century and established a great kingdom stretching from the Pongola River in the west to the Indian Ocean in the east; and from Delagoa (Maputo) Bay in the north to the Sodwana Bay area in the south. Their history and culture are unique and this sets them apart from the surrounding Zulu, Swazi and Shangaan tribes.