Elephant Coast

What, Where and When on The

The Elephant Coast was named after a large herd of African elephant that lived in the region for centuries – they were once hunted out but have been reintroduced in recent years and are now readily seen in many of the reserves in the region. These include the Hluhluwe-iMfolosi Park, uMkhuze Game Reserve, some private game reserves as well as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park which was South Africa’s first proclaimed World Heritage Site and stretches from Kosi Bay to about 20km south of Maphelane.

This region must be one of South Africa’s most beautiful and un-spoilt areas with mountainous sand dunes, thick coastal forest, pristine beaches as well as lakes and ocean. There are several paths and trails in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park that invite visitors to explore the dense evergreen forests of towering fig trees, marvel at the lush ferns and wild orchids and the wild date and iLala palms dotting the landscape. When In recent years the iSimangaliso Wetland Park completed a tree labelling project which saw over 2000 tree labels placed on common, rare and endemic species of indigenous trees along a number of the trails, hides and picnic areas in the region’s Eastern and Western Shores as well as the uMkhuze Game Reserve. The Hluhluwe iMfolosi Park offers great game viewing and birding and offers great options for accommodation within the Park – check out the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife website for great specials and where to stay.

The sea and pristine beaches along this coastline provide the ideal location for a variety of adventures, offering scuba diving, snorkelling, and angling and the possibility of seeing Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs (November to mid-February) which then subsequently hatch from mid-January until March. This region also offers some of South Africa’s finest birding, with over 25 different birding spots and more than 500 species recorded. The uMkhuze section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, also boasts more than 420 species recorded, and is renowned for its game-viewing hides. Use a local guide to gain the benefit of their excellent observation skills and ability to find the ‘specials’ of a specific birding site – this not only adds value to any birding outing, but is an income generating opportunity for community bird guides.

When in St Lucia, take a stroll through the filtered light of the iGwalagwala Forest Trail where the coastal forest is alive with birdsong and in addition to some special bird species like the Livingstone’s turaco and Narina trogon, you might spot a duiker, bushbuck or even a wandering hippo. Additionally, there are several trails in the Nature Park section of the Eastern Shores (both these are free of entry fees) or enjoy a beach walk from Mission Rocks southwards towards Perrier’s Rocks or head north from Mission Rocks towards Bat Cave and take a dip in shallow rock pools – it is important to do this at low tide! The beach at Cape Vidal is lovely to walk, swim and snorkel.

Did you know?


In isiZulu, the name for an elephant is indlovu, from the verb dlovu, which means to ‘crash through’, or ‘to pierce savagely’ – and if you’ve seen an adult elephant’s tusks you’ll understand why. The tusks are in fact, massive teeth that protrude beyond the mouth of the elephant and on average, can weigh up to about 45 kg each. Elephants use their tusks for digging and leveraging tree branches as well as in social displays of dominance and as a r defence against attack.

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