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The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park

This piece of paradise was recently renamed the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Covering about 240,000ha, with a further 84,000ha in, on or under the sea, this is a large chunk of sub-tropical paradise stretching 220km along the East Coast from St Lucia to the Mozambique border.

As well as a mind-blowing range of natural systems, ranging from dune, swamp and coastal forests to rocky and sandy shores, coral reefs and submarine canyons, mangroves, savanna grassland, thickets, woodlands, and the largest protected wetland in southern Africa, it is a culturally fascinating area and – more importantly – has immense fun potential. Game viewing opportunities range from self-drive to luxury lodges, and the birding is awesome. You can paddle on the various lakes, checking out hippos, birds and game on the shore.

The snorkelling at Cape Vidal, Black Rock and Kosi Bay is great and, if you’re a more serious diver, Sodwana Bay is still the most popular diving destination in the country. For a more exclusive dive experience you can head up to Rocktail Bay or Mbibi.

The hiking trail at Kosi Bay offers terrain ranging from grassland, beach and mangrove forests to mysterious waterways. You can do a short or multi-day horse trail, watch mama turtles laying eggs or baby turtles hatching on the beach, or go out in a boat to see dolphins and humpback whales.

Community run trails offer the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the area, as well as get a handle on the history and culture of this fascinating corner of our country.
You shouldn’t miss out on seeing the traditional fish traps, which have been handed down from father to son for hundreds of years. There are also a couple of traditional villages and loads of craft outlets.

UNESCO World Heritage Selection Criteria

The St Lucia site consists of thirteen contiguous protected areas with a total size of 234,566 hectares. The site is the largest estuarine system in Africa and includes the southernmost extension of coral reefs on the continent. The site contains a combination of on-going fluvial, marine and aeolian processes that have resulted in a variety of landforms and ecosystems. Features include wide submarine canyons, sandy beaches, forested dune cordon and a mosaic of wetlands, grasslands, forests, lakes and savanna. The variety of morphology as well as major flood and storm events contribute to ongoing evolutionary processes in the area. Natural phenomena include: shifts from low to hyper-saline states in the Park's lakes; large numbers of nesting turtles on the beaches; the migration of whales, dolphins and whale-sharks off-shore; and huge numbers of waterfowl including large breeding colonies of pelicans, storks, herons and terns. The Park's location between sub-tropical and tropical Africa as well as its coastal setting has resulted in exceptional biodiversity including some 521 bird species.

Justification for inscription:

  • (vii). To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
  • (ix). To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
  • (x). To contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

Source: UNESCO

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