iSimangaliso Wetland Park, St Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal
The name iSimangaliso in Zulu means ‘miracle and wonder’. There couldn’t be a more fitting name to describe iSimangaliso Wetland Park; it is simply miraculous and wondrous.
In December 1999, it was recognised as South Africa’s first World Heritage site, for it’s awe-inspiring natural beauty and unique value in global conservation. And the park is nothing short on unique: 332 000ha of indescribable beauty, containing three major lake systems, eight different ecosystems, South Africa’s largest estuarine ecosystem, some of the last remaining swamp forests in South Africa, 526 bird species and some of the oldest and largest coastal dunes in the world. Unique probably does not begin to describe it.
The number of animal species in the park is also unrivalled. There are more than 3400 species including 120 mammals (including elephants, rhino, buffalo, wild dog and hyena), 526 birds, 128 reptiles, 50 amphibians.
But famously, Nelson Mandela attempted to describe it: “iSimangaliso must be the only place on the globe where the oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale)”
Getting there: from Durban, take the N2 going to Richard’s Bay. Continue through Richard’s Bay on the N2 and turn off at the R22 going to isiMangaliso.
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