St Lucia (Isimangeliso Wetland Park) – National Park History


South Africa’s first World Heritage site decided on by UNESCO in December 1999, Isimangeliso Wetland park is the 3rd largest national park in South Africa at 332 000 Hectares. Originally declared a game reserve on the 27 april 1897.

Its World heritage status is due to the 5 different eco-systems found in the area and the pure biodiversity that is found in the area.

Its is am ideal game reserve to visit for a Safari while in Durban as it is a Big 4 game reserve, (missing Lion) Malaria free and near Durban. This means you can take a Safari from Durban without the worry of Malaria.

South African former president Nelson Mandela referred to the St Lucia Wetlands in a speech marking the historic 2002 reintroduction of elephants to its eastern shores, saying: “The wetland park must be the only place on the globe where the world’s oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest land mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale).”


The 5 Ecosystems:


Lake St Lucia:

This lake is Africa’s largest estuarine system and home to approximately 800 Hippos and 1000 Crocodiles. At the Estuary mouth you can find Pelicans and Flamingos as well as about 500 different species of birds. The Lake is about 65 km long extending up to Kosi Bay.

The banks of the Estuary are also covered in mangroves Swamps and the Mangrove craps.


Marine System/Indian Ocean:

The warm Indian ocean is a feast of activity through out the year with Coral reefs you can dive or snorkel enjoying the varieties of fish species. The warm water also brings with it the amazing nesting of the Leatherback and Loggerhead sea turtles from November to March annually, this amazing migration is incredible to witness and Tours to witness this can be arrange with Tim Brown Tours.

The Ocean also contains the Coelacanth fish which was thought to have been extinct but was rediscovered on the 27th November 2000 in Sodwana Bay (St Lucia Marine Protected area). The Coelacanth is the oldest living lineage of jawed fish known to date. The coelacanths are closely related to lungfishes.

Whale watching is also an activity in this marine area. The Humpback Whales can bee seen from June to the end of November. Best time being Mid June to mid November.


The Western Shores:

On these shores we have much dryer species of plants, Acacia Thorn-veld, Savanna with a mixture with grassland. On these shores you can find Elephant, Leopard, Rhino, Buffalo and many other species of antelope.

This area has recently been open to the public and also contains a large deposit of fossils.


The Eastern Shores:

The eastern shores contain Golden beaches flanked by the second highest vegetated sand dune in the world, Maphelane at about 180 odd meters above sea level and growing at approximately 3 cm per year.  The area also contains grassy plains and a variety of wetlands and Sand forests around Mkuze and Cape Vidal.


Mkuze Swamps:

A reed and papyrus wetland.

The Northern parts of lake St Lucia over many years have filled with Sediments that have been washed down from the Mkuze catchment area. Traditionally a Lake became swamp land as it dried up over the years. This allowed for the colonization of Reeds and Sedges(Papyrus). Mkuze Swamps is now the largest swampland in South Africa.

This whole area is huge draw card for bird watchers. If you would like to share you loved of Birding or just learn more take a safari from Durban with Tim Brown Tours.


Early evidence of man:

The area has been used and inhabited by man for thousands of years. According to Historical evidence, decorative pierced seashells dating back to the Later Stone Age has been found in Border Cave in the Lebombo Mountains which is west of Kosi Bay. Iron Age sites located at Enkwazini, east of Lake St Lucia that date back to 290AD.

The arrival of the first Black Africans knows as the Nguni people arrived in the area around 1440. There arrival had a huge impacting on the land as they brought with the livestock which grazed the land, hunted and cleared some of the Indigenous forest.

Discoveries of trade beads suggest that Arab traders visited the region as early as 1250.

The Dutch landed in the area in 1670 and the British followed years later in 1823. In 1853 the first ventures inland with a ship to Lake St Lucia up the Mkuze River. These explorers were later followed by hunters, ivory traders and missionaries.

Durban Safaris and Durban Tours with Tim Brown will show you all these amazing places and more, join us on a guided Safari Tour from Durban and make the most of your time in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.


St Lucia and Maphelane in the back ground during a Durban Safari Tour

St Lucia and Maphelane in the back ground during a Durban Safari Tour