Nestled along South Africa’s enchanting east coast, iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a true marvel, a sanctuary for both travelers and wildlife enthusiasts. As you embark on a journey to explore this natural wonder, you may wonder: where is iSimangaliso Wetland Park, how do you get there, what should you pack, and what adventures await? We’re here to unveil the secrets of this mesmerizing destination.
Also, I have a detailed report of our own visit to the park, so let’s dive straight into things!
Isimangaliso Wetland Park Map: Where is it Located?
Situated on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, Isimangaliso Wetland Park is one of the marvels of South Africa, and it only adds something significant to the plethora of parks of South Africa.
It is known as the third biggest protected area of South Africa that spans over 28km of the coastline, starting from the Mozambican border to Lake St. Lucia estuary’s south.
Click on the picture below to see where this park is located on Google Maps.
Located in KwaZulu-Natal, reaching this natural haven is an adventure in itself. Consider these options:
- Fly to King Shaka International Airport in Durban, the closest gateway.
- A two-hour drive on the N2 route from the airport.
- Alternatively, opt for Richards Bay Airport, a regional airport, with just over an hour’s drive to St. Lucia, the southern entrance to the park.
Both airports offer convenience but remember to rent a car for the road trip to the park’s gates.
Isimangaliso Wetland Park – Nature’s Grandeur
Acknowledged as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, Isimangaliso Wetland Park was renamed from the Greater St. Lucia, which now means miracles and wonder.
It was designated as such in 1999 in recognition of its outstanding natural beauty and ecological significance. The park’s diverse ecosystems, including wetlands, estuaries, beaches, and coral reefs, make it a vital habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species.
This prestigious UNESCO designation helps protect and preserve the park’s unique biodiversity and natural heritage for future generations to enjoy.
It’s known to be a place for African bush elephants, more than 800 hippopotami, southern rhinos (we saw lots of them), and African leopards.
Isimangaliso Wetlands park: our own fantastic visit and story!
So, picture this: we’re fresh off our three-night adventure in Sodwana Bay, living our best beach life. The next destination? The entrance to iSimangaliso Wetland Park at Saint Lucia Estuary.
It turns out that getting to the game park wasn’t as simple as plugging it into Google Maps and hitting the gas. Oh no, it was a good 2.5-hour drive away. But, before you start imagining a rocky, Indiana Jones-style expedition, let me tell you, the roads weren’t half bad. In fact, they were smooth and we got there ahead of time, lucky us!
iSimangaliso Wetlands Park is one of those places where you can channel your inner explorer, grab a steering wheel, become a DIY safari, and go on a self-drive. Or, you can do what we did – pay for a ranger and a kick-ass 4×4. Trust me; it’s worth every cent.
Why? Well, here’s the deal. Rangers aren’t just your ordinary guides; they’re like the Sherlock Holmes of the animal kingdom. They’ve got these superpower binoculars for spotting even the sneakiest of creatures. Not to mention, they’re like walking encyclopedias of wildlife trivia. During our journey, we learned so much about the animals we encountered!
And wait, there’s more! The ranger experience also includes a gourmet lunch. Plus, drinks. Yes, you can sip on your favorite beverage while watching zebras having a chat with wildebeests. How cool is that?
Rangers keep in touch with each other like a secret society, sharing intel on where to find the real celebs of the park – rhinos, lions, and everything else on the big 5 or ugly 5.
Even the smallest of stars in this grand animal opera. Case in point: the elusive scarabee, the kind that could easily hurt your eyes in its flight if you forget your glasses. Note to self: always wear glasses in the wild. Safety first!
Now, here’s where it gets wild, pun intended. We spotted herds of elephants that could give you an instant case of elephant envy and rhinos that would put a tank to shame, including quite a few young ones!
Watch the video below to see the little ones!
So, right in the middle of our epic iSimangaliso adventure, we made a pit stop at the beach within the park.
You see, this beach is a gateway to some underwater wonderland. Want to go for a swim? No problem! Just dive right in. And guess what, just like in Sodwana Bay, you might get lucky enough to spot some majestic whales passing by.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – swimming in the open sea, with waves and currents, can be a bit daunting. But here’s where the beauty of iSimangaliso Wetland Park shines. The area has watchful eyes, people who are there to ensure your safety and I suppose know what they need to do if someone gets into deepsea trouble.
Also, the guides have snorkeling gear with them. Yep, in case you suddenly feel like exploring the underwater neighborhoods, they’ve got your flippered back. So, when you’re standing there in your safari gear, contemplating whether to go for a snorkeling adventure, just do it! You won’t regret it.
But what left us truly astounded was the ranger’s wealth of knowledge. They didn’t just point out the obvious big animals (as shown in the video above, where you get detailed information about rhinos); they knew everything, from the smallest of critters to the myriad of birds that grace the park.
=> check out this cute video of a young rhino scratching its bum against a human traffic sign 🙂
And let me tell you, this place is a bird-watching paradise. With water all around, it’s no wonder they call it a ‘wetlands park.’ Your camera is going to get a workout here, that’s for sure.
So, there you have it, our little adventure within the adventure. From rock-strewn beaches to snorkeling and to a crash course in ornithology – iSimangaliso Wetland Park had it all. And trust me, if you thought you knew what to expect in a wildlife safari, this place is bound to blow your expectations!
The Right Time To Visit Isimangaliso Wetland Park
The majority of people think that the best time to visit this park is during the mild and dry winter season, which ranges from May to September.
However, this is also the peak season, but it’s a perfect time when you want to check out the migratory birds because they make a pit spot here while flying to the final destination.
In simpler words, this time is perfect if you are fond of birds. However, we are sharing what it means to visit this park in different seasons;
Starting from November to March, the weather will be wet, humid, and hot. This means that the skies will show some mood swings, so it’s best that you pack a raincoat.
The temperature will be around 30-degrees Celsius, and it’s a perfect time for seeing turtles nest around.
If you don’t like the rains associated with summer, you should go between April and May because these are sunny and warmer days.
However, this time, there are school holidays, which means there will be crowds and high accommodation rates.
The whale migration starts in June, and you can start by staying at St. Lucia to enjoy the daily tours of whales and their little ones.
The nights are cold, and the days are warm, so it’s best to pack a jacket if you like taking night-time strolls. However, no timing could be better than this for safari.
Ranging from September to October, the rains will start picking up, but you might be able to spot a few whales.
During this time, the weather will be warm, but there will be winds, so don’t wear flowing dresses.
The Entrance Gates:
There are various entrance gates to the Isimangaliso Wetland Park (it seems like the administration really wants everyone to enjoy the perks of this huge park).
- To begin with, you can opt for the Dukuduku gate to enjoy the western shores and exit too N2 through Nholzi.
- On the other hand, you can access the eastern shores from the Bhangazi Gate.
- To top it all off, you could follow the R22 route to enjoy Lake Sibaya and Sodwana Bay. Even more, if you want to see Kosi Bay, you can drive through Manguzi town.
Accommodation Around Isimangaliso Wetland Park.
With the huge area of the park, it takes various days to enjoy every corner of it and enjoy the untouched and pristine parts of the park.
For this reason, you must get yourself accommodation to have a comfortable staying experience.
If you are silly enough, like us, you can stay in the Sodwana Bay area, but get up bright and early to go visit the wetland park. (only if you want to get up really early LOL!)
But if you want to stay closer to the park, there are over 135 possibilities for accommodation!
From high-end resorts to more affordable lodges and self-catering possibilities, there is more than enough choice! Take a look, for example, at the Green fig resort and spa, and so much more.
Things To Do When In Isimangaliso Wetland Park- activities
First, here’s a fantastic video from a tour guide who explains everything there is to do and see in this fantastic park:
Lake St. Lucia.
If you want to devour the beauty of nature, it’s a must to visit Lake St. Lucia. This place is home to hundreds of Nile crocodiles and hippopotami.
However, you need to be careful around the rocks because they are covered in lichen, which makes them slippery.
If you love taking dips in the water and want to enjoy snorkeling, you can go to Sodwana Bay.
It’s located in the northern section of the park, and it’s a perfect option for diving in water and snorkeling.
It is the place to watch vibrant coral but don’t forget to hire a trainer and breathe while you are pedaling legs underwater.
For everyone who wants to enjoy the wildlife and go on a safari, you can opt for the western reserves. On the safari, you can check out leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalos.
While you are there, don’t forget to keep a distance from the animals and don’t shove a camera into animals’ faces. So, just sit back in your jeep and enjoy.
My Final Conclusion.
To summarize, Isimangaliso Wetland Park is a must-visit destination for everyone who wants to enjoy the wildlife and nature while taking a dip in the water.
So, which of these activities are you planning while booking a flight?
If you have more questions, please leave a comment below in the comment section or join me on my social media pages or Facebook group.
I wish you happy travels!
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