The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park Experience
The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, South Africa's first Natural World Heritage Site, was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 as a result of its unique ecological processes, superlative natural phenomena and exceptionally rich biodiversity.
This 328 000 hectare (800 000+ acres) park with 280km of coastline also has 2 sections which have been registered as Wetlands of International Significance under the Ramsar Convention. The park includes four of South Africa's Ramsar sites - the St Lucia System, Lake Sibaya, the Turtle Beaches and Coral Reefs of Tongaland, and the Kosi Bay System.
The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park is situated on the eastern coast of the Elephant Coast, stretching from beyond the St Lucia estuary mouth in the south to the Mozambique border in the north. Lake St Lucia itself, at 38 000 hectares in size, is the largest estuary in Africa. For a clearer idea of the vastness of the park have a look at the
Habitats in the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park range from the Lebombo Mountains to grasslands, forests, wetlands, mangrove swamps and vegetated dunes, as well as magnificent beaches and coral reefs. The diversity of habitats supports an abundance of wildlife, including: Black Rhino, Elephant, African Buffalo, Leopard and many species of antelope. The Park supports the largest populations of the following species in South Africa: Hippopotamus (over 1 000), Red Duiker, Nyala, Reedbuck and Nile Crocodile. 55 species of fresh water fish and 212 species of estuarine fish have been recorded in the park.
Birdlife is prolific as a result of the varied habitats, providing a fantastic selection of species - over 500 species have been recorded in the park. The lake is one of the most important waterbird breeding areas in South Africa. For a large number of migratory birds, this is the end of their route - some flying several thousand kilometres to reach St Lucia. Estuarine fish use the lake as a nursery, and the threatened Leatherback and Loggerhead Turtles swim thousands of kilometres back home to lay their eggs on the beaches.
The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park comprises a number of conservation areas (the oldest of which was established in 1895) including the St Lucia Game and Marine Reserves, False Bay Park, Cape Vidal, Sodwana Bay, Mkhuze Game Reserve and the Maputaland Marine Reserve.
Of the many areas within this vast park, we would suggest that the following are some of the best:
Beach lovers should consider visiting
St Lucia village and estuary
are definitely worthwhile, and
False Bay Park
allows access to the north-western section of Lake St Lucia.
Mkhuze Game Reserve
is a beautiful game reserve with 4 of the
and is renowned for its prolific birdlife.