iSimangaliso / St Lucia Wetland Park
Greater St Lucia Wetlands © inkie1010
iSimangaliso Wetland Park is the largest and most exciting in a string of game parks and nature reserves in KwaZulu-Natal's far north. Many still know it by its former name, St Lucia Wetland Park. Dominated by the fascinating St Lucia estuary and lake system, the park includes eight distinct ecosystems, which vary from dry thorn scrub to tropical forest. Some of the world's highest dunes border them. The park also encloses three major lake systems, beautiful beaches, tropical reefs, Africa's largest estuarine system, and most of South Africa's remaining swamp forests. Big-Five game viewing is on offer too. Visitors should note that this is the only place in the world where they will see hippos, crocodiles and sharks co-habiting the same lagoon. There are comfortable rest camps and some very picturesque campsites in the park. The Wetland Park was declared South Africa's first UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its natural beauty, unusual ecosystems, and the 700-year-old fishing traditions of local inhabitants.
As Nelson Mandela said, it must be the only place on earth where the oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world's biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world's oldest existing fish (the coelacanth) and the world's biggest marine mammal (the whale).