iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal
Did you know?
iSimangaliso means 'a miracle' in the Zulu language
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park was declared South Africa's first World Heritage Site on 1 December 1999, while still called the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park. It received this prestigious status thanks to the beauty of the landscape, its unique ecological processes and the exceptional species diversity that the park protects.
Former President Nelson Mandela referred to the St Lucia Wetlands in a speech marking the historic 2002 reintroduction of elephants to the 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)'.
Some of the ecological treasures of the region include 100 species of coral, 8 interlinking ecosystems, the last major swamp forests left in South Africa, 3 major lake systems including Kosi Bay, Lake St Lucia and Lake Sibayi, and 105 years of conservation, which makes it Africa’s oldest protected area.
TheiSimangaliso Wetland Park has the highest density of black rhino in the world, the highest number of frog species in southern Africa, 526 bird species, 110 species of butterflies, more than 2 000 species of flowering plants, all 5 of South Africa’s surviving mangrove tree species, and 25 000 year-old coastal dunes.
iSimangaliso is also home to significant cultural heritage sites, including evidence of Stone Age human activity and 700 year-old fish traps at Kosi Bay. You’ll also encounter 5 distinct cultural groups in the area: Zulu, Swazi, Shangaan, Tonga and Gonda.