The Lubombo Transfrontier Park, combining the conservation efforts of South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique, will reunite elephant families, ecosystems and offer greater sanctuary for turtles. But the greatest change has been in the new opportunities that have opened for the people.

Did you know?

In Kosi Bay, local people have used fish traps sustainably for over 700 years.

When elephants were released into iSimangaliso Wetland Park in 2002, walking its earth for the first time in over 100 years, former President Nelson Mandela said:

'This 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 iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a keystone of the planned Lubombo Transfrontier Park . This is Africa's very first marine and coastal transfrontier conservation area.

It has hundreds of kilometres of coastline and beaches, all the charismatic megafauna you might wish to see, three major lake systems – including Kosi Bay, Lake St Lucia and Lake Sibayi – and dozens of game reserves within the broader Maputaland region, a globally recognised centre of endemism.

There are also five Ramsar wetlands of global importance, and the exquisite beaches are sanctuaries for giant turtles.

This new transfrontier conservation area, involving South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique, is arguably the most complex of the six transfrontier parks involving South Africa.

One of the most notable projects, involving KwaZulu-Natal's transfrontier area, is extending Mozambique's Maputo Special Reserve southwards to the Tembe Elephant Park. This corridor will reconnect two elephant populations fragmented by the civil war in Mozamibique and cut off by a fence in 1989.

The Lubombo transfrontier conservation area may be rich in natural assets, but for decades the people living around here suffered terrible poverty. Conservation efforts are changing all that, creating jobs, training and unprecedented opportunities. New bridges link communities, and roads provide all-weather access to clinics and schools. And this infrastructure itself was created by hiring the poorest of the poor.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

The iSimangaliso Wetland Authority
Tel: +27 (0)35 590 1633
Email: info@isimangaliso.com

How to get here

By car, head north from Durban. From Johannesburg take the N2 towards Piet Retief and follow the signboards to St Lucia. The town of St Lucia is the best access point.

Best time to visit

Autumn, winter and spring are very pleasant times here. But in summer, hot and humid though it may be, there is the attraction of turtles coming ashore at night to lay eggs.

Tours to do

Don't miss a turtle tour if you're there between November and March. And there are excellent game night drives leaving from St Lucia, if you're interested in seeing nocturnal critters.

Get around

A normal sedan should be able to handle most of the roads, but enquire about local conditions – a few places near Kosi Bay are best tackled with a 4x4.

Length of stay

There is so much to do here that a week should be considered a minimum.

What to pack

Bring along binoculars and camera. If you scuba dive, pack your gear to explore the coral reefs at Sodwana Bay. There's great fishing here too, so bring your tackle. Although you can always hire equipment on site.

Where to stay

You have a huge choice, from camping and self-catering chalets to community-owned lodges and luxury guesthouses.

What's happening

Whale watching along the coast from June to November, and turtle egg-laying from November to February. Kayaking, diving, horse riding and game viewing all year round.

Best buys

The woven goods made around St Lucia are excellent, and the fact that they are made from reeds, grass or palm fronds makes them sustainable.