St Lucia is a wildlife lover’s dream, about 275km north of Durban, with an astonishing array of water- and land-based attractions.
St Lucia lies in the Umkhanyakude District Municipality, and residents refer to the area as a village with an economy of a small town. In the greater region of Zululand, Lake St Lucia is the beginning of the Elephant Coast, also known as Maputaland, which extends all the way to Kosi Bay near the Mozambique border and inland to the Lubombo Mountains. St Lucia is mainly a tourist hub for the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, formerly known as the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, proclaimed a world heritage site in 1999.
St Lucia’s residential population quadruples during the holidays and, at any one time, the town will host hundreds of foreign tourists, mainly in August. Accommodation is plentiful out of season, and chock-full in season. From simple camping and log cabins, to self-catering units, time-shares and hotels, there’s something rustic, romantic or upmarket for everyone. Many homeowners have created self-catering units on their properties. Tourism is undoubtedly the main employment driver in the area.
Facilities are mostly practical, with a plethora of nature-based entertainment, but with the comforts of boardwalks, eateries and shops. Activities include game drives, bird-watching, snorkelling safaris, whale watching, turtle tours, hiking, kayaking, surf angling and sports fishing, most of which occur in iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
The entire Elephant Coast is a blend of 21 eco-systems, and St Lucia and surrounding areas have everything from wetlands and sand dunes, to mangrove swamps and coral reefs. It’s undoubtedly one of the richest areas in wildlife, sea life and environmental regions in KwaZulu-Natal, if not South Africa.
After more than a decade abroad, I chose St Lucia as my home because it offers bush and beach, as well as being the sort of town in which I grew up – clean streets, no razor wire on walls surrounding residential properties – actually, few walls at all.
-Patrick Jolly, resident and game reserve/snorkelling tour guide.
- iSimangaliso Wetland Park
- Cape Vidal
- Hluhluwe/Imfolozi Game Reserves
- Kosi Bay
- Sodwana Bay Nature Reserve
iSimangaliso Wetland Park activities
- Estuary boat cruises
- Turtle tours – loggerhead and leather back turtles hatching (seasonal)
- Horse riding
- Guided walks
- Game drives
- Scuba diving
- Whale watching
Where to stay
- Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife campsites
- At Heritage House, St Lucia
- Whalesong Guest House, St Lucia
- Makakatana Bay Lodge, iSimangaliso
- Thonga Beach Lodge, iSimangaliso
- St Lucia Kingfisher Lodge
Best in food
- St Lucia Ski Boat Club: for great meals and amazing views
- Alfredo's: for Italian cuisine
- Braza: for delicious Mediterranean food
This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.