In a world that is ever becoming eco-conscious, the greater St Lucia Wetlands, which is now known as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, has surely got to be deemed one of nature's greatest creations.
Covering 240 000ha of sub-tropical paradise this World Heritage site stretches 220km along the East Coast from St Lucia to the Mozambique border. It is the largest protected wetland in Southern Africa and the diverse natural eco-systems range from dunes, swamps, coastal forests and coral reefs that are unsurpassed in tourism and holiday opportunities.
The diversity of natural habitat and splendour of wildlife that can be experienced in and around St Lucia itself is often a once in a life time occurrence for those who visit this remarkable environment. From turtle tours at Kosi Bay, diving the coral reefs at Cape Vidal or game drives and hippo tours, St Lucia would surely be a mind-blowing event for those visiting the town from urban areas and international shores.
Although St Lucia is one of the South Africa’s largest tourist destinations, the town itself is small and interpersonal with a few beach and curio shops, eateries and bars. Don’t be fooled though, local businesses handle vast numbers of tourists to the area and rave reviews reveal that St Lucia’s warm and friendly atmosphere will definitely lure them back to the region.
One of the largest challenges that face the ever-increasing demands on governments worldwide is the integration of tourism and development whilst still managing to keep natural habitats intact and unspoilt. Conservation of this remarkable natural environment goes hand-in-hand with community involvement and development. This has created some challenges in post-apartheid South Africa and in the early 1990s a remarkable movement gained momentum in a bid to stave off the development of mining in the area. The government took an unprecedented step in turning over the management of the park to a coalition of local people, companies, NGOs and government representatives. This coalition is know as the Wetland Authority and for the first time in the history of South African conservation, local people who suffered the disadvantages of apartheid are fully represented in the highest decision-making body of a major conservation area.
Owning a property in this little piece of paradise would certainly be a privilege, even for the most discerning buyer. There have been 22 sales in St Lucia itself in the last 12 months and the highest price achieved was R4m. Market stock is evenly spread with 50% in the freehold and sectional title sectors, respectively. The average price of freehold property sold in the area is R2 087 000 and the average price paid for sectional title was R857 000. Owners who have resided in the area for longer than 11 years make up 33% of the population, because once you have lived in an area like Saint Lucia it becomes very difficult to call anywhere else "home".
Whether waking up in the morning to the sound of the Malachite Kingfisher, exploring the wetlands in search of the Goliath Heron, or simply relaxing on the pristine beaches watching the sun fade over the waves at dusk, the natural beauty of the area is endlessly fascinating. National Geographic’s photographer Mattius Klum perhaps said it best: “this simply can’t be true”.