iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, as it is currently known, is the one of the most diverse environments in the world.

unesco world heritage sites

The term “isimangaliso” means “something wondrous” or “a miracle” in IsiZulu. The name originates from a subject of King Shaka known as Jeqe who fled from Zululand to the land of the Tsonga after the assassination of King Shaka when he arrived, he marveled at the beauty of the area and proclaimed about how he saw the wonders and miracles of the Tsonga land and lakes when he eventually went back to Zululand.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site

In 1999 the iSimangaliso Wetland Park was inscribed as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) World Heritage site. It falls under the natural heritage category. It was South Africa’s first World Heritage Site. It was recognized by the UNESCO committee for its ecological processes, exceptional biodiversity, and threatened species, and superlative natural beauty and unique global values.

The 239,566-hectare area is filled with a wide range of animal wildlife and habitats such as the Ubmobo mountains, grasslands, wetlands, mangroves, forests, coral reefs and vegetated dunes, swamps, and sandy beaches. The area stretches along the beautiful Zululand coast from the Mapelane area in the South of the KwaZulu-Natal province right through to Kosi Bay which is at the north towards the province near Mozambique covering 280km of the eastern coastline of the province.

What to expect while in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park area?

  • A wide variety of Fauna and Flora.
  • Animal life such as Black and White Rhino, the Nile Crocodile, Hippos, Buffalos, Nyala, Elephants, Waterbuck, Kudu, Duiker, Reedbuck, Whales, Dolphins, Leopards, marine Turtles, Loggerhead turtles, Leatherback turtles, and African Lions.
  • An opportunity to dive on the coral reefs to explore the marine environment. Other water-based activities include deep-sea fishing and fly-fishing and kayaking, snorkeling, kite-surfing.
  • Turtle tours and turtle tracking.
  • More iSimangaliso Wetland Park Animals
whale sightings st lucia 2019

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park has a list known as the “10 Jewels”.

These are:
horse riding st lucia
  • Kosi Bay
  • Coastal Forest
  • Maphelane
  • Charters Creek and the Western Shores
  • False Bay
  • Sodwana Bay
  • uMkhuze
  • Lake St. Lucia/St. Lucia Estuary
  • Cape Vidal and the Eastern Shores
  • Lake Sibaya

iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site

Places or areas that you should visit and stay at to experience these incredible sites:

  • Lake Sibhayi/Sibaya
  • Mkuze Game Reserve
  • Lucia Marine Reserve and Marine Sanctuary
  • Maphelane Nature Reserve
  • Kosi Bay Nature Reserve
  • Sodwana Bay Nature Reserve
  • False Bay Park
  • Fanies Island & Charters Creek
  • Lake Etrza Nature Reserve
  • Cape Vidal Camp
  • Maputaland Marine Protected Area
  • Mfabeni
  • Tewate Wilderness Area
  • Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park
isimangaliso wetland park map

The protection and management requirements of the area are done on a provincial level. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and KwaZulu- Natal Nature Conservation Service work with the provincial government in protecting the economic, scientific, cultural, and recreational value of the Wetlands. This task includes intensive management, monitoring, and research. Despite their efforts, the Wetland Park is still facing environmental threats various sources such as:

  • Reduction in water supply due to the large-scale agricultural transformation and development of the upper Mfolozi Swamps.
  • The serious droughts being experienced which have increased salinity and killed off the shoreline vegetation which has resulted in bank erosion and silting of the lake.
  • The grounding of an oil tanker near the Umfolozi River in 2002.
  • The damage due to over-use. This is related to the tourism and over-exploitation of the environment’s resources such as unsustainable fishing.
  • The infestation of foreign, invasive plants

Other interesting facts about iSimangaliso Wetland Park

  • To appreciate and illustrate the dynamics that exist within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, the late and former President of the Republic of South Africa Nelson Mandela stated that: the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is the only place on earth where one would find the world’s oldest land mammal, the rhino, and the world’s biggest terrestrial animal, the elephant, sharing an ecosystem with the Coelacanth, which is the world’s oldest fish, and the whale which is the world’s biggest marine mammal
  • As part of conversation efforts in recent years, more than 14 000 hectares of commercial plantations have been removed by the conversation authorities and the land has undergone rehabilitation.
  • The park is home to over 526 bird species
  • The iSimangaliso Wetland Park has over 6500 plant and animal species.
  • The park home to over 1200 crocodiles and 800 hippopotami – the biggest amount in one area.
  • After being absent for 44 years, African Lions were reintroduced to the park in December 2013.
  • The conversation of the Wetland Park is said to date back to 1895 and was created by the Zululand government.
  • Four of the wetland sites with the Park have been classified as Ramsar sites. This means that they have been acknowledged as being wetlands of international importance.
  • The vegetated dunes are said to be some of the world’s highest coastal vegetated dunes and also the oldest. The vegetated dunes are over 25 000 years old according to researchers.
  • There are 95 species of corals, sponges, and other types of invertebrates.

Should you like to visit this amazing and incredible area, and need any additional information please do not hesitate to drop us an email with any questions and we will happily assist you.