The small town of St Lucia in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa is a beautiful and serene holiday destination with great weather and a variety of activities, a well-equipped village in the heart of Zululand. Despite its popularity, it has retained a quaint atmosphere over the years.
St Lucia’s abundant wildlife and natural beauty made it South Africa’s very first World Heritage Site, listed by UNESCO in 1999. The small town sits on the southern end of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa, and makes for a great base to explore this wildlife haven. Just 2.5 hours from Durban, the capital of KwaZulu-Natal. It offers a warm tropical climate year-round with the warm Indian Ocean and golden beaches just on the edge of town.
We spent several days in St. Lucia, using one of these days to tour the park. This was a huge change in scenery, as we were now staying on the east coast of South Africa, overlooking the Indian Ocean. The park is a sanctuary for hippos and crocodiles, and there were warnings all over town to beware of hippos at night. We never had the pleasure of seeing a hippo walking through town, but heard them frequently.
WHY VISIT ST. LUCIA?
You will need to book a boat tour to see the hippos as they are not viewable from the shores.
We ended up going with Shakabarker Tours mainly because their tour timings worked for us to watch the sunset and we booked directly at the resort where we staying. The guide was very knowledgeable and ensured that we saw as many hippos as possible. Lake St Lucia is known as the largest estuarine system in the world and stretches for 85 kilometers. The lake is home to the biggest concentration of hippos and crocodiles as well as a variety of bird species. There are several service providers like Shakabarker Tours, who provide 2-hour long boat rides on the lake.
These “croc and hippo boat rides” as they are called are incredibly informative and educational and the guide will patiently answer all questions about the area and wildlife. The boats are spacious and offer enough room to move around while enjoying the sight of a pod of hippos lazing around in the lake with only their ears and eyes poking out.
Night Safari with Shakabarker Tours
Discover a new way to explore the iSimangaliso Wetland Park under the cover of darkness. This tour offers an opportunity to see a chameleon, porcupine, various antelope, hippo, nocturnal birds, and occasionally hyena and leopard. Along with fantastic animal sightings, star gazing offers great views. We found this a wonderful tour the sky was so clear and you can see the Milkyway all the time which we have never seen so clearly. We didn't expect so many animals at night this makes the tour something you must do if you visit St Lucia
Enjoy a day at the beach
Enjoy a day on the beach but be aware of the currents if you want to swim in the ocean. The walk to the beach close to St Lucia is an adventure in itself, you are in a nature reserve after all! Enjoy the walk on the boardwalk that runs through the forest.
You will be enveloped by beautiful scenery and your sightings might include magnificent butterflies, deer, iguanas, and plenty of bird species such as the hornbill which is also one of the street names of St Lucia. At the end of the boardwalk, you will be welcomed first by the white sandy beach and then the beautiful Indian Ocean.
St Lucia has a sub-tropical climate with warm summers and very mild winters making it the ideal holiday destination for the tourist wanting to escape the colder weather. The warm ocean currents cause the winters to be much milder than elsewhere in South Africa.
The rainfall in the area creates a lush paradise filled with various shades of green ranging from bright greens to darker hues and everything in between. In summer temperatures range between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is rich in natural wildlife. On the Western and Eastern shores of the park, you can book a safari or drive by yourself like we did and you might come across any of the following wildlife: rhinos, buffalo, zebra wildebeest, giraffes, leopards, various species of antelope and birds, monkeys, and if you are lucky maybe an elephant or two.
Four of the big five animals can be found in the park. It is essential to keep your camera ready for you never know when you will spot something interesting. There is a good chance that you might spot zebras and buffalos grazing not so far from the road you are traveling on. On a good day, you can expect to see a tower of giraffes browsing in the bush.
Take a day trip to the aesthetically pleasing Cape Vidal. To get there it is necessary to drive through the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. You will be charged a small entrance fee at the gate. Cape Vidal is a renowned snorkeling and fishing destination.
Fishermen wetting their fishing rods is a frequent sight on the Cape Vidal beach with its bluish turquoise water. It is a sheltered bay where you can enjoy a day of fun in the sun and swim in the warm water of the Indian Ocean. Cape Vidal is the perfect place to cool down and relax after a drive through the bush and animal spotting. This beach also offers kilometers of white pristine sand.
Where to stay
St Lucia Eco Lodge is nestled between the St. Lucia Estuary, the Indian Ocean, and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park an ideal point from which to explore South Africa’s first World Heritage Site. The region is blessed with an all-around summer, making it comfortable throughout the year.
A great place as it has its own tour company too and you don't have to worry about trips around the area.
The St. Lucia EcoLodge has been a favorite with South African and overseas leisure visitors for the past eighteen years. St Lucia Ecolodge is situated in a beautiful tropical garden with breathtaking views over the St Lucia Wetlands and Estuary Mouth of Lake St. Lucia where it meets the warm Indian Ocean.
St. Lucia EcoLodge offers 29 fully air-conditioned units, each with large bedrooms, a full bathroom, lounge, fully kitted-out kitchenette, TV, and veranda or balcony. Enjoy our warm, extremely comfortable, and relaxed home-from-home atmosphere.