iSimangaliso Wetland Park
It is South Africa's third-largest protected area, spanning 280 km of coastline, from the Mozambican Border in the north to Mapelane south of the Lake St. Lucia Estuary, and made up of around 3,280 km² of Natural Ecosystems, managed by the iSimangaliso Authority.
The Park includes:
- Lake St. Lucia
- St. Lucia Game Reserve
- False Bay Park
- Kosi Bay
- Lake Etrza Nature Reserve
- Lake Sibhayi
- St. Lucia Marine Reserve
- St. Lucia Marine Sanctuary
- Sodwana Bay National Park
- Mapelane Nature Reserve
- Maputaland Marine Reserve
- Cape Vidal
- Tewate Wilderness Area
- Mkuze Game Reserve
The park was previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, but was renamed effective from 1 November 2007. The word iSimangaliso means "miracle" in Zulu.
The Park is due to be integrated into a transfrontier park, the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay Transfrontier Conservation Area, straddling South Africa, Mozambique, and Swaziland. This is in turn planned to become a part of the greater Greater Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area.
The Satellite image of the park, with the borders of several conservation areas outlined in yellow.
In the northern part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park you will find Kosi Bay
St. Lucia was first named in 1554 as "Rio de la Medaos do Oura" ("River of the Dows of Gold") by the survivors of the Portuguese ship Saint Benedict. At this stage, only the Tugela River mouth was known as St. Lucia. Later, in 1575, the Tugela River was named Tugela. On 13 December 1575, the day of the feast of Saint Lucy, Manuel Peresterello renamed the mouth area to Santa Lucia.
In 1822, St. Lucia was proclaimed by the British as a township.
In 1895, St. Lucia Game Reserve, 30 km north of the town was proclaimed.
In 1971, St. Lucia Lake and the turtle beaches and coral reefs of Maputaland have been listed by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention).
The park was proclaimed a world heritage site because of the rich biodiversity, unique ecosystems and natural beauty occurring in a relatively small area. The reason for the huge diversity in fauna and flora is the great variety of different ecosystems on the park, ranging from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannas, and wetlands. Animals occurring on the park include elephants, leopard, black and white rhino, buffalo, and in the ocean, whales, dolphins, and marine turtles including the leatherback and loggerhead turtle.
There are large outcroppings of underwater reefs which are home to brightly coloured fish and corals. Some of the most spectacular coral diversity in the world is located in Sodwana Bay. The reefs are inhabited by colour-changing octopuses and squid ready to ambush unsuspecting prey. Occasionally gigantic whale sharks can be seen gliding through the water; mouth agape to scoop up tiny plankton.
Twenty-four species of bivalve molluscs are recorded in St. Lucia Lake, which constitutes a considerable portion of the park.