After uMkhuze, Lake Saint Lucia was the next destination on the itinerary of our December bush holidays. We had only two days available to explore the area, and wanted to pack in as much as we could in that time.
Unfortunately rainy weather brought an early end to our plans of exploring the collection of walking trails around Saint Lucia town. The town is entirely surrounded by the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and it is not unusual to find hippos, antelope, warthog and even leopard roaming the streets from time to time. We had to be content driving on the outskirts of town to the beach and estuary, enjoying a meal at one of the restaurants and buying fresh fruit from the street vendors.
The 23rd of December we set aside to explore the newly opened Western Shores section of the Park, an area we have not visited before. It is accessible from either the Nhlozi Gate in the north, near the town of Hluhluwe and which provided access to the now closed camps at Fani’s Island and Charters Creek, or from the Dukuduku Gate in the south, close to St. Lucia town.
We had hoped to spend the midday hours at Charters Creek, enjoying a picnic lunch and perhaps doing some birdwatching on the lake shore and in the surrounding woodland. Unfortunately the accommodation at Charters Creek had to be closed some years ago due to a terrible drought in the area, and we found the few remaining facilities at the disposal of day visitors in a sad state of disrepair. Not very inviting for picnics, although the wildlife and natural scenery did not disappoint. We certainly hope the Park authorities will consider reopening the camp and revamping the day visitor facilities so that Charters Creek can again become a worthwile destination and base from which to explore the Western Shores section of the Park.
Despite the let down of Charter’s Creek, we found the rest of the newly built facilities on the Western Shores to be in excellent condition, well planned and entirely worth the trip.
The road network provides access to a wide variety of scenery and habitats, as well as the wildlife that lives there; the most commonly encountered animals being reedbuck, waterbuck, kudu, giraffe, blue wildebeest and plains zebra, and we also had good sightings of rare birds like the southern banded snake eagle and osprey.
The uBhejane picnic spot has some shady trees, very welcome in the heat of summer. Just south of the picnic site, the road skirts the Kwelamadoda Pan, which was absolutely alive with a variety of waterbirds and wildlife along the shores.
Although there was little wildlife activity at the pans overlooked by the kuMgadankawu hide at the time we visited, it seems to be a place well worth stopping at during the dry season when water is less widely available elsewhere.
From the uMthoma Aerial Boardwalk there’s a great view over the marshes along the lake shore, not to mention the opportunity to explore the forest habitat through which the pathway and boardwalk winds.
We had a lovely day on the Western Shores of Lake Saint Lucia. The area has much to offer, and we’ll certainly be back for more.
While exploring the area around Lake Saint Lucia during our December 2014 bush holidays, we based ourselves for three comfortable nights at Chane Cheese Farm, a working dairy entirely surrounded by exotic bluegum plantations just a few kilometres outside the town of Mtubatuba. From there, Saint Lucia town and the Dukuduku Gate into the Western Shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is an easy 20km drive away.