Lake Saint Lucia is the core of a vast ecosystem, rightfully included in South Africa’s first designated World Heritage Site, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The Crocodile Centre, managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife at the Bhangazi Gate into the Park, and the self-guided trails in the adjacent game park, offers an excellent introduction to this Park of “miracles and wonders” (the English meaning of the isiZulu word iSimangaliso). It also has the best stocked curio shop in town and a lovely tea garden.
Of course the crocodiles, an integral part of the lake’s ecological functioning, are the star attractions. On display are not only specimens of our indigenous Nile Crocodiles ranging in size from newly hatched babies to “monsters” over 4m in length, but the centre also houses Dwarf and Slender-Snouted Crocodiles from tropical Africa and a couple of American Alligators. You can also try your hand at spotting another of iSimangaliso’s very secretive inhabitants, the extremely venomous and expertly camouflaged Gaboon Adder.
The centre’s beautiful gardens are a magnet for other wildlife, and we always get a kick from the humorous signs (to us, anyway).
Saint Lucia is a unique town, located on a wedge of land at the mouth of Lake St. Lucia, between the lake and the Indian Ocean, and entirely surrounded by the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. All kinds of wildlife roam the town, including hippopotamus and leopard. Right in town, a magnificent piece of coastal forest can be explored along the Gwalagwala Trail. A number of private operators offer guided tours of the area, and several launch-tours operate on the estuary. Two camping areas and a host of privately run establishments offers overnight accommodation, and the town has most of the facilities you’d expect (shops, restaurants, doctor, fuel station, boat club, picnic sites), making St. Lucia an excellent base for a bush-and-beach holiday.