Tag Archives: St. Lucia town

Summertide Diary: Exploring iSimangaliso (part three)

19 January 2021

The Grassland Loop is the first turnoff from the main tarred road you reach after leaving Cape Vidal. And because we just love taking the backroads while exploring South Africa’s wild places that is invariably the route we opt for – it criss-crosses a variety of habitats (from forest to grassland to swamp) and skirts the shores of Lake Bhangazi, which always has something interesting to see.

This morning we were particularly lucky with what we found on the Grassland Loop – a pack of four Spotted Hyenas who showed just a mild interest in a few Plains Zebras and Blue Wildebeest grazing nearby.

The Grassland Loop completed and now heading to our breakfast spot, an extended family of Crested Guineafowl crossed our path – not something we get to see often and very excited at the pictures we got of them.

Passing through a forested patch we were entertained by a troop of Vervet Monkeys and, while watching them, a few other denizens of the forest also came into view.

We needed to stock up on our fresh food and drinking water supply today, so headed south to Bhangazi Gate and the holiday town of Saint Lucia.

Right at the Bhangazi Gate the Crocodile Centre is always a worthwhile place to stop and learn more about the Nile Crocodile – a key component of the ecosystem of Lake St. Lucia. The centre houses some really impressive specimens, many of them rescued from poachers’ traps or after becoming problematic in nearby communities, and their progeny are then released back into the wild. Furthermore there are two other species of crocodiles from equatorial Africa and American alligators on show, and a myriad of other animals and birds have also made themselves at home at the centre.

After a relaxed hour or so at the Crocodile Centre we tackled the 4km round trip hike from the parking area at Sugarloaf to the mouth of Lake St. Lucia. While the distance isn’t daunting at all the heat and humidity and trudging through the hot, deep sand proved more of a challenge than we anticipated, and the sight of a huge Nile Crocodile basking on a sandbank was all the convincing we needed not to dare cool our feet in the water. In the end the beautiful scenes we enjoyed more than made up for the heat-stroke risk though.

Our shopping completed we headed back to Cape Vidal. In the midday heat there wasn’t much to be seen along the way. Only mad dogs and Englishmen… and the de Wets… venture out in the midday sun. An outing to the beach was on the cards for the afternoon. Yellow-billed Kites flying overhead regularly swooped down to catch an unwary crab, but they knew better than to trifle with the bluebottles drifting in the waves.

Walking back to our cabin there was an enormous commotion in the tree-tops owing to screeching Vervet Monkeys and alarm-calling Hadedas. Looking up, we’re just in time to see a Crowned Eagle flying off with a large prize in its talons and an empty hadeda nest… We then noticed another Crowned Eagle surveying the area from high in a Cassuarina-tree and watched it until it flew off in the direction of the cabins. More about them tomorrow…

 

Map of the eastern shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (from https://isimangaliso.com/)

iSimangaliso’s Eastern Shores – A Photographic Journey (Part 4)

Time to wrap up the photographic trip report of our recent visit to the Eastern Shores of Lakes St. Lucia, with a gallery of some of the larger animals we encountered on land and sea in the place of miracles and wonders – the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Follow the links for more of our posts about St. Lucia town, Cape Vidal and Mission Rocks.

 

iSimangaliso’s Eastern Shores – A Photographic Journey (Part 3)

On the Eastern Shores of Lake St. Lucia, the amazing diversity of life forms comes in all sizes. The star of this collection of photos showcasing some of the smaller creatures that crossed our path on our recent visit must be the tiny frog that somehow got into my mug while we were enjoying coffee and rusks one morning at Mziki viewpoint near Mission Rocks. Exactly when it got into my coffee is unclear – I had put my mug down a few times to take pictures – and I have no idea how much of my coffee I had shared with the little guy. Joubert only noticed it sitting in the cup when I took my last swig as we started packing up to leave. Lucky for it, I drink a lot of milk in my coffee so it wouldn’t have been scalded.

Follow the links for more of our posts about St. Lucia town, Cape Vidal and Mission Rocks.

iSimangaliso’s Eastern Shores – A Photographic Journey (Part 2)

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a bird-watcher’s paradise – 526 bird species have been recorded within its borders!

During the few days we recently spent on the Eastern Shores of Lake St. Lucia, we managed to tick 109 kinds of birds, and had we been better at identifying the “Little Brown Jobs” our list would undoubtedly have been quite a bit longer still.

This incredible diversity is surely due to the Park’s rich variety of habitats, and our “success” in connecting with so many kinds of birds can only be ascribed to the terrific collection of roads, hides, picnic sites and other localities so easily accessible to visitors.

We hope you enjoy this sample of iSimangaliso’s birdlife!

Follow the links for more of our posts about St. Lucia town, Cape Vidal and Mission Rocks.

Back from the Bush

We’ve just arrived back home after a wonderful ten days in the bush, visiting the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in South Africa’s Kwazulu-Natal Province.

While we get busy responding to the comments you left on the scheduled posts that published in our absence, here’s a small gallery of what you can expect when we report back on our trip in the coming days…

St. Lucia’s Crocodile Centre

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.

Crocodile Centre (23)

 

Cruising Lake St. Lucia

Participating in a guided launch tour of Lake St. Lucia is one of the most memorable experiences to be had in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Several operators offer tours lasting about two hours and departing at different times of the day. In this time the cruisers move about 8km up into the lake from the jetties in St. Lucia town, bringing visitors close to a variety of aquatic life and giving an interesting glimpse into the ecology of the lake system.

During our recent visit to iSimangaliso, we enjoyed a tour on the 80-seater Santa Lucia, a joint operation between Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Thompsons Tours. A cashbar on board sells drinks and snacks while a guide gives detailed explanations of the surroundings and wildlife encountered along the way. We passed several pods of hippos (witnessing one naughty youngster chewing on another tourboat), a few crocodiles, numerous birds, wildlife on the shore, got a chance to view the mangrove marshes and even saw a shark’s dorsal fin briefly break the water’s surface.

This gallery should give you some idea of what you can look forward to on a guided launch tour of Lake Saint Lucia!