iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Coordinates: 27°39′S 32°34′E / 27.650°S 32.567°E / -27.650; 32.567
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iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Greater St. Lucia Wetlands
Map showing the location of iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Map showing the location of iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Location in South Africa
LocationKwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Nearest cityDurban, South Africa
Coordinates27°39′S 32°34′E / 27.650°S 32.567°E / -27.650; 32.567
Area3,280 km2 (1,270 sq mi)
Governing bodyiSimangaliso Authority
CriteriaNatural: (vii), (ix), (x)
Inscription1999 (23rd Session)
Area239,566 ha (924.97 sq mi)
Official nameSt. Lucia System
Designated2 October 1986
Reference no.345[1]
The iSimangaliso Marine Protected Area, off the coast of the park

iSimangaliso Wetland Park (previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park) is situated on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, about 235 km (146 mi) north of Durban by road. It is South Africa's third-largest protected area, spanning 280 km (170 mi) 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 (810,000 acres) of natural ecosystems, managed by the iSimangaliso Authority. The park includes:

The park was previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, but was renamed effective 1 November 2007. The word isimangaliso means "a miracle" or "something wondrous" in Zulu. The name came as a result of Shaka's subject having been sent to the land of the Tsonga. When he came back he described the beauty that he saw as a miracle.

Transfrontier parks[edit]

The park is part of a transfrontier marine park, the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay Transfrontier Conservation Area, straddling South Africa, Mozambique, and Eswatini.[2] The marine conservation area is included in the Greater Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area.[3][4][5][6]

Satellite image of the park, with the borders of several conservation areas outlined in yellow.
Looking south along the beach from near the camping area at Cape Vidal.


Until 1895, the bay had been a home of the Tsonga people and their Tsonga fish kraal. This is the original and the natural home of the Tsonga people and they have lived here for more than 1000 years.[7] Records from early Portuguese sailors rightfully point out this area to be occupied by the Tsonga people and further down south. The area was also known as Tembeland or Thongaland but the name fell into disuse around the early 1900s. The area was ruled by a Tsonga branch of the Vahlanganu (Tembe). The Swiss missionary, Reverend Henri-Alexandre Junod (known as HA Junod), conducted a scientific and ethnographic study of the Tsonga people during the early 1890s and produced a detailed map, showing the occupation of the bay by the Tsonga Tembe people.[8] Junod showed in his map that the area was known as Tembeland and that the Tembe capital city was located in the St Lucia bay, and that by 1906, the Tsonga people occupied the land from St Lucia to Valdezia in the Spelenkon district of the Transvaal province, known today as Limpopo Province. St Lucia bay and Maputo Bay are one land and they belong to the Tsonga people, Tsonga villages were built from St Lucia bay until Maputo and they were not separated by any natural division. Around St Lucia, the ruling chief was the Tembe Royal Family, while around Maputo, the ruling class was the Maputo royal family, who are all of the Vahlanganu branch of the Tsonga people. In and around Maputo and St Lucia bay (Tembeland), the language spoken is Ronga, which according to the Swiss Missionary, Rev HA Junod, is not an independent language but a dialect of Xitsonga. According to Rev Junod, Ronga language is so similar to Xitsonga that it cannot be regarded an independent language but is a dialect of a major language known today as Xitsonga.[citation needed]

St. Lucia was first named in 1554 Rio dos Medos do Ouro (alternatively Rio dos Médãos do OuroRiver of the Gold Dunes)[9][10] 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 (19 mi) north of the town was proclaimed.[citation needed]
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).
In December 1999, the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site at an unveiling ceremony, where Nelson Mandela was the guest of honour.


Hippopotamus at Isimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal

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 elephant, leopard, black and southern white rhino, Cape buffalo, and in the ocean, whales, dolphins, and marine turtles including the leatherback and loggerhead Turtles.

The park is also home to 1,200 crocodiles and 800 hippopotami.

In December 2013, after 44 years of absence, African lions were reintroduced to iSimangaliso.[11]

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.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "St. Lucia System". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  2. ^ Cole, Barbara (21 October 2009). "Transfrontier marine park a first". Independent on line. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  3. ^ "Lubombo". Peace Parks Foundation. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  4. ^ South African Department of Environmental Affairs. "Agreement on Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Areas". Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  5. ^ "Conservation Grant Flows to Africa's 'Miracle,' iSimangaliso Wetland Park". 5 April 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  6. ^ "Transfrontier Conservation Areas - Swaziland National Trust Commission". Archived from the original on 11 August 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  7. ^ Mathebula, Mandla (2002), 800 Years of Tsonga History: 1200-2000, Burgersfort: Sasavona Publishers and Booksellers Pty Ltd.
  8. ^ Junod, H.A. (1927). The Life of a South African Tribe, vol. I: Social Life. London: Macmillan.
  9. ^ Gomes de Brito, Bernanrdo (1735). HISTORIA TRAGICO-MARITIMA Em que se escrevem chronologicamente os Naufragios que tiveraõ as Naos de Portugal, depois que se poz em exercicio a Navegação da India, Volume 1 (PDF) (in Portuguese). Lisbon: Officina da Congregação do Oratorio. p. 109. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 November 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  10. ^ Xavier Botelho, Sebastião (1835). Memoria estatistica sobre os dominios portuguezes na Africa Oriental, Volume 1 (in Portuguese). Lisbon: Typ. de José Baptista Morando. p. 77. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  11. ^ "Lions return to iSimangaliso in memory of Mandela". africageographic. Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  12. ^ Nel, H. A., Perissinotto, R. & Taylor, R. H. 2012. Diversity of bivalve molluscs in the St. Lucia Estuary, with an annotated and illustrated checklist. African Invertebrates 53 (2): 503-525."Bivalvia from St Lucia Estuary". Archived from the original on 24 December 2012. Retrieved 14 November 2012.


External links[edit]