by FUTHI MBHELE
DURBAN – THE Zulu word “isimangaliso” translates to a miracle or wonder in English.
It thus is a befitting name for the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, the unique site that is South Africa’s second largest protected area after the Kruger National Park.
Bheki Manzini, the park’s Communication Manager, urged tourists to visit and experience the diverse experiences in the “ ten jewels” that make up the park.
Manzini mentioned the attraction offered, among other jewels, enjoyment in the endless beaches that stretch 220 kilometres from Maphelane in the south to Kosi Bay on the Mozambique border.
There is also a view game on self-guided or guided trails and routes on the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains in uMkhuze or in the coastal forests and rolling grasslands of Lake St Lucia’s Eastern Shores.
Manzini also lauded the spectacular coral reefs and colourful underwater life that can be explored while diving or snorkelling or embarking on adventures ranging from kayak trips to horse rides.
Tourist, Sakhile Mthembu (22), from Manguzi in the local KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province spoke glowingly of the wetland park as he disclosed plans to visit again.
He and his friends toured the iSimangaliso towards the end of July.
“It was very exciting to be exposed to something I have never seen,” he said in an interview with CAJ News Africa.
“It was nice to be there. I will visit again soon,” Mthembu said.
ISimangaliso was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999.
This was in recognition of its superlative natural beauty and unique global values.
The park is now South Africa’s second largest protected area after the Kruger National Park.
ISimangaliso comprises three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, 700-year-old fishing traditions, most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuarine system, 530 bird species and 25 000 year-old coastal dunes – among the highest in the world.
Former president, Nelson Mandela, was instrumental in the listing of iSimangaliso as a World Heritage site.
Commenting about the beauty of iSimangaliso back in the day, Mandela enthused that it was arguably the only place in the globe where the oldest land mammal, the rhinocerous, and the world’s biggest terrestrial mammal, the whale, co-existed.
A vast protected area along the coast of KZN, the park’s centrepiece is the Lake St Lucia.
The lake is home to large numbers of hippos, crocodiles, pelicans and flamingos.
Elephants, giraffes and leopards inhabit the grasslands and forests of the nearby Western Shores and Charters Creek areas.
– CAJ News