Top 10 Reasons to Visit St Lucia, South Africa
The small town of St Lucia in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa is a beautiful and serene holiday destination with great weather and a variety of activities to undertake.
Here are 10 reasons to add St Lucia to your itinerary if you plan to travel to South Africa and a list of recommendations for the best things to do here.
1. World Heritage Site
St. Lucia is a flourishing underrated paradise located on the East Coast of South Africa. This small-town is part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park which is a UNESCO world heritage site. “iSimangaliso” is a Zulu word that translates to “place of great wonders and miracles”.
This remarkable place has much to offer to the local as well as international tourist and is rich in natural beauty. It is a short distance from the Indian Ocean, a heaven of warm water, making it a popular tourist destination. You can walk for kilometers on the pristine white beach that stretches all along the coast. Soaking up the sun or collecting seashells while listening to the roar of the ocean.
Visitors to St Lucia are spoiled for choice and can pick and choose from a wide range of activities including: snorkeling, enjoying the floral wealth and wildlife on a day drive through the park, camping, guided night drives into the park, turtle tours, trail running, deep sea charters, hiking the Igwalagwala forest trail, swimming, relaxing on the beach, hiking up Mapelane dune, taking a trip to the Crocodile Centre, bird watching, boat rides on Lake St Lucia, and much more.
There are numerous stunning guesthouses, lodges and cabins to choose from for your stay. From St Lucia you can take short trips to neighboring towns.
2. Lake St Lucia
Lake St Lucia is known as the largest estuarine system in the world and stretches for 85 kilometers. The lake is home to the biggest concentration of hippos and crocodiles as well as a variety of bird species. There are several services providers like Shakabarker Tours, who provide 2-hour long boat rides on the lake.
These “croc and hippo boat rides” as they are called are incredibly informative and educational and the guide will patiently answer all questions about the area and wildlife. The boats are spacious and offer enough room to move around while enjoying the sight of a pod of hippos lazing around in the lake with only their ears and eyes poking out.
The serving of fresh fruit and hot drinks on board is a nice addition and adds a special touch to the experience of the tourist. These boat rides on Lake St Lucia offer excellent photographic opportunities.
St Lucia is home to the highest vegetated sand dune in South Africa. Known as Maphelane, this impressive dune has been sculpted over thousands of years and is stabilized by the vegetation growing on it. Around Maphelane you can find camping sites, wooden log cabins as well as a walkway up the dune from where hikers have a breathtaking view of the Indian Ocean and mouth of the uMfolozi River. Stunning scenery greets you when reaching the viewpoint on top making the hike uphill worthwhile. Definitely an activity for the avid hiker.
4. Beach Life
Enjoy a day on the beach but be aware of the currents if you want to bathe in the ocean. The walk to the beach close to St Lucia is an adventure in itself, you are in a nature reserve after all! Enjoy the walk on the boardwalk that runs through the forest.
You will be enveloped by beautiful scenery and your sightings might include magnificent butterflies, deer, iguanas and plenty of bird species such as the hornbill which is also one of the street names of St Lucia. At the end of the boardwalk you will be welcomed first by the white sandy beach and then the expansive Indian Ocean.
The beach is especially popular on New Year’s Day when tourists and locals alike flock there to ring in the new year.
5. Zulu Craft Market
In town you will find the Zulu Craft Market selling crafts and fresh fruit produced in the area. The tropical climate is ideal for the production of fruit such as bananas, lychees, mangoes and pineapples. Zulu craftwork is on display.
Here you can find anything from handcrafted wooden animals, fruit bowls, salad spoons with beautiful African designs to beadwork such as traditional necklaces and bracelets. The ideal African gifts to take home as memorabilia to remember your trip to St Lucia by. Woven baskets and carpets are also a good buy. The market puts food on the table for the crafters and traders thus a good idea to support it.
St Lucia has a sub-tropical climate with warm summers and very mild winters making it the ideal holiday destination for the tourist wanting to escape the colder weather. The warm ocean currents cause the winters to be much milder than elsewhere in South Africa.
The rainfall in the area creates a lush paradise filled with various shades of green ranging from bright greens to darker hues and everything in between. In summer temperatures range between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius.
During the course of the year, depending on the season, you can experience different tourist activities like whale watching from June to November, Turtle Tours from November to January, boat cruises, deep sea fishing and whole lot more.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is rich in natural wildlife. On the Western and Eastern shores of the park you can book a safari and you might come across any of the following wildlife: rhinos, buffalo, zebra wildebeest, giraffes, leopards, various species of antelope and birds, monkeys, and if you are lucky maybe an elephant or two.
Four of the big five animals can be found in the park. It is essential to keep your camera ready for you never know when you will spot something interesting. There is a good chance that you might spot zebras and buffalos grazing not so far from the road you are traveling on. On a good day you can expect to see a tower of giraffes browsing in the bush.
Go slowly to see these magnificent herbivores up-close. Rhinos can be spotted at eMgadankawu Hide unfortunately without their horns. These had to be removed as safety precaution because of the poaching onslaught on these plant-eating mammals.
8. Cape Vidal
Take a day trip to the aesthetically pleasing Cape Vidal. To get there it is necessary to drive through the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. You will be charged a small entrance fee at the gate. Cape Vidal is a renowned snorkeling and fishing destination.
Fishermen wetting their fishing rods is a frequent sight on the Cape Vidal beach with its bluish turquoise water. It is a sheltered bay where you can enjoy a day of fun in the sun and swimming in the warm water of the Indian Ocean. Cape Vidal is the perfect place to cool down and relax after a drive through the bush and animal spotting. This beach also offers kilometers of white pristine sand.
9. Mission Rocks
Mission rocks is a spectacular site to visit and is located in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. On the main road towards Cape Vidal keep your eyes open for the Mission Rocks signboard.
To get to the beach you walk through a lush green alley making for great photographic material. You will be greeted by tons of black rocks and a bluish ocean. It is a great place for having a picnic so be sure to pack yours. The rock pools promise fun all day for young and old. These pools can be enjoyed for hours on end during low tide.
Photographers can keep themselves busy looking for the best spots to photograph while enjoying the ocean and birdlife. Relax on the rocks or meditate with the sound of the ocean as your guide. Be careful and practice caution when walking on the rocks, they might be sharp and slippery.
10. Crocodile Centre
The Crocodile Centre is situated right by the entrance to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. At the centre you can get a closer look at these ancient majestic reptiles. Many of the crocodiles were rescued and are now being rehabilitated at the centre to be released back into their natural habitats.
Baby crocodiles are hatched here and later relocated to crocodile farms. The best time to visit the centre is during feeding demonstrations. In addition to the crocodiles you can expect to see American alligators, snakes, tortoises and might even get to hold a baby croc on one of the guided educational tours.
The Crocodile Centre also boasts a cycad garden and walkway, a curio shop, and a coffee shop overlooking the crocodiles.
By Ronesca Cloete