St Lucia Guide KZN South Africa
St Lucia KZN South Africa
St Lucia KZN South Africa is a colorful and quaint coastal town situated on an estuary bank closely bordered by the Eastern Shore of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The town is basically a block of 6 x 6 grass verged streets canopied with large trees. The main street and commercial hub alive with activity is Mckenzie street. The remaining streets are mostly residential in nature and are aptly named after local marine life or birds. Many of the dwellings in the town lend themselves towards accommodation. Lodges and bed and breakfasts, self-catering units and backpacker options are on offer for the abundance of visitors to St Lucia.
St Lucia KZN South Africa lies at the southernmost entrance to the 332 000 hectare iSimangaliso Wetland Park that was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1999. Tricky and difficult to pronounce, the word in the expressive language of isiZulu, means miracle and wonder.
Many activities are available and specialist tour operators cater for the large number of tourists, local and international, that visit the town. The town is an ideal central location to explore the many attractions in St. Lucia itself and the surrounding areas. St. Lucia is a laidback and peaceful town inundated with bright colors and descriptive signage.
The only entrance into the town is the R618 leading visitors over a concrete bridge. Drive slowly and observe the estuary below and you may well see a pod of hippo known affectionately by the locals as the “townies”.
For more details on this colorful town read here
Accommodation in St Lucia KZN South Africa
St Lucia KZN South Africa is a tourist friendly town offering a variety of accommodation options that caters for different budgets. The one and only hotel in St. Lucia is situated on Mullet Street and is a family friendly establishment.
- Lodges and guest houses
- Caravan and camping
- Self-catering modern units
- Backpacker lodges and tented camps
- Bed and Breakfasts
Accommodation varies from Afro contemporary to modern architecture in this unique South African town. In the summer months it is advisable to book accommodation that offers air-conditioning. Believe you me, the heat is quite intense in summer.
Beaches St Lucia KZN South Africa
In close proximity to the town of St Lucia KZN South Africa are soft and gold sanded beaches. If one opts for travelling by car, then look out for Beach Road at the northern end of the town. There are a number of spacious parking areas close to Main, Jabula and Estuary Beaches. Ingwe beach is a bit of a walk and great for a leg workout. Ingwe means “leopard” in isiZulu and occasionally leopard tracks can be seen on the beach sand.
If you proceed south on McKenzie Street and head towards the popular ski boat club and walk the estuary boardwalk, a raised wooden walkway, you will successfully arrive at Estuary Beach. The route is scenic and quite long on the feet. Well worth the walk though.
It is highly recommended to spend the day on the beach at Cape Vidal, a 35 km car trip in the north of the Eastern Shores of iSimagaliso Wetland Park. Awaiting you is an untamed breathtaking beach and sheltered bay. Snorkeling at low tide is quite spectacular and the water is a crystal clear beautiful blue.
The Indian Ocean temperature at St Lucia ranges between 20°C in mid-winter (June–July) to approximately 29°C in mid-summer (December–February).
Birdwatching St Lucia KZN South Africa
St Lucia KZN South Africa and the surrounding areas, including Lake St Lucia, have well over 400 recorded bird species. The area is vitally important as a breeding area for water birds in South Africa and supports large numbers of flamingos, pelicans and storks.
Lakes and marshy grasslands, mangroves, reed swamps and coastal dunes make for exceptional bird viewing and in the summer month’s listings of over 100 bird species is possible. The habitat is so diverse and unspoiled which makes it paradise for bird lovers.
An estuary cruise is most certainly one of the best ways to view water birds in St Lucia KZN South Africa (HYPERLINK) Regular sightings of the Saddle-billed Stork are fairly common on the estuary and the Giant Kingfisher is often spotted in the mangroves. Be on the lookout for the Mangrove Kingfisher.
A variety of birds can be seen on these hikes. On the Iphiva trail, perching in the bigger forest trees and thickets, the Southern Banded Snake-Eagle is regularly seen. It is often claimed that this is probably one of the best areas to see this raptor. Various forested feathered friends can be seen in the dune forest on the short Gwalagwala Hiking Trail.
Boat Cruises on St Lucia Estuary KZN South Africa
Idyllic boat cruises on the St. Lucia estuary are an extremely popular activity and a massive draw-card for visitors. The estuary is populated by over 800 hippopotami and 1000 Nile crocodiles.
As a result, most tour operators offer a money back guarantee if you don’t see the magnificent river horse. It just isn’t going to happen as you will see hippo. Elephants have of late caused quite a thrill (end 2016 – beginning 2017) with their sudden appearance in the estuary waters.
The docking and undocking of these barges or boats takes place from two jetties in the town of St Lucia KZN South Africa, namely:
- Sunset jetty
- Siyabonga craft market jetty (by the concrete bridge at the town’s entrance)
The water safaris or excursions utilise a selection of boats, ranging from 15 passengers in smaller single deck craft to 80 passengers on a double-decked craft. Photographic opportunities abound on these 2 hour voyages. From wildlife shots to stunning landscapes and sunsets. Anything is possible if you are armed with a decent cellphone or long lensed DSLR.
Experience the natural wonders and miracles of the World Heritage Site, iSimangaliso.
Read more about these boat cruises here from our personal experiences. For more information read here
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Caravan Parks in St Lucia KZN South Africa
The most popular and well positioned camp site is Sugar Loaf on the outskirts of town close to the beach. There are 92 sites with plugs. The maximum number of people per site is 5. A smaller ideally placed camp is Eden Park with 20 plugged sites.
Both sites are managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
Crocodile Center in St Lucia KZN South Africa
Lake St Lucia is the largest breeding area in South Africa of the Nile Crocodile. The Crocodile Center, situated 3 kilometers north of the town of St Lucia KZN South Africa, offers a deeper insight and knowledge into this rather mysterious and dinosaurian reptile. Furthermore, the center has an international breeding program for the Nile Crocodile, Long-snouted and Dwarf Crocodile and the American Alligator.
Cultural Village in ST Lucia KZN South Africa
Veyane Cultural Village, a contemporary traditional Zulu village, is a short drive from the town of St. Lucia. Experience exuberant drumming and dancing or visit a traditional healer. Rich in symbolism the age-old Zulu culture will fascinate visitors. Experience Zulu hospitality and partake in the drinking of Zulu beer and feast, if you can, on a traditionally cooked meal for lunch.
Choose between a traditional beehive hut or opt for a more “westernized” self-catering unit.
Visits to a local school and church can be arranged.
Game Drives close to St Lucia KZN South Africa
St Lucia KZN South Africa is the central hub for safari game drives in Zululand as the town is close to the Eastern and Western shores of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The park has an abundance of animals and bird life.
A bit further afield is the world renowned Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve which is home to the Big 5. Local tour operators in St Lucia KZN South Africa provide a multitude of road based safari options.
For more details on game drives on the Western shore read here
Fishing in St Lucia KZN South Africa
St Lucia KZN South Africa is synonymous with fishing and has been termed a fishermen’s paradise. In the past, the economy of the town was primarily based on thousands of South African who descended on the town for fishing purposes.
Beach shore-line fishing is very popular. Southwards of the main town beach is a short stretch of shoreline to Mapelane . Presently (early 2017) it is difficult to say that the beach is un-spoilt as dredging is taking place at the mouth of the iMfolozi River. To the north there are kilometers of continuous pristine un-spoilt sand beaches that await the fishermen. There is so much space that hundreds of fishermen could find an isolated spot on the coastline around St Lucia KZN South Africa.
Types of shoreline fishing:
- traditional surf fishing
- salt water fly fishing
- kite fishing.
Shad is the most commonly caught fish and official shad fishing season commences in December and closes in September. It is enormously important to protect the breeding stock. Shoals of mullet arrive from May to July. August to November, the Spotted Grunter make their annual appearance in the waters of St Lucia KZN South Africa. Skate, rays, kingfish and King Mackerel are also caught.
Sailfish and Marlin, a variety of mackerel, Dorado, Bonito and Yellow-fin Tuna are often landed. Bottom fish often caught are Red fish, Muscle Cracker, Geelbek belonging to the kob family, Yellow-belly Rock Cod and Red Roman. A number of local tour operators provide deep sea fishing options and currently ski-boats are beach launched at an approved site
In St Lucia KZN South Africa there are a number of fishing tackle shops that are able to assist visitors and offer sound advice on fishing.
Hiking Trails in St Lucia KZN South Africa
St Lucia KZN South Africa is one of the few spots in South Africa where visitors can walk through the town, day or night, with the only real concern being a wandering hippopotamus. It is not advisable to walk in secluded areas at night as hippo are often sighted and can be extremely dangerous. Do not approach or frighten the animal as it might feel threatened and will most surely do harm.
International visitors wanting a taste of South African suburban life can stroll through the tree-lined and manicured green-grassed verges of the town. Do not be surprised to see troops of the mischievous vervet monkey or a curiosity of banded mongooses. (On the point of collective nouns there is some debate whether it is also a business of mongooses. We, however, prefer the other alternative, which is a curiosity of mongooses. And yes, the plural of mongoose is not mongeese or mongi, but mongooses).
On the outskirts of town are actual marked hiking trails:
- Igwalagwala Trail
To the south of St Lucia KZN South Africa this short circular trail starts near the Eden Park Caravan Camp. The trial encompasses a 1.5 KM walk through coastal forest adjacent to the St Lucia Estuary. “Igwala” is the isiZulu name for the Purple-crested Turaco bird. This trail is a popular birding spot with regular sightings of the Vervet monkey, small red duiker, tree squirrels, warthog and Banded Mongooses. The trail connects with a short path leading to the estuary bank where hippopotamus, crocodile and water lizards can be seen. Keep a watchful eye for the many birds that inhabit this area like the fish eagle, kingfisher, hornbill, terns and herons.
- Iphiva Trail
About a 5 to 10-minute drive north of St Lucia near the Iphiva Caravan Camp and Crocodile Centre is the start of the 3 hour long Iphiva trail. Hikers will experience a diversity of vegetation from open grassland, coastal thickets, flooded pans and coastal dune forests. This trail follows the edge of a beautiful pan. Forest birds are in abundance and mammals such as small antelope, wildebeest and zebras can be seen. From Iphiva there is another short 1.5 km trail called the iHatli trail.
When close to water or the water’s edge it is advisable to be on the lookout for hippo and crocodiles. Hippos are extremely dangerous out of water.
There are a number of longer hikes within close proximity to St Lucia which take place over a number of days.
Horse Riding in St Lucia KZN South Africa
Walk, trot, canter and gallop on horses along stretches of beautiful sand dunes bordered by pristine beaches. Tour operators also offer bush rides on horseback.
Kayaking on the estuary at St Lucia KZN South Africa
In the past guided kayaking tours on the estuary were on offer. At the time of writing (February 2017) we understand that no concessions for this activity have been granted by the authorities, iSimangaliso Wetland Park. If there is any change to the availability of this activity the post will be updated.
Restaurants in St Lucia KZN South Africa
You will not be disappointed with the selection of restaurants that are available in St Lucia KZN South Africa as there is variety of good quality eating out options and fresh produce. Most are positioned on the main commercial road, McKenzie Street. Breakfasts vary from coffee shops to health bars and standard well-known and popular franchises.
Restaurants specializing in seafood, burgers and pizzas and Mediterranean cuisines are on offer. Standards are high as would be expected from a town inundated with strong competition. Most of the restaurants rate highly on Trip Advisor.
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Turtle Hatching in St Lucia KZN South Africa
The coastal beaches around St Lucia KZN South Africa are the only nesting place in Africa for Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles. This makes iSimangaliso Wetland Park the countries focal point for turtle watching.
Female turtles aged 6 to 10 years old mate every 2 to 3 years. They lay 80 -100 eggs above the high tide mark up to 9 times during one season which have an incubation period of about 65 days. Did you know recent studies show turtles return to the exact beach where they were nested? As often the case when nature is involved, scientist remain baffled as to how the turtles are able to do this extraordinary navigational voyage with exact precision.
During the night, from January to March, young turtle hatchlings head to the sea from their one-meter-deep nests. Some research indicates about 5 out of 1000 hatchlings reach maturity.
A number of local tour operators provide guided tours for both activities.
Whale Watching in St Lucia KZN South Africa
St Lucia KZN South Africa is a mecca for whale watching and the official season runs from June to November. Annually these gentle giants of the ocean migrate from the summer feeding grounds close to Antarctica to equatorial waters where it is warmer for winter breeding. The playful antics of the massive humpbacks, and adult mothers swimming with young calves at their side, are often seen. There are only beach launches and landings at St Lucia KZN South Africa. If unable or unwilling to stomach a beach launch, then opt for a visit to Richards Bay. A half hour drive south, Richards Bay has a large harbor where berthing and unberthing of the craft takes place alongside a safe quay.