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iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa
Earth's Natural Wonders in Africa
Coordinates-28° 0' 0" S, 32° 30' 0" E
Depth of Lake St. Lucia- seldom more than 6 ft. (2m)
Area of wetland-115 sq. miles (300 sq. km)
The park was previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, but was renamed effective from 1 November 2007. The word 'isimangaliso' is Zulu for 'a marvel'.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
iSimangaliso Wetland Park [1]


iSimangaliso Wetland Park is situated on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa about 275 kilometres north of Durban (28°0'S 32°30'E / 28°S 32.5°E / -28; 32.5). It is South Africa's third-largest protected area, spanning 280 km of coastline, from the Mozambican border in the north to Mapelane south of the St Lucia estuary, and made up of around 3,280 km² of pristine natural ecosystems, managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The park includes the St Lucia Game Reserve, False Bay Park, St Lucia Marine Reserve, Sodwana Bay National Park, Maputaland Marine Reserve, Cape Vidal, Ozabeni, Mfabeni, Tewate Wilderness Area and Mkuze Game Reserve. The park was previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, but was renamed effective from 1 November 2007. The word 'isimangaliso' is Zulu for 'a marvel'.

Like many tidal estuaries, the park has diverse wildlife reflecting the concentration of diverse ecosystems created by variations in the degree of salinity from season to season, year to year, and location to location within the park. The estuary is the largest in Africa and boasts, among other attractions, the world's largest forested sand dunes, which reach up to 180 m (600 feet). Swamps along the border of the lake, and "sponge" areas are fed by water seeping through the dunes; these provide critical refuges to freshwater life when the lake salinity is particularly high.

The park consists of five individual ecosystems. These ecosystems function totally independent yet fully integrated with each other.

The five ecosystems in the park are:

Marine System
Characterised by the warm Indian Ocean, containing the southernmost coral reefs in Africa, as well as sub-marine canyons and long sandy beaches.
Eastern Shores
A coastal dune system consisting of high linear dunes and sub-tropical forests, grassy plains and wetlands.
Lake System
Two estuary-linked lakes of St Lucia and Kosi Bay, plus the four large freshwater lakes of Lake Sibhayi, Ngobezeleni, Bhangazi north and Bhangazi south.
Mkhuze and Umfolozi Swamps
Swamp forests and extensive reeds and papyrus marshes.
Western Shores
Ancient shoreline terraces and dry savanna woodlands.

Though less well known than larger southern African parks like Kruger National Park and the Okavango Delta, St. Lucia supports more species, and for some, St. Lucia is critical habitat. These include the White-backed and Pink-backed Pelican, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, African Fish Eagles, and some 530 other bird species. It is also home to the largest population of hippopotami in South African parks. Elephants were reintroduced in 2001. Two sea turtle species use the beaches for laying eggs. The coastal reserve includes not only beaches but offshore coral reefs, and Humpback Whales migrate along this section of the coast. It is the one park in Africa where hippopotami, crocodiles, and sharks can be found all in the same area.

Satellite image of the park, with the borders of several conservation areas outlined in yellow.The park is also famous as a home to coelacanth, a fish species from millions of years ago that was known to scientists from fossil records and presumed to have been extinct until a live specimen was found in a trawler net in 1938 just off the African coast. Scientists have since found a number of these fish in very deep, rocky, marine environments, but it is still a very rare fish and protected under international law. On November 27, 2000, three living specimens of coelacanth were found and photographed in a submarine canyon off the coast near Sodwana Bay inside the St. Lucia Reserve.

In the northern part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park you will find Kosi Bay. It has an interesting history and even today it is unique.

Kosi Bay, Manguzi, eManguzi, KwaNgwanase are all different names for the same place. Manguzi is the community in which the town is settled and KwaNgwanase is the district name. o The name Kosi is said to be derived from the word Nkosi which means king. Ngwanase is the name for the Thonga King who fled from the Portuguese Colonists in Mozambique. The original king was Mabhudu which the Portuguese and English colonists mispronounced and misspelled respectively to Maputo and Maputa. The region is still known as Maputaland. o The region is also known as Thonga Tembe Land. Historically this region was the orphan of South Africa and none of the previous governments made any effort to develop this region. Maputaland was/is completely self-governed by the Thonga people. The current king is Mabhudu Israel Tembe. Even today the Tembe Tribal Authority retains power and oversees everything regarding everyday life. o The fact that the region have a King and chiefs, Local government, various other state bodies who have interests here and that large parts of Maputaland are national borders, world heritage area, state forest land, marine sanctuary and conservation areas do not make it easier to manage and purposefully develop Maputaland. o In Maputaland first world dreams are conflicting with third world tranquillity and existence more than anywhere else. The stage was set when the Portuguese and English colonists clashed in these regions during 1875 and asked the French prime Minister to arbitrate. With typical heavy handedness he drew a line on a map that divided the Thonga tribe in two.

St. Lucia was first named in 1554 as "Rio de la Medaos do Oura" ("River of the Dows of Gold") 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 north of the town was proclaimed.
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. [2]



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1. Wikimedia Commons-St. Lucia Wetland Park-Creative Commons Attribution License-retrieved 9/12/2009
2. Wikipedia- St. Lucia Wetland Park-retrieved 9/12/2009
 Wikipedia  text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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