Isimangaliso Wetland Park is a world of wonder and should be on everyone's bucket list.
A stone’s throw away from where we are based, is the World heritage Site, iSimangaliso Wetland Park. It is a massive reserve of over 3,280 km2. A World Heritage Site is designated by the UN for having cultural and natural heritage considered of great value to humanity. These sites have legal protection from an international convention administered by UNESCO.
iSimangaliso was South Africa’s first World heritage site and this protection saved it from dune mining. It was selected in 3 of the 10 categories, viz.:
- Outstanding examples of ecological processes (criterion vii)
- Superlative natural phenomena and scenic beauty (criterion ix)
- Exceptional biodiversity and threatened species (criterion x)
The name iSimangaliso is the iSiZulu word meaning miracle and wonder, which perfectly describes this truly breath-taking place.
iSimangaliso is Africa’s largest estuarine system and contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, traditional fishing systems that have been used for over 700 years, most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, 530 bird species, and the 25,000 year-old coastal dunes that are amongst the highest in the world.
In 2019 it was expanded to include a Marine Protected Area (MPA) which includes 5 of the 7 world turtle species (2 breeding on these shores), 991 species of marine fish, over 200 estuary fish species, 55 freshwater fish species, whales, dolphins, and many others.
This is an untamed landscape where turtles, whales, dolphins and sharks are common sightings and the Big 5 roam on land. Below is a species list of what has been recorded so far – and it is remarkable.
- 2185 vascular plants
- 736 Genera
- 46 Endemics
- 6 species of Mangrove
- 325 seaweed species
- 142 species terrestrial and marine
- 110 Terrestrial mammals
- 1 critically endangered (black rhino), 2 endangered (African wild dog, Samango Monkey)
- 22 SA Red Data List
- 18 CITES listed
- iSimangaliso hosts the Big 5 (Elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard, rhinoceros) and has 32% of the Chiroptera (bats); 51% of the Carnivora (flesh eating mammals); 53% of the Artiodactyla (animals with hooves); and 21% of the Rodentia (rats, mice, porcupines and other rodents) of those that occur in southern Africa
- 32 Marine Species
- Including southern right whales (Eubalaena australis), humpback whales (Megaptera novaengliae), bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates), humpback dolphins (Sousa plumbea) and spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris), orcas, etc.
- All 32 listed International Red Data List and CITES
- 282 butterflies
- 52 fruit chafer beetles
- 38 dragonflies and damselflies
- 228 spiders
- 5 scorpions
- 41 terrestrial molluscs as well as millipedes.
- 812 species of marine molluscs
- 129 hard and soft coral species
- 20 species of sponges as well as species typical of inshore and coral reef environments, e.g. sea anemones, hydroids, crustaceans, etc.
- 55 freshwater fish
- 212 estuarine fish
- 992 marine fish
- 399 are reef species.
- Approximately 16% of fish species are endemic
- Includes Coelacanth, Brindle Bass, Whale Sharks, Ragged tooth sharks, the Sodwana Bay pygmy seahorse (Discovered May 2020).
- 50 species
- 2 red Data
- Includes Natal leaf-folding frog and Pickersill’s reed frog
- 162 reptile species
- 53 snake species, including Gaboon Adders and Bouton’s snake eyed skink
- 5 of the World’s 7 Turtle Species (2 breeding including critically endangered leatherbacks)
- 4 Terrapins
- 3 Tortoises
- 42 species of lizards, skinks, agamas, geckos and chameleons, including the endemic Setaro Dwarf chameleon
- 525 terrestrial and water bird species
- 47 subspecies of birds that are endemic to the Maputaland region
- 4 South African endemic species
- 339 of SA bird species (62% of the total list) breed here
- Waterfowl include flamingos, pelicans, and waders, along with breeding colonies of pelicans, yellow-billed storks, herons, Caspian terns, spoonbills and red-winged pratincoles, as well as the African fish eagle.