iSimangaliso – The Unbearable Beauty of the Eastern Shores

In a natural space as impossibly beautiful as #iSimangaliso Wetland Park, it seems nearly unfair to have a favourite section. Bite me, because I do, and it is the #EasternShores.

There are just too many facets to this biodiverse section unfolding from #Bhangazi Gate to the seductive shoreline sweep of the Indian Ocean at #CapeVidal. Beach blends perfectly with #safari along this #iSimangaliso crown jewel, with verdant sand forest, ancient grassland dunes, shimmering lake systems and extensive wetland pans eventually giving way to picture-perfect coastal glory.

It truly is the best of both worlds, with near guaranteed sightings of whales, dolphins, turtles or whale sharks from ocean vantage points to excellent bird-watching and game viewing, including elephant, rhino, buffalo, crocodile, hippo, hyaena, leopard and a myriad species of smaller game.

As they say in the classics, the ‘outside is free’, and everything goes as far as #outdoor options are concerned. The only downside is that it makes my job a seriously tough task when it comes to highlighting only 5x must-do options in this incredible section of the park … so here goes nothing :-)

1) Hike onto vegetated dunes more than 25 000 years old on an organised outing with armed rangers. Experiencing this incredibly rich and varied grassland ecosystem up close is a nature experience bar none, and the knowledge that buffalo may lurk in densely forested patches adds an exhilarating adrenaline edge.

2) Go beachy along less dangerous terrain by sticking to the coast line, and choose from a range of easy to endurance walks upon the edge of one of Africa’s most seductive shorelines. Mission Rocks, Perrier’s Rock and Cape Vidal are key points along these routes, and you could spend days exploring deserted beaches, rock pools and the volcanic coastline.

3) If #safari game drives are your thing, the Vlei Loop rates as arguably your best bet of spotting leopard (anywehere in Africa). According to the knowledgeable Kian Barker of #ShakaBarker Tours, the stretch of road up to #CapeVidal have the highest proven leopard density anywhere in #KwaZuluNatal, and that says a lot. The vehicle in front of us on our morning drive literally saw three of these spotted kitties crossing the road about 20sec before we arrived, and how fantastic a feeling it is to know they are leisurely lurking in those #JurassicPark forest patches out there! Check out www.shakabarker.co.za for info on their night drives, certainly one of the best after-dark excursions I’ve been on.

4) The Bat Cave is a short hike from the Mission Rocks view point, but makes for an interesting exploration. A large, ocean-facing cavern with an open skylight tunnel is home to a breeding colony of Angolan free-tailed bats; they basically whirl around like tiny flying foxes, while ocassionally pooping on your head. All in all, #iSimangaliso offers sanctuary to 9x species of bats, one of which is endemic.

5) Snorkeling at #CapeVidal with the crew from #SafariAndSurf should top the activities list here in the #EasternShores section of the #WetlandPark. Even though we were dealt a grey and blustery morning, Righardt and Elize made this outing into an incredible adventure for the whole family. They meet you at Cape Vidal and orientate you with a map of the reef area before accompanying you into the magical Big Blue to indentify the hundreds of species of fish here – you might even get to see the resident moray eel … get hold of them at www.safariandsurf.com

Over to accommodation … the newly refurbished #SaintLuciaEcoLodge rates as the best accommodation in town. That is fighting talk in a tourist village with more guesthouses, hotels and self-catering stays than any sizeable city, but it is the gospel truth. Hippo (and occasional leopard!) wander the lawn outside your veranda at night, while mongeese and monkeys cavort about the tropical garden. The facilities are top-class, and the on-site restaurant delivers quality local cuisine with an international twist. The kids wanted to ‘live there forever’ – go visit them at www.seasands.co.za

The TomTom #Bandit captured some great moments while snorkeling. All other images on the PENTAX SOUTH AFRICA #PentaxKseries Kit, together with my Clik Elite SA #ProExpress pack from Native Sport(Pty)Ltd, and Peak Design #Slide straps from Photogadgets.

More information on #iSimangaliso can be found at www.iSimangaliso.com

Click here to view the pics

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