Photos: Dennis Robert, skipper of Shoreline Boat Safaris
Each year the iSimangaliso elephants seem to give visitors and park staff a festive season thrill. December 2015 saw a small group of bulls take a walkabout around the Dukuduku Gate late each afternoon, almost succeeding in leaving the park altogether on one occasion before CEO Andrew Zaloumis swiftly sealed the exit gate – his “last official duty for 2015”.
December 2016 was the same. Visitors on the Lake St Lucia Estuary boat cruise got more than they expected when four bulls took a leisurely swim in the lake narrows among the resident hippos and crocodiles.
Skipper Dennis Roberts of Shoreline Boat Safaris remarked that he and boat guests have seen the elephants swimming across the lake narrows a few times in recent months. Elephants are confident swimmers and often cross between the Western Shores and Eastern Shores sections of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Elephants are confident swimmers and often cross between the western and eastern shore sections of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Not to be outdone, two leopards and a pack of hyena feasting on a kudu also presented themselves to game drive operators Rick and Elise Stadler of Safari and Surf Tours when they took a group onto the eastern shores for a snorkel trip.
Facts about the iSimangaliso elephants:
• iSimangaliso has approximately 200 elephants – 100 in the uMkhuze section and 100 in the south.
• The southern herds, which are loosely broken into three breeding herds, frequent the western shores but regularly cross to the east. A few breakaway bulls tend to wander off on their own.
• iSimangaliso undertakes contraception of elephants to manage the herd size within the park’s ecological carrying capacity.
• Several elephants are collared to enable tracking for management purposes.
• If elephants are encountered while driving or in the water, the golden rule is to give them space so that they do not feel hemmed in – at least 50m in boats and much more distance on land.
Lake St Lucia
• The Lake St Lucia narrows are full at the moment with fresh water from the Umfolozi River, as the rehabilitation of the system takes shape.
• The lake surface area rose from 10% in February 2016 to 90% in November.
• For more information on the restoration process, visit www.isimangaliso.com and download the document “Lake St Lucia: understanding the problem and finding the solution.”