If you’re looking for a beach and bush escape, the small town of St Lucia in northern KwaZulu-Natal is the perfect base. Here are 5 great things to do during your stay…
Words: Fiona McIntosh
Pictures: Debbie Cooper, Shaen Adey, Inga Hendricks
“We’ll keep our distance from the hippo pods,” Anton Roberts, our highly experienced St Lucia Kayak Safaris guide reassured us as we paddled our plastic kayaks out into the murky waters of the St Lucia estuary. Given their numbers and reputation, I’ll admit to feeling a little bit apprehensive, but we gave the river horses a wide berth as we studied them and learnt about the unique ecology of the St Lucia estuarine system, the birds, crocodiles and other estuary dwellers. The hippo seemed disinterested in our bright orange and red crafts, though Anton informed us that their wide mouthed yawns, which displayed ferocious looking canines, were in fact threatening gestures!
Eyeballing hippo is just one of the attractions of a kayak safari. But if that seems too extreme, here are some other great adventures from St Lucia, the gateway to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Getting up close and personal with hippo is a lot less intimidating when you’re in an elevated position on a cruise boat! Sightings of hippo and croc are pretty much guaranteed on one of the regular estuary boat cruises with ShakaBarge, and you’ll probably see African fish eagles, a range of kingfishers and numerous other birds to boot.
A horseback tour with Bhangazi Horseback Safaris is one of the best ways enjoy the deserted beaches and to see the buck, zebra and other plains game that, along with hippo and crocs, inhabit the game park section of the Eastern Shores. The guides encourage you to allow your horse to graze, thereby putting the animals at easy and allowing wonderful photo opportunities.
Watching a vast female leatherback turtle haul herself up the beach then laboriously lay her eggs is something that you will never forget. Nor is the terrifying sight of tiny hatchlings running the gauntlet of predators as they try to make if from the nest to the ocean. From November to March Shoreline Boat Safaris & Turtle Tours run tours along the magnificent beach at Cape Vidal.
A marine safari from St Lucia is a fantastic way to experience the seabirds, dolphins and seasonal visitors to the St Lucia coastline. Humpback whales can be seen in greatest numbers between June and December on a trip out to sea with Advantage Tours and Charters.