The KwaZulu-Natal North Coast is one of the most naturally diverse and beautiful places in South Africa. Why not make the most of your trip by visiting some of its attractions along the way? Read more about things to do and see en route to Thonga Beach Lodge.
ESCAPE TO A PLACE OF MIRACLE AND WONDER
Thonga Beach Lodge is uniquely set on the pristine shores of the Maputaland Coast. Part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - Thonga is the place to discover one of Africa’s last unspoilt wilderness beaches. The name "iSimangaliso" means "miracle and wonder" - an apt name for an area that is home to such a diverse and spectacular array of unique ecosystems.
ISIMANGALISO WETLAND PARK
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999 in recognition of its status as a site of biological wealth and natural beauty.
No other place in South Africa can compete with the exceptional natural beauty and biodiversity of iSimangaliso. The 332,000-hectare park contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, 700-year-old fishing traditions, most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuarine system and 25,000-year-old vegetated coastal dunes which are among the highest in the world.
The World Heritage Committee granted the Park its status after noting its exceptional biodiversity– over 526 birds, 50 amphibia, 128 reptile species, lake systems, swamps, reed and papyrus wetlands, savannah, vegetated coastal dunes and sandy beaches. The marine ecosystem has 1 039 fish species, 100 species of coral, 812 marine molluscs and huge dolphin populations. The area also boasts a large migratory pod of humpback whales that congregate en-route between Mozambique and the Cape, usually taking residence for several months between June and November. A vast numbers of albatross visit in the winter months.
The Maputaland coastline has been shaped over millennia by the strong Agulhas current, which flows down the East Coast of Africa. Seasonal winds blowing across the Mozambique channel from Madagascar rotate this massive body of water, keeping it at a comfortable 26 degrees – the perfect temperature for a fun-filled adventure.
The untouched shoreline of Lake Sibaya stretches for 100km; at 70 square kilometres, it is South Africa’s largest freshwater lake. Lake Sibaya falls within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and the Ramsar Convention assures its international conservation status.
The lake’s diverse flora provides a variety of habitats for birds, mammals and aquatic life. Research reveals that hundreds of years ago, the lake was connected to the sea. When the estuary closed naturally, numerous fish and aquatic creatures were trapped in a freshwater environment, creating a biological treasure chest.
Lake Sibaya contains the second largest population of hippopotamus and crocodile in KwaZulu-Natal and is an important breeding, feeding and roosting area for a host of bird species. Surface water in the surrounding coastal plain often disappears completely during dry spells, making the lake the only source of permanent water for birds and mammals.