Isimangaliso & Coastal Maputaland

Swimming, diving & turtle-tracking on the glorious beaches of northern KwaZulu Natal.


The glorious coastline of northern KwaZulu Natal can be divided into two discrete areas. Coastal Maputaland in the far north near Kosi Bay. And the beautiful Isimangaliso wetlands north of the resort town of St Lucia.

Coastal Maputaland

Coastal Maputaland, north of Sodwana Bay, is a magical area, untouched by large-scale tourism development. The activities at the Maputaland beach lodges include  snorkelling, diving and canoeing on the lakes.  Furthermore you can view the rare giant leatherback turtles as they lay  their eggs (around November). And then the birth of the hatchling (Jan to February). From July to November, you may also see the magnificent Southern Right whales (July to November). Finally Coastal Maputaland is a mecca for keen divers. (There is a dive centre at Thonga Beach Lodge).

The unspoilt nature of Maputaland is because it is so remote. So that means that access is a little tricky. The easiest way to visit is to add a few days of beach relaxation on to a safari.

TIP: Consider the Maputaland beach lodges as an alternative to Mozambique if you want a safari & beach holiday within South Africa.

Romantic beach retreats

Isimangalio Wetlands Park

Just south of the Hluhluwe Game Reserve lies the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. A World Heritage site, it offers excellent game viewing, snorkeling at Cape Vidal and boat cruises on Lake St Lucia. This is one of the few places where you can enjoy a beach, safari AND lake experience. All in one day!

The wetlands are separated from the ocean by coastal dunes which tower 120 meters above the beaches.  It is home to an estimated 1,500 crocodile and 700 hippos, great flocks of pelicans and flamingos and many other water birds.

Choose between a guided game drive in the park, or even a self-drive game-viewing trip. Perhaps combine this with a couple of hours at the beautiful Cape Vidal beach? The marine habitat is the route used by humpback whales on their northerly migration to Mozambique to calve. In November and December the loggerheads and leatherback turtles come onto the beach to lay eggs.  ISimangaliso also offers surprisingly good general game viewing!

Coastal Maputaland

It is also easy to visit Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve from here. As it’s only about 40 minutes drive from St Lucia. (And St Lucia is an easy 2½ hours drive from Durban airport.)


Why you may love it

  • Pristine unspoilt coastline with vast empty beaches.
  • Turtle-tracking from November to February.
  • Whale watching from July to November.
  • Game-viewing in the Isimangaliso Wetlands Park.
  • Boat cruises on St Lucia wetlands in search of hippos and crocs.
  • Excellent snorkeling & diving in the Maputaland Marine Reserve.
  • Sunset cruises on Lake Sibaya.

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Did you know
  • IsimangalisoWorld Heritage Site
  • AnimalsNesting grounds for endangered leatherback & loggerhead sea turtles 

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Gloria Darvall

Africa Travel Specialist

Hi I’m Gloria, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

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