What to see in Isimangaliso

What to see in Isimangaliso

Day 11: Ballito – Santa Lucía – What to see in Isimangaliso

The places to see in Isimangalio will be the protagonists of the day today in which we will arrive in Santa Lucia, one of the essential places to see in South Africa, in which the hippos are the true protagonists of the town.
After spending the night at the Hampshire Hotel, our accommodation in Ballito at 7 in the morning we decided that it was time to get going by loading the luggage into the rental car in South Africa and heading to Saint Lucia, our new a destination from which 190 kilometers and 2 hours separate us that we did this time with cloudy weather than we expected.
South African roads
It is in the first section of the route, leaving Ballito when we look at and are aware of the change in the landscape that we are experiencing. We cannot confirm that it is not a personal perception, but it is at this moment when we begin to see that social inequality is much more evident than what we have seen so far and that it is even visible through the windows of our car, something that we are not going to deny, makes us begin to understand many things that we had read so far.
In this section of the N2 between Ballito and Santa Lucía, we pass through two tolls in which we pay R50 and R44.50 respectively, which we can pay with a card, but which we take the opportunity to comment (ahead of time), that it is not always possible to do so Thus, it is advisable to carry cash in the local currency, in case, like us, they do not let us pay by card.
In addition to this change that we are commenting on, as we get closer to Santa Lucía we begin to see how the landscape is becoming much lusher and much greener, giving us incredible landscapes that warn us that we are approaching the estuary, one of the places that we could not lose ourselves in this South Africa for free.
It takes a few minutes after 9 in the morning when we arrive in Santa Lucía, so before going to the hotel and without having had breakfast yet, we decided to go to the main street of the town, where many of the most recommended restaurants are concentrated, among which There is the Kauai cafeteria, a place with a lot of charm where we order a couple of breakfast bowls, a large cappuccino and a large American for R137 that give us life to start today with a route through the places to see in Isimangaliso.
With the energies already renewed, we went to the Lake St Lucia Lodge, our accommodation in Santa Lucia tonight, where after checking in, we sat down with the owner to discuss our plans for these next few days, what to go through today to visit Santa Lucia, including a tour to see hippos in the estuary and tomorrow make a route through the places to see in Isimangaliso and then start the journey to Suatzilandia.
As soon as he comments on the plans, he tells us that right today there are all the complete tours to go see hippos, so we have to make a quick change of plans, deciding that the best option is to go tomorrow to see the hippos at 7: 30 in the morning and today, instead of staying in Santa Lucía, we will go to see the Isimangaliso Park.
With these plans changed, which we have to confess in the end they are much more appropriate when it is 11 in the morning we arrive at the Isimangaliso Park, 3 kilometers from Santa Lucía where we pay R191 for two people and a car.

What to see in Isimangaliso

«The St. Lucia wetland park must be the only place in the world where the oldest land mammals, rhinos, and the largest land mammals, elephants, coexist in the same ecosystem with the most traveled fish in the world. creation, the coelacanths, and the largest marine mammals, the whales. ‘ This phrase by Nelson Mandela should be enough reason for St. Lucia and Isimangaliso to become part of the trip to South Africa in 25 days, although we, after the experience, want to add some extras, which we believe maybe even more attractive so as not to lose you this area of the country.
The possibility of seeing hippos and rhinos a few meters away, makes Isimangaliso and the estuary a perfect stop for a couple of days in South Africa.
To get into context a bit, you should bear in mind that Isimangaliso Park is a park located in the northeast area of Kwazulu-Natal, a Zulu territory that covers a 280-kilometer coastline.
With 5 differentiated ecosystems, the part that travelers usually visit includes quite limited areas where you can see different wild animals such as elephants, hippos, antelopes, zebras or rhinos as well as incredible landscapes in a route of about 30 kilometers that lead through road from the park entrance to Cape Vidal.
What to see in Isimangaliso
Bearing this in mind, we leave you what is for us the places to see in Isimangaliso :
  • East Section of Isimangaliso: It is important to know that the park is divided into two sections, the east, and the west, the first being the most visited by tourists since it is where there are more places of interest, in addition to being the best conditioned.
    To get there you must leave St. Lucia and at the crossroads, take the road on the left in the direction of Crocodile Center. Once there, you must pass the entrance of this center a few meters later to find the entrance facilities where you will have to pay your entrance and fill in the entry forms.
    From here you can take different roads to travel through different areas of Isimangaliso or the main road that leads to Cape Vidal.
  • West Section: This is the least visited section of the park because it is less conditioned than the previous one.
    It is very important to know that the two sections are not communicated, so to go from one to the other you must go to St. Lucia.
  • Mission Rocks: On the main road 10 kilometers from the entrance on the right is Mission Rocks, a coastal area with beautiful landscapes.
  • Lake Benghazi: Between Lake St. Lucia, larger than this one and Cape Vidal we find this small lake where it is highly advisable to make a stop since it is usually one of the favorite places of the animals in the area.
  • Cape Vidal: Known for being one of the most famous beaches in the area, this is the most suitable beach if you want to take a bath. There is a parking area, changing rooms, bathrooms and an information office.
Cape Vidal in Isimangaliso
  • Viewpoints: Along the main road and on some secondary roads you will find different viewpoints where you can get out of the car to enjoy the scenery. In all of them, there are cartels with safety regulations, which you must follow at all times.
Viewpoint in Isimangaliso
  • The main road and secondary roads: For us, the main reason for making a route through the places to see in Isimangaliso is to travel the main road and the secondary roads in search of some of the animals that inhabit these lands.
    Although you can see elephants, rhinos, or zebras, as well as other small mammals, we have read that even, with great luck, you can even see leopards.
    In our case, as we discussed later, we did not see elephants or rhinos this first day, so we decided to return for a couple of hours the next day.
    We believe, although we do not know for sure, that the reason for not seeing many animals was to start the tour in the middle of the morning when the sun was quite high and it was hot.
Zebras in Isimangaliso
Unpaved trails in Isimangaliso
  • Maps.me: Although the road and secondary trails are very well indicated, we advise you to take an application such as Maps.me in which to be able to go wind the roads you can take, the viewpoints and even the parking lots or services of the route through the places to see in Isimangaliso.

Tips for visiting Isimangaliso in South Africa

  • The entrance fee to Isimangaliso is R191 for two people and a passenger car. You can pay by card and the Wild Card is not valid.
  • Here you must make a record of the passengers and the car that you will have to deliver later at the time of departure so that the park can carry out a security control.
  • The hours are from 5am to 7pm in summer and from 6am to 6pm from April to the end of October. Keep in mind that schedules must be respected and in case of leaving later, you will have to pay a fine of R500.
  • Driving at night is strictly prohibited.
  • The maximum speed in Isimangaliso is 50 kilometers/hour. Keep this in mind for departure times, especially if you come across a scene that you want to enjoy.
  • Please note that some of the secondary roads are one-way and have reduced speed. This is duly signposted, so before entering this type of road, it is necessary to know the rules.
  • It is very important to follow the regulations. You will see that in each of the viewpoints or in the brochures of the park they are indicated, but it is important to read them as many times as necessary to make the visits safely and above all so that our presence causes the minimum impact on the lives of the animals.
Regulations in Isimangaliso
  • In areas like Cape Vidal, you can find bathroom services, a small shop, and even changing rooms. In the rest of the viewpoints or picnic areas, there are usually no services whatsoever, except for a couple of viewpoints, to which you must always travel keeping the rules, in which there are bathrooms.
  • If you want to eat inside Isimangaliso, we recommend you bring what you need from St. Lucia, since the options inside the park are very limited.
  • We want to highlight that in addition to traveling the main road, which is paved from the beginning of the park until Cape Vidal, we recommend you to do some of the dirt tracks by car as well as some of the small trails that can be done on foot to have a more complete experience.
Walking trail in Isimangaliso
Route through the places to see in Isimangaliso
  • As we mentioned before, it is highly recommended to take an application such as Maps.me, which works offline, to be able to orient yourself in the park.
  • Before concluding this series of tips to visit Isimangaliso, referring to the sighting of animals, we want to comment on some information, to be able to enjoy the safaris in complete safety:
    Always keep a safe distance
    In case they are animals with young, observe them and avoid getting close or making them nervous. An animal with a young will always want to protect it, so it can be more aggressive.
    If you come across elephants on any of the trails, do not chase them or cut them off. In case there is not enough space, try backing up. This case happened to us on a secondary road and is a very large herd of elephants that were going along the way, we decided to turn around and drive away. We missed the opportunity to see elephants in Isimangaliso, but the safety and protection of the animals come first.
    Never feed them. It is strictly prohibited.
Kudu in Isimangaliso
  • Taking into account our experience, we leave you a selection of those that we believe are the things to do in Isimangaliso that you should not miss.

Map of today’s route through the places to see in Isimangaliso

We leave you a map of today’s route through the places to see Isimangaliso, one of the best-known parks in this area of South Africa.
Do not miss the next day of the practical guide our experience returning to Isimangaliso after the hippo tour in Santa Lucia.
A few minutes pass from 5 in the afternoon when we leave Isimangaliso, after a very complete day, despite not having seen elephants or rhinos at the end, approaching directly the Ocean Basket restaurant in Santa Lucía and only 4 kilometers from the entrance of the park where we order an assorted plate of prawns and squid for two people plus beer and water for R361 that renew our energy to continue with this incredible journey.
After dinner and a walk around this area of the town, we decided that the time had come to return with the rental car in South Africa to the Lake St Lucia Lodge where we fell like children, waiting for hours to pass and tomorrow, to have our first encounter with hippos.

Map of today’s route in South Africa

We leave you a map of today’s route from Ballito to St. Lucia and Isimangaliso Park.

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