Hippo excursion in Santa Lucia

Hippo excursion in Santa Lucia

Day 12: Hippo Excursion in Saint Lucia – Swaziland Border

The hippo excursion in Santa Lucía will be the first activity today after we could not do it yesterday because we did not have it reserved and have to make a change of plans, choosing to do the route through the places to see in Isimangaliso.
Taking into account that the hippo tour in Santa Lucía begins at 7:30 in the morning with the company Heritage Tours And Safaris, one of the most recommended in the town, we decided to advance the day a little and leave the Lake St Lucia Lodge, our accommodation in St. Lucia tonight at 6 o’clock for a walk around the estuary before starting the tour to make the most of this day of the trip to South Africa in 25 days.
The Lake St Lucia Lodge is located just 1.5 km from the port from which the boats depart for the hippo tour in Santa Lucia, so shortly after 6 in the morning we are there to enjoy for more than 45 minutes of this incredible moment when the hippos in St. Lucia start the day, approaching the river and looking for the place where they will be practically all day.
Estuary of Santa Lucia
Hippos in the estuary

Hippo tour in Santa Lucia

The hippo tour in Saint Lucia is one of the activities that we recommend you not to miss in South Africa on your own.
With this tour you will be able to safari by boat through the Santa Lucia Estuary, within the Isimangaliso Park, where you can see hippos, Nile crocodiles, and countless birds for two hours while a guide explains all the information about the animals and their habitat.
Something very important is that the company Heritage Tours And Safaris uses Shoreline boats in its safaris, with a maximum capacity of 15 people, something that causes a minimum impact on the environment.
They also have a cover with a very wide visibility space which guarantees incredible photographs.
Boat for the hippo excursion in Santa Lucia
Boat for the hippo excursion in Santa Lucia
The tour begins with a brief explanation by the guide and then travels the estuary in search of the hippos and animals in the area. In addition to this tour, stops are made at different important points in the area and in places where there are hippos, always maintaining adequate distances so as not to disturb the animals.
Hippo tour in Santa Lucia
Hippos tour in St. Lucia

Tips for taking the hippo excursion in St. Lucia

  • The hippo tour in Santa Lucia is 2 hours.
  • The price is R260 and in our case we hire it directly at the Lake St Lucia Lodge where we stay. It is important to reserve it in advance since when we wanted to do it we found that there were no places for the whole day, so we had to reserve the next day first thing in the morning.
  • The schedule of the tours depends on the season, being usual that they depart every two hours, the last being around 4:30 p.m. In summer they have a special departure at 7:30 in the morning, perfect if later you want to go to Isimangaliso, for example.
  • Although we have loved doing this tour in the morning, we believe that the afternoon tour, coinciding with the sunset, can also be a fantastic option.
Hippos tour in St. Lucia
Hippo excursion in St. Lucia
  • The departure of the hippo tour in Santa Lucia is from Siyabonga Jetty, right at the point where the bridge that crosses the river of the R618 road is.
  • Whenever you can, bring binoculars, although hippos tend to be very close and a good target if you want to do nature photography.

How to organize the route through the places to see in Santa Lucia

Taking into account our experience and if you have more or less the time that we have had, we would choose to do the following route through the places to see in St. Lucia.
  • Day 1: Santa Lucía: Walk around the town (it is very small) and the trails to see hippos and in the afternoon do the hippo tour in Santa Lucía.
  • Day 2: Route through the places to see in Isimangaliso and transfer to the border with Swaziland, to sleep there and on the third day cross to Swaziland and go to Hlane.
In case you want to do the hippos tour in Santa Lucia in the morning, the option would be to do like us:
  • Day 1: Isimangaliso
  • Day 2: Hippo excursion in Santa Lucia first thing in the morning and then go to the border with Swaziland or take the opportunity to return to Isimangaliso until noon or walk around the town.
Hippos in St. Lucia
It is 9:30 in the morning when we finish the hippo excursion in Santa Lucia to return to the Lake St Lucia Lodge where we collect the luggage and make the payment in cash since they do not accept credit cards and we take the rental car to give ourselves a few minutes and plan what we will do with the rest of the day that we have pending until we go to the border with Swaziland where we will sleep today.
After appreciating it a lot and understanding that after having seen hippos a few meters away, making a route through the trails by walking of the estuary and seeing them from afar is perhaps not the best option, we decided to give Isimalgaliso Park a second chance, which is only 4 kilometers from here, to try to see rhinos, one of the most beautiful animals in the world, which yesterday we were not lucky enough to see.
St. Lucia
With this in mind, we travel the few kilometers that separate us from the park, we pay the R191 again for when it is 10 in the morning, we start a journey that will take us along the same roads that we traveled all day yesterday.
We have not gone more than 5 kilometers when we see a secondary road that we did not pass yesterday and that we decided to travel, hoping to find the long-awaited rhinos or elephants that we know inhabit these lands.
After approximately 3 kilometers we begin to see that several cars are coming straight ahead, this path being only one direction, warning us that it is necessary to turn around quickly as a herd of elephants is coming right in our direction. Given this and with the first dangerous situation, we have no choice but to turn around and return to the main road, through which we decided to follow the route, hoping to see some of the animals for which we have returned to Isimangaliso.
This situation teaches us that we have to be very attentive, safe, respecting the rules and especially when we see any dangerous situation, to turn around and warn the other cars.
We have to confess that we are left with the desire to see these elephants, but that feeling lasts only a few seconds and it is that a few meters after joining the road, we find two rhinos right next to the car, which makes us return to believe in luck and how incredibly lucky and privileged we are.
Rhinos in Isimangaliso
Rhinos in Isimangaliso
After a good time photographing and enjoying these incredible animals, we continue the route going through the park, and returning to some secondary roads, by the time it is 12:30 in the afternoon, we return to Santa Lucía, where we go to eat at Braza , another one of the most recommended restaurants in the town, where we ordered a entrecote plus a plate of fish, beer, water and espresso for R600.

Eating at Braza

Super recommended!
After eating and recharging energy, it is time to continue with today’s route making the journey to the border with Swaziland, where we will stay tonight, we took advantage of it before to fill the tank with R560 and go to the supermarket to reload the trunk, to have breakfast these next days in which we will start with the safaris proper.
St. Lucia
The border with Swaziland 160 kilometers from St. Lucia and a couple of hours away, will be the final destination of the day, which we travel through the N2, a road in very good condition and with incredible landscapes in which after After several kilometers we begin to see the mountains that separate South Africa from Swaziland and will be our accommodation tonight.
We arrive at the Tamboti Ridge Bed and Breakfast at 4:15 p.m. and as soon as we arrive and even before getting out of the car, the owner welcomes us to tell us that they have had a problem with our room, but let’s not worry as they have made us an upgrade to the Shayamoya Tiger Fishing and Game Lodge, a hotel that is only 2 kilometers away and is much better.
With this surprise, we return to the road with the Swaziland border and in a few minutes we arrive at the new accommodation, which we have to say, leaves us with our mouths open and only when we see the place where it is located and totally surprised when they accompany us to the cabin that we have been assigned and we discovered that it has amazing views.
And so, after enjoying an outdoor shower, working for a while on the terrace with breathtaking views and enjoying a while reading, we go to the hotel restaurant for dinner where we order a plate of pasta, a vegetarian lasagna , wine, and water for R350 with which we ended an incredible day that has reminded us again how incredibly lucky we are.
Map of today’s route in South Africa with the Hippo Excursion in Saint Lucia and the route to the border with Swaziland

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