One of the best tours we made in St.Lucia is the nightdrive with Shaka Barker. Kian, our guide had a very good knowledge of the wildlife and the environment. The nightdrive takes you into the iSimangaliso wetland Park after dark. Three hours searching with a spotlight to find nocturnal animals.
Kian is very good in finding chameleons, it was amazing to see how he spotted the small animals in the thick bush. He even brought one into the car so we could all see it better.
We did see bushpig, porcupine, civet, hippo, buffalo and leopard too.
Next to the town you will find the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. You can make organized tours into the park, in open jeeps with qualified guides, but you can also drive yourself. There is one main road all the way up to Cape Vidal. There are many loop roads and vista points along the way.
Stop at least at Mission Rocks, an ideal place to eat your lunch (you have to bring food and drinks yourself).
In weekends and during holidays it is very crowded at Cape Vidal, and maybe not the serene beach you expect. The park is still big enough to have a quiet drive.
Take a day to enjoy the park.
There are several parties offering a hippo and croc tour. They following nearly the same route and theoretically it makes no difference which one you take. But there are differences in the size of the ship. It is up to you which one appeals more, a larger boat or a smaller one.
We took the tour with Advantage tours and liked it very much. We did see lots of hippopotami and crocs, fisheagles, a goliath heron and much more birds.
The boats has a bar and a toilet, but we were to busy enjoying the view to use either of them.
There is a qualified guide on board to point out the animals and tell all about them.
One of the best ways to explore and see the lake is a boat trip. A number of companies operate from St. Lucia town and the KwaZulu Natal Parks Board operates several trips a day from their pier next to the St. Lucia Bridge.
Located on a barrier island within the St. Lucia Estuary in the Indian Ocean near the Mozambique border, the Crocodile Centre has a superb collection of crocs and other reptiles from both South Africa and elsewhere (There are a couple of large alligators from the bayous of the southern US, for example.). You can walk through the enclosure and view both the large reptilian nasties as well as snakes, tortoises, and extraordinary trees. In addtion, there are several hiking trails as well as reasonably priced camping facilities, though reservations are definitely advised if you're there during the high season or during any of the school holidays.
This is definitely a learning experience, too. There are very extensive and well-executed tableaux about the history and biology of the crocs. One doesen't, for example, often see whole skeletons of any kind of reptile, let alone one of a fully-grown crocodile.
St. Lucia is a pretty handy place to use as a base for daytrips over to Hluhluwe-Umfolozi National Park. (BTW, Hluhluwe is pronounced as "shloo-SHLOO-way") This is unquestionably one of South Africa's best. Although it is nowhere as large as Kruger, the real crown jewel of their park system, it is nevertheless one of the best-run and contains about as wide a variety of wildlife as you could possibly ask for. Using St. Lucia as a base, we made a couple trips over to the park, which is only a 45-minute drive away.
Driving yourself through game parks is always a big "catch-as-catch-can" in terms of game viewing. Maybe you'll see something, maybe you won't. You just have to take your chances. That said, it's somehow more satisfying when you discover something yourself rather than depending on the (sometimes) dubious skills of the commercial game drive operators. Also, when you drive in any of the parks, you must make certain you follow the rules: Don't drive faster than about 50 km/hr (30 mp/h) and stay in your car at all times unless you are stopping at a picnic spot or an observation point where you are expressly allowed to get out. REMEMBER: THE ANIMALS ARE WILD, and they'll happily have you for dinner, given half a chance.
The park has some 1600 black and white rhino (though we didn't see any :-( ), all rest of the big five (lion, leopard, elephant, Cape buffalo, as well as waterbuck, kudu, warthogs, giraffe, etc., not to mention 24,000 impala (There's a somewhat crude South African nickname for them: a "jafi" = "Just another f#$@ing impala!" They're that common.)
Lying about 35 kms north of the St Lucia Estuary, is CAPE VIDAL a popular powerboat and surf angling spot. The reef sheltered beach provides for outstanding snorkelling. In 1898, the Dorothea was shipwrecked on the reef off Cape Vidal and the remains are still visible to divers.
Wednesday, September 28, 1994
It was a cloudy, rainy, overcast day so Hans, Wim and I thought we would go on the BOAT TRIP ON LAKE LUCIA. There are three departure times daily and each tour lasts for up to two hours. We had the wonderful experience of seeing Hippos enjoying themselves in the warm waters of the Estuary. Whole families of Hippo could be seen. Well mostly you saw the tops of their head and back, the rest was under water. We also saw one big crocodile lazing by the shore of the Lake and also many waterfowl and beautiful birds.