Sunday, November 02, 2008

Discovering Adam and Eve’s Playground

Sodwana beach
Sodwana beach

Samango monkeys clamber in the treetops
Samango monkeys clamber in the treetops

Location Greater St Lucia Wetland Park  
Author Samantha Black
  View more articles by Samantha
Submitted 23 Jun 2008

Discovering Adam and Eve's Playground

St Lucia – top eco destination in South Africa

The Elephant Coast in KwaZulu Natal, embraced by the warm Indian Ocean, the Umfolozi River and Mozambique is one of South Africa's most beautiful and unspoiled travel destinations. It is a perfect destination for everyone - be it for the sensitive ecologist, the great outdoors fan or the happy camper sitting on the boulders at Mission Rock sporting his hook, line and sinker. At the heart of this heaven-on-earth is a popular holiday village with a saint-like name - St. Lucia, the only private village surrounded by a Natural World Heritage Site (iSimangaliso / Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park). 

Adam and Eve and their pet hippos

St. Lucia is an eco-tourism Mecca, and centre point to an incredible 21 different eco-systems. Adam and Eve's playground lures with dense evergreen forests of towering fig trees, a lush undergrowth of ferns and wild orchids hanging from the trees. Palm savannahs with thousands of wild date and Lala palms dot the white sand, and swamp forests are home to myriads of exotic birds. A paradise in which you would expect our biblical ancestors to have had their own pet hippos! But beware, the hippos' laid back yawn hides a force not to be messed with!

A safe way of getting up close and personal and tickle their incisors is a trip down the estuary on one of the river touring boats such as the Advantage. This luxurious passenger ferry was custom built to venture into shallow waters – you might even be able to inspect a croc's 66 pointy teeth!

We boarded the ferry for the sundowner tour on a beautiful late summer's evening, arguably the best time to visit the Greater Wetlands, when mosquitoes are few, but Gin and Tonics still flow. The first 12 km upstream passed with great anticipation, alas with not much else to do than getting the camera lenses ready and the glasses full. Soon enough though our captain spotted the first herd of river horses and the crowd on board shifted dangerously to the very lee of the boat! The imbalance was easily taken care of by the captain's next heart-beating announcement: crocodiles on the shores under the mangrove trees, at three o'clock! And a few meters away from the ancient reptile, there was a Kudu busy eyeing us out, while a Giant Kingfisher was perched watchfully in the tree above - picture perfect.

Crocodile smile
Crocodile smile

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