The iSimangaliso Marine Protected Area is truly one of those magical places that has it all – from deep ocean gorges and coral reefs through to pristine beaches. From the crashing roar of waves, that started their journey in the deep ocean, to the kaleidoscope of colour on the tropical reefs. It extends from Kosi Bay in the north to Mapelane in the south.
During the warm summer nights, the pristine beaches are the location of one of nature’s great spectacles, when Leatherback and Loggerhead Turtles heave themselves onto the beaches to laboriously dig holes in which to bury their eggs. The female turtles will return over several nights when conditions are suitable to lay up to seven clutches of eggs varying between 55 and 160 eggs per clutch, depending on the size and age of the female. After a period of between two and two and a half months the eggs hatch and the hatchlings then have to run the gauntlet of predators, such as ghost crabs, as they rush to the sea. Humpbacked whales, dolphins of several species and whale sharks also move seasonally through the offshore areas. Marlin and sailfish attract deep-sea fisherman, whilst the warm Indian Ocean contains the southern-most coral reefs and sub-marine canyons in Africa. It is amongst these canyons that a population of that strangest of fish, the Coelacanth was recently discovered to be living.
The coral gardens, reefs and overhangs found within the protected area are home to over 80 percent of South Africa’s fish species and are rated as one of the top-ten dive sites in the world. These reefs also provide the perfect breeding ground for many marine creatures and this combined with the often-excellent visibility provide divers with an unrivalled spectacle of colour and variety. There are also numerous suitable localities for snorkeling with Mabibi and Cape Vidal being amongst the favorites.
Designated launch sites exist at Sodwana Bay and Cape Vidal and these provide access to options for deep-sea fishing, spear fishing and watching a variety of marine mammals. Several species of dolphin may be viewed when out at sea, including the bottlenose dolphin and the spinner dolphin that is found in deeper waters and which is recognized by its habit of launching out of the water and spinning its body. June through to October is when the humpbacked whales migrate along the coastline.
Overall, the iSimangaliso Marine Protected Area offers something for everyone and is a premier tourism destination with reportedly up to a million visitors entering it each year. It offers a variety of tourism facilities from camping through to exclusive lodges. Private enterprise is increasingly becoming involved within the park and local communities are being allowed greater access, so that they may too gain positive benefits from this outstanding area.
For more information please do visit Marine Protected Areas South Africa and also please help spread the news in support of our MPAs.