The Western shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park was opened to the general public at the back end of 2013. Having read of the new section and having visited the wetlands several times I was keen to make time to explore the newly opened area. I found myself with a spare half day back in March and after a particularly wet week it was a pleasure to arrive at the Dukuduku entrance gate under clear blue sky.

Travelling south from Hluhluwe on the highway my plan was to enter the park via the Charters Creek off ramp. However, having exited the highway I could not see a single sign or any indication that there was a public entry gate there? I gave up got back on the highway and headed south to where I knew there was a gate close to St Lucia. Maybe someone can tell me if there is a Charters Creek gate signposted and my eyes had not let me down? I know its there at Charters Creek as I exited from it!

I was greeted by well drilled, smiling, staff at the gate who were very helpful. With my newly acquired R10.00 guide book open on the passenger seat I slowly drove down the sand entry road. Swallows and dung beetles swooped and buzzed by the cars open windows. I found myself stopping at every pile of dung on the road as that’s where all the dung beetles seemed to be congregating. I have only ever seen more dung beetles in one place and that was in Tembe Elephant Park. The ample dung and sand roads seem to equate to ideal dung beetle conditions.

There are no Tusker elephants, like those that roam Tembe, here in the wetlands. There are elephants, rhino, buffalo and many other species of game here. Leopards are seen in the park more and more and I had previously seen one in the Eastern Shores. However it was now mid morning and hot, not the conditions to normally have a leopard encounter.

I sat and watched small family groups of reedbuck and zebra. Buffalo and nyala watched me watching them. As I drove giraffe seemed to become more common. Stopping at a water hole to admire the abundance of pale violet water lilies in full bloom an African jacana emerged and skipped from lily pad to lily pad. The little birds pale blue face, white neck and chestnut brown body stood out against the lush green lily pads.

The heat of the sun was intense and walking the short distance to the hides and viewing platforms was hot work. The view from the main viewing platform stretched far and wide and was a just reward for the effort. Sub tropical trees in full leaf gave way to more open wetlands with shallow water and lakes of varying sizes. Pockets of several species of lush green grass were being grazed by hundreds of waterbuck. The view is ended by giant vegetated sand dunes, separating the warm Indian Ocean from the freshwater of the wetlands.

I wish I could have made more time than just half a day for this initial visit. I will return soon to explore further the Western Shores and the Isimangaliso Wetlands. This is a wonderful expansion made accessible to the public within the World Heritage Site.

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People say that Africa has an effect on your soul and Mark Henson the ‘author’ of this site is no exception. He first travelled to South Africa and the province of KwaZulu-Natal in 1993 and has been coming and going every year since. Twice now most years!

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