When the name St Lucia is mentioned outside of South Africa thoughts always seem to go straight to the Caribbean island. However for me, having been a fairly regular visitor to South Africa, I always think of Zululand, the Elephant coast and the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park.

When my parents suggested we spend a few days by the sea whilst in KwaZulu Natal I suggested we head north to St Lucia. With all agreed, my father through SafariKZN Accommodation booked us into Avalone Guest House for our stay. Following the birds, Hornbill Street and Kingfisher Street, Avalone is located in Sandpiper Street. Two blocks back from the busy main McKenzie Street and just off beach road. With a quiet suburban street to the front and nature reserve to the rear Avalone is an ideal place to both relax and explore the area.

Beyond the spacious en-suite rooms with private decks are two swimming pools complete with sun lounger’s and towels. Palm trees line the gardens, pools and pathways. Natal strelitzias, canna lilies, mother-in-laws tongues and hibiscus all add to the truly tropical feeling.

Breakfast is served on the covered veranda looking across the gardens and into the adjoining nature reserve. Whilst working our way through several choices & courses we were able watch red diker and bushbuck grazing. Birdlife in the garden is also prolific and we witnessed a large gymnogene being mobbed as it flew between the palm trees.

Monica our host ensured we never went hungry and meals were also available most evenings either from the kitchen or the barbecue. If you are out and about exploring there are also packed lunches available.

The nature reserve to the rear leads to the ocean but there is no defined pathway through the thick bush. I had heard tales of hippos wandering the streets of the town and Anthea, Monica’s assistant, confirmed over breakfast that not only hippo wandered through the reserve but leopard had also been seen. Our only close encounter came in the form of a large fruit bat outside our room. I am not sure who was more startled, me, my wife or the bat?

McKenzie Street is a mix of shops, businesses, tour operators, bars and restaurants. There is a small market selling fresh locally grown fruits and curios. I have not been to St Lucia without buying mangos, pineapples or bananas from the market.

I have also not been to St Lucia without eating fish and as a fish loving family this was no exception. The calamari, langoustines, kingklip, and line fish were excellent. We dined at the Ocean basket and the Quarterdeck where all our food was cooked to perfection.

There is a choice of beaches running parallel to the town. Heavy rain and storms limited our time on them but we all felt the warmth of the Indian Ocean on our feet.

The town is a gateway into the world heritage site of the Isimangliso Wetland Park, which includes Cape Vidal. Lake and estuary tours are available for close up views of the resident hippo and crocodile populations. Depending on the time of year turtle viewing and whale watching are also an option.

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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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