St Lucia is unique in that it is situated in the middle of not only a game reserve, but a World Heritage Site – the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. This status and position influences the entire vibe of the village, as well as the activities that are available and the kind of tourist it attracts.
The village of St Lucia was first established in 1885. The area was named hundreds of years earlier in 1554, when a group of Portuguese shipwreck survivors ended up at the mouth of the Tugela River, which they called St Lucia.
The present-day town is situated on the estuary’s northern bank. It has the ocean to the east, with the water of the estuary curling around from south to west. A bridge links the town to the mainland in the south.
As you’d expect of a village surrounded by nature, the streets and trees of St Lucia are constantly abuzz with birdlife and butterflies. Monkeys frequently pass through and bigger animals occasionally pop up when you least expect them. It’s not unusual for a hippo to appear in your headlights as you drive through town at night, or for an antelope to dash across the road.
The main drawcards of St Lucia are the various attractions of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park that surrounds it. There is a seemingly endless array of things to do in the various reserves and biospheres of this incredibly diverse area.
Look out for
Boat cruises are simply not to be missed, be they in the estuary or on the ocean. Chugging along up the estuary, with the afternoon sun keeping you warm and lighting the bush around you, is a wonderful experience. Birders and wildlife enthusiasts will find these especially interesting, but even those keen on just relaxing will enjoy them.
St Lucia is a very popular fishing destination, with both the estuary and the sea offering rewarding angling. It’s easiest and most productive from a boat - especially in the estuary - but one can fish from the shore too.
Turtle tours enable you to enjoy one of those very special experiences offered by nature. Along the coast, hundreds of leatherback and loggerhead turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs. Licensed tour operators will pick you up from your accommodation and take you to within metres of these prehistoric creatures. Only available in summer.
A kayak safari up the estuary allows you to get up close to various animals, including hippos and crocodiles.
Mountain biking tours around the village and into the wetlands are another way of enjoying the natural beauty surrounding St Lucia.
Horse riding allows you to explore the area surrounding St Lucia, and to get close to animals and birds.
Walking trails offer a different perspective of the bush, especially when you encounter some of the bigger game in the area.
A night drive through the iSimangaliso Wetland Park will open your eyes to a whole other side of nature. Bushbabies, chameleons, owls and hippos can be spotted. There is even the chance of a leopard sighting.