How to plan a trip to the Elephant Coast
The Elephant Coast, north of KwaZulu-Natal offers everything from game drives, boat cruises, historical adventures to many eateries. The coast stretches from St Lucia to Pongola, and home to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a world heritage site.
Here’s how to plan a trip to the Elephant Coast:
Durban to St Lucia
A pod of hippos at St Lucia. Picture: Clinton Moodley.
Start the journey early as it takes under three hours to get to St Lucia from Durban. If you are one of those travellers who love making a few pitstops along the way, enjoy a breakfast stop at one of the eateries in the Dolphin Coast.
St Lucia is home to the largest free-roaming population - including the hippo and Nile crocodile - in South Africa. The best way to “experience” them is a boat cruise at Lake St Lucia, where guides share their expertise and provide commentary on the workings of Africa’s largest estuarine system. Of course, the hippos love to put a show. But you have to keep an eye out for the crocodiles.
For a late lunch, head to Reef and Dune, which serves everything from pasta, ribs, pizzas and steaks. The restaurant has free wifi and is the ideal spot to chill before the next leg of your journey.
After lunch, take some time to relax at the hotel before a 7 pm night drive. During these drives, you are likely to see the big 4: the elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino.
Heritage Tours and Safari pick guests from their hotel in St Lucia, or you can meet at the offices at 57 Mckenzie Street.
St Lucia to Cape Vidal
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It may be hard to leave Cape Vidal once you visit. The picturesque town is about 30 kilometres north of St Lucia.
The town is famed for its beaches and wildlife sightings. Travellers to Cape Vidal usually visit during the migrations of the humpback whales and the loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles that come to the beaches north of Cape Vidal from November to February to nest.
For those who don’t feel like lazing around, you can try your hand at surf fishing or take tranquil walks at the beach at sunrise or sunset.
According to the KZN Wildlife website, Cape Vidal is home to the wreck of the wooden barque Dorothea that struck the reef during a storm in 1898. “Artefacts from the wreck including a massive piece of chain that lies on the reef and a steel mast tube lying against the inner, shallow part of the reef,” the site reveals.
Cape Vidal to Jozini
Cruise along Jozini Dam. Picture: Clinton Moodley.
After a morning swim, check out of your hotel and drive to Jozini. It takes around 2 hours to get from Cape Vidal to Jozini. Jozini Tiger Lodge is famed for its spa and boat cruises along the charming Jozini Dam.
The lodge is also your best bet for a good dinner as there are not many restaurants in the town. Jozini Tiger Lodge does a good job with their breakfast and dinner buffet.The menu changes every day with a few exceptions.
Other activities to consider in the area include tiger fishing, kayaking, walking trails and horseback riding.
Jozini to Hluhluwe
False Bay Park holds daily walks for travellers. Picture: Clinton Moodley.
Hluhluwe is the last leg of your trip and one of the places that offer many activities, eateries and accommodation.
It takes an hour and a half to get from Jozini to Hluhluwe. Known for Big 5 sightings, Hluhluwe, situated between iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park on the banks of the Hluhluwe River, is the ideal place to relax and take in nature.
Go for a game drive at Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park, known as the oldest proclaimed natural park in Africa. It consists of 96,000 hectares of wildlife, plants and birdlife. Also, consider a trip to False Bay Park for an afternoon forest walk. A guide will provide an insightful talk about Africa’s largest estuarine system and the animals that live in it.
Travellers need two or three days to explore in Hluhluwe.
Places to stay:
Please note that these are suggestions.
Anew Hotel Hluhluwe & Safaris: Located at 104 Main Road, Hluhluwe, KwaZulu-Natal. Call 035 562 4000 or email [email protected]
Hluhluwe River Lodge: Located at Sub 21 of lot h104, Hluhluwe. Call 035 562 0246
Jozini Tiger Lodge: Located at Main Rd, Nsimbane, Jozini. Call 035 572 1020
Jozini Guesthouse: Located at 47 Ingang Street, Jozini. Call 079 501 1711.
Elephant Lake Hotel: Located at 3 Mulllet Street, St Lucia Estuary, St Lucia. Call 035 590 1001.
Kingfisher Lodge: Located at 187 Mckenzie St, St Lucia. Call 035 590 1015.
St. Lucia Tours and Charters for boat cruise: Call 035 590 1259
Reef and Dune restaurant: Located at Mckenzie St, St Lucia. Call 035 590 1048
Night game drive in St Lucia: Heritage Tours and Safari at 57 Mckenzie Street. Call 035 590 1555.
Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park: Call 033 845 1999
iSimangaliso Wetland Park: Call 035 590 1633/1602 or e-mail: [email protected]