The ultimate Elephant Coast road trip
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
It takes three hours to get to St Lucia from Durban. If you are one of those travellers who love making a few pit stops 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” theses animals is on a boat cruise at Lake St Lucia. During the boat cruise, guides share their expertise and provide commentary on the workings of Africa’s largest estuarine system.
You are bound to see hippos but the crocodiles are quite mysterious. You are welcome to pack a picnic lunch to take on the boat. After lunch, check-in at one of the St Lucia hotels for the night. If you want, you can go on a 7pm night drive where you are likely to see the big 4: the elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino. Ask your hotel to recommend tour guides who offer this service.
St Lucia to Cape Vidal
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
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 Jozini Dam.
The lodge is also your best bet for a good dinner as there are not many restaurants in the town. Other activities to consider in the area include tiger fishing, kayaking, walking trails and horseback riding.
Jozini to Hluhluwe
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.