Africa’s largest estuarine system sustains an awe-inspiring ecosystem. Lake St Lucia owns a sense of place like no other – one of the most abundant, naturally-endowed and beautiful pieces of real estate on earth. If the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a miracle (which ‘iSimangaliso’ translates to from the Zulu) then the Lake is the heart that sustains that miracle. It is the focal point of the UNESCO World Heritage Listing and has been a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance since 1986. It is 80km long and 23km at its widest point.
Aside from the lake and dune ecosystems, the Park protects a marine zone of warm tropical seas, coral reefs and endless sandy beaches; the papyrus and reed wetland of the uMkhuze swamps, on the north of the lake; and, on the western shore, dry savannah and thornveld. Any one of these would justify conservation, but their confluence around the Lake St Lucia makes this a world-class wilderness.
More than 50% of all water birds in KwaZulu-Natal feed, roost and nest in this Estuary. Of the 155 fish species that have been recorded in the Lake St Lucia estuarine system, 71 species use Lake St Lucia as a nursery area – and at least 24 of these are important in marine line fisheries. More than 2 180 species of flowering plants have been documented here and it is home to many species of antelope such as waterbuck, reedbuck, kudu, nyala, impala and duiker.
Harvests of raw materials, particularly estuarine sedges, are estimated to be worth around R7,5 million a year. The contribution of the estuarine floodplain areas to livestock grazing is estimated at R3,6 million per year. Tourism provides an estimated 1 291 direct full-time equivalent jobs and 6,924 indirect jobs. It entices about 510,000 visitors per annum, of which 42% are foreign visitors, who spend R46 million on an estimated 157,000 tourism activities from local operators.
In the early ’90s, environmentalists and conservationists fought a hard battle to save Lake St Lucia’s shores from dune mining. More recently, the iSimangaliso Authority has embarked on the hydrological restoration of the wetland, removing 100 000m3 of dredge spoil (sand, silt and vegetation) that was placed in the natural course of the uMfolozi River to impede its flow into the Lake.
Article Courtesy Of www.isimangaliso.com/jewel/lake-st-lucia/