A premier global beach and bush destination ...
The eastern shores region around Cape Vidal is considered to be the most popular part of the iSimangaliso park, incorporating several game-viewing roads and lookout points as well as the popular campsite at Cape Vidal beach.
The almost 90 km of game drives offer close-up encounters to the varied habitats of the animals and birds living in the coastal dune forests, dunes, grassland, lakes and pans. Included along these routes are lookout points with panoramic views over the landscape.
Popular beach destinations can be found at Cape Vidal and Mission Rocks. Controlled by the Natal Parks Board, this reserve occupies the strip of land between Lake St Lucia and the sea up as far north as Sodwana Bay (about 13 000ha), and the gravel road to Cape Vidal passes through it. The road is packed with stones to prevent subsidence caused by the water elevation in the region and, heading north beyond the Crocodile Centre, you are soon bouncing along between pine grasslands and plantations that are teeming with reedbuck.
There are numerous freshwater pans in the reserve due to the height of the water table and the fact that the ground is below sea level. Here waterfowl flock in profusion, animals come to drink and crocodiles love to breed. The Natal Parks Board can be contacted about guided tours as they are not easily spotted from the road.
The forested areas are a continual source of contention. Conservationists claim that the hectares of towering exotics reduce the fresh water available to the lake and threaten the wetlands. The timber producers, on the other hand, claim the trees are preventing dune erosion and that indigenous plants do flourish as forest undergrowth.
The self-guided Mziki Trail provides a challenging alternative. This starts out from Mission Rocks outpost (14 km from the village), and can keep hikers busy for up to three days, transversing the reserve through a remarkable variety of habitats – from grassland to dense forest, to seashores and even along hippo paths.
Dunes and rocks
Mount Tabor base camp provides overnight accommodation in a Royal Air Force observation camp from the Second World War. Views of Catalina Bay can be seen along the narrow dirt road to Mission Rocks, where there are more wartime memories as this was the fold lying boats harbour. Picnic sites have been laid out beside the parking area at Mission Rocks, and within a few steps away, green dunes collide with tumbling rocks that become a fascinating marine shelf when the tide recedes.
The energetic can clamber south to Perriers Rock, or north at low tide, to Bats Cave. This huge grotto is wall-to-wall with migratory fruit bats, one of the last few nesting colonies in South Africa.
Cape Vidal is a wealthy coastal woodland treasure on the shores of Lake Bhangazi. It is a delight with its rocky outcrops, shallow pools for snorkeling, untouched shorelines for exploring the interesting wetlands and fame for sport fishing.
It is a gateway to both the aquatic creatures of the Indian Ocean coast and to the wildlife of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park with an abundance of antelope, buffalo, crocodiles, elephants, hippos as well as dolphin, marlin, migrating humpback whales on their way to calve in the hot waters off the Mozambique coast, and the loggerheads and leather back turtles in the summertime as they head onto the coastline to lay their eggs.
The sea appears bluer and the sand whiter than further south, and a reef-sheltered beach allows fairly safe bathing and excellent snorkeling.
Cape Vidal is rich in bird life, and strolling through the dune forest is likely to bring you in sight of bushbuck, bushpig, samango and vervet monkeys, and red duiker.
The St Lucia Wilderness Trail starts at Cape Vidal, and for three days a ranger leads a small group through a wilderness area where you can spot big game and magnificent bird life.
Less arduous is the self-guided Mvubu Trail, which, in a few hours, takes in the freshwater Bhangazi Lake and follows hippo paths through the forest.
Cape Vidal is a malaria area and Precautions should be taken.
North of Cape Vidal and beyond Leven Point, is a marine sanctuary area where vehicles are allowed access but no stopping, fishing or boating is permitted.
01 October -31 March 05h00-19h00
01 April - 31 September 06h00-18h00
iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority
The Dredger Harbour
Private Bag X05
St Lucia 3936
Tel: +27 35 590 1633
Fax: +27 35 590 1602
24 Hour emergency hotline: +27 82 797 7944