The Elephant Coast is a famous safari destination known for unique and unforgettable travel experiences – thanks to its incredible ecosystems and diverse natural habitats. Its spectacular wilderness regions offer an incredible blend of outstanding birdwatching and game viewing opportunities. This beautiful world of wilderness has its name drawn from the highest concentration of elephants in South Africa, whose routes can be traced from this very region. Here is everything to know when visiting South Africa’s Elephant Coast.
Visiting the Elephant Coast
Located in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa's Elephant Coast stretches from Lake St Lucia, a world heritage site, to Kosi Bay, along the border of Mozambique. It is a remote location parked with beautiful nature reserves and beaches, with a handful of accommodation spots to suit every traveler’s need. The Elephant Coast includes the Lubombo Mountains located in the west as well as Africa’s oldest game park, Hluhluwe-imfolozi Reserve, home to incredible wildlife, including the Big Five. The region features spectacular dunes, coral reefs, rocky shores, woodlands, savanna grassland, and coastal forests. It is a home to iSimangaliso Wetland Park, the largest protected wetland in Southern Africa – no wonder it is known to be the perfect spot for exploring pristine and natural areas in the Zulu Kingdom.
Things to Do in the Elephant Coast
Visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Nestled between the Indian Ocean and a series of lakes, South Africa's largest wetland protected as a UNESCO Heritage site has a lot to offer to travelers. iSimangaliso Wetland Park is home to top attractive beaches in the country, forests, wetlands, and beautiful lakes, including the largest estuary in Africa, Lake St Lucia. The park is huge, but taking time to explore this beautiful environment would be an experience like no other.
There are plenty of accommodation spaces at iSimangalo Wetland Park, and bookings must be done with 48 hours' notice at the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
Hluhluwe village, located in the east of South Africa is home to Dingiswayo and Shaka, Zulu kings, the first rulers behind the establishment of the Hluhluwe and Umfolozi Game Reserves in 1895. It is believed that these kings came up with the very first laws of conservation in South Africa. The main attraction here is, of course, the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve popular for the rescue of the white rhino from being distinct. The game reserve has incredibly diverse wildlife and plants thriving in its ecosystems. Guided safari walks through the park’s trails offer a natural experience to remember.
- Hours of operation: 5:00 am to 7:00 pm between November to February, and 6:00 am to 6:00 pm between March to October.
- Cost of Entrance: R210 adult, R105 children
Kosi Bay is situated on the iSimangalo’s northern edge and is home to South Africa’s most breathtaking white sandy beaches. This is the only spot in the whole country where five mangrove species thrive. It comprises 8 lakes (6 large and 2 small) and is among the best-preserved estuaries on the coastline of the Indian Ocean. The lake system's location of this Bay is a part of the St Lucia Wetland Park. Also, diverse species of birds, fish, hippos, crocodiles, and other aquatic fauna call this place home. The Humpback whales migrate from here towards Mozambique – an annual event that allows travelers to enjoy sightings of these wonderful creatures.
Sodwana Bay is a popular safari destination for both locals and international travelers and is nestled between unspoiled sands and dense forests. Visitors can explore the 5-kilometer Mbogozeleni Trail, a famous route with beautiful grassland and coastal forest. The spectacular views of the diverse underwater life in Sodwana Bay make it a perfect spot for scuba diving. Other popular activities include fishing, swimming, and guided tour walks.
- Hours of Operation: 24 hours
- Price: adult R42, child R36
Tembe Elephant Park
This park houses about 230 big tusker elephants, the largest on earth. The Tembe Tribe owns the Tembe Elephant Park, which is located near Kosi Bay. Other than giant elephants, this park is home to over 300 species of birds and other Big Five animals – Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, and Rhino.
- Access: The Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, which manages the park, only allows 4WD vehicles to have access to the park.
- Cost of Entrance: R50 adults R25 children
- Hours of Operation: 6:00 am to 6:00 pm
Visitors who stay at nearby lodges can have the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife staff pick them up from the entrance gate, and from there they can arrange for daily game drives to have an experience of a lifetime.
Where to Stay
Zululand Lodge, Hluhluwe
Situated just outside Hluhluwe, in the ukuwela Wildlife Conservancy, Zululand lodge provides a tented, ensuite accommodation, with incredible opportunities for wildlife viewing and birdwatching. From this lodge, travelers can easily explore the Elephant Coat, with access to iSimangalo Wetland Park, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, and St Lucia coastal town. This lodge can accommodate up to 18 travelers.
Kosi Forest Lodge
This beautiful lodge is nestled in a magical land of lakes, forests, and where the only fruit-eating vulture is found on earth – iSimangaliso Heritage Park. Lying on the edge of a beach and a river delta, this 16-bed lodge allows for the most spectacular safari experience of the Elephant Coat. The shade of the forests and the feel of the white sands gives peace of mind and an incredible opportunity to connect with nature at its best.
Ubizane Tree Lodge, Huhluwe
Ubizane Tree Lodge is located in the middle of the wilderness at Ubizane Wildlife Reserve and offers the most incredible wildlife experience. The peacefulness and quietness of the forests surrounding this lodge are what every visitor needs for relaxation. There is a private viewing point, from where the travelers can enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding, including the Mzinene River.
Hluhluwe River Lodge, Hluhluwe
This lodge provides spectacular views of Lake St Lucia as well as a great safari experience for travelers exploring wildlife attractions on the Elephant Coast. Visitors can engage in self-guided walking as well as mountain biking along the trails for a breathtaking view of the beautiful scenery surrounding the environment.
- Opening Hours: 1:00 pm to 10:00 pm
The beauty of Elephant Coast's surroundings – the beaches, lakes, wildlife, and incredible accommodation is a unique safari experience that every traveler should explore at least once in their lifetime.