St. Lucia Estuary

Apart from all the rivers, there is another water bound adventure area in KwaZulu-Natal. Although no whitewater will be found there, the St. Lucia Estuary is one of those special places where outdoor enthusiasts can appreciate some of the best that Mother Nature offers.

Since World Heritage status was bestowed on this pristine area which includes 5 different eco-systems, Africa’s largest estuarine system is undergoing change. These changes include upgrading of roads, making the place more accessible.

MAP 42

A few options are available for paddlers. One is to paddle at the Honeymoon Bend islands, which is 1km up from the St. Lucia estuary mouth. Plenty of fish-eagles, mangrove kingfishers, crocodile and hippo sightings are guaranteed.

It is also possible to paddle at Catalina Bay, which is in the main lake about 15km up from the mouth. This area is where the zigzag narrows broaden out into the lake proper. The tour offers the chance to paddle towards the habitat of the flamingo and other wader species, and a short mid-paddle walk into the grasslands will be rewarded with sightings of waterbuck, kudu, wildebeest and zebra, amongst others. Elephants have also been introduced to the Catalina Bay area, and 4 species of the Big 5 are now found here.

Another location is at Lake Bhangazi, which nestles behind Cape Vidal and is a fresh water system fed by underground springs and the huge Mfabeni sedge swamps. Bird species from kingfishers to jacanas are plentiful and you may even see the rare samango monkey. Hippo’s and crocodiles also live in this lake.

Commercial trips at all the above locations are offered by St. Lucia Kayak Safaris, who have a sole concession to operate at these venues.

Being close to the sea, a paddle on the waves at Cape Vidal beach is another option. Vidal offers a protected bay, ideal for snorkelling and beginner surf paddling on the crystal clear water.

This river description is taken from my book “Run the Rivers of Southern Africa”.
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