St Lucia South Africa


St. Lucia South Africa is a small town on the east coast and the base for the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. This is the largest wetland reserve in the world that even extends all the way to the border with Mozambique.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which is one of the reasons you should definitely check out the park.

It is best to do that from the water. This is the place where you are guaranteed to see land mammals such as hippos and crocodiles very close! If you stay in St. Lucia, there is even the possibility that you will see hippos walking through the village in the evening and night, or even stranger in the swimming pool of your hotel!

You also have a great chance here to see birds such as pelicans, giant herons and African ospreys. Rhinos, monkeys and giraffes are also found in the nature park just outside St. Lucia.


St. Lucia in South Africa is not that big, but it still has good facilities. Life mainly takes place in McKenzie Street, the main street of the village. On this street you will find tour operators, supermarket, a bank, a small market and gas station.

Restaurants everywhere

You can also find numerous restaurants here where you can get a good meal for a reasonable price. If you want a nice lunch or a drink while you might spot hippos, then the Ski Boat Club just outside the village is recommended. In the main street, Reef & Dune is a must. Although the service is quite slow, the food is really worth it. It is not recommended to walk around the street in the evening in places where it is poorly lit. Make sure you go by car for these parts or stay close to the center. In any case, paying by card in the evening is not recommended and only at the secured bank. If you still have to pay by card in the evening, there is an ATM from FNB at the Spar supermarket.

How safe St Lucia has actually changed all the time so ask when checking in what is currently recommended. If you stay in or near the main street, you can usually just walk home.

You can encounter the hippos throughout the village, even in the swimming pool of your hotel. Especially around evening and night, the animals go out to graze.

Hippos in St Lucia on the street in South Africa

Hippos have very poor vision, so make sure you keep an appropriate distance and never stand between the hippo and the water. If you come across a hippopotamus, you do well to immediately turn or turn around and not run towards him.

From St. Lucia you can take a boat trip on the St. Lucia Estuary, a much safer way to see hippos. You can also use the town as a base for the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and even the Hluhluwé National Park.

You will then leave on a tour early in the morning and return to St. Lucia by the end of the afternoon. This tour is especially nice if you don’t have your own transport and still want to spend a full day in the Hluhluwé National Park.

There is a fair amount of accommodation in and around St. Lucia, but as it is a popular spot, it is a good idea to book your overnight stays in advance. A nice and affordable self-catering accommodation is St Lucia Wilds.

The property is about 15 minutes walk from the center. Own transport is recommended for this accommodation.

Plan at least two days in St. Lucia while you are preparing. If you want you can easily spend a week there and see all the surrounding parks, beaches and sights.


There are several providers for a Hippo tour on the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. They usually leave at the end of the afternoon around 3:30 PM or in the morning. Afternoon is the best time to do the tour, because then you have a chance of beautiful light from the setting sun.

Please note that you must be present half an hour in advance for the tours to depart. The tour lasts approximately 2 hours with one of the boats sailing towards the sea across the St Lucia Estuary. Along the way you will make several stops to watch hippos and you will get an explanation about the hippos that live here.


Very impressive and special to see. Occasionally you are lucky enough to see a crocodile swim by, but when the weather is too cold they prefer to lie on the bank to keep warm.

When you go on the curve there are two different options. There is one large boat for about 50 people and there are several small boats for about 15 people.

Smaller boats

The smaller boats can more easily sail close to the banks and reach places where the large boat cannot reach. These tours also cost a bit more than on the big boat, but well worth the extra cost.

Make sure you bring a good zoom lens, a windproof jacket and possibly a warm sweater depending on what time of year you do this tour. On the small boat, coffee and tea is included in the tour. Obviously there is no toilet. But after the tour you are very close to St Lucia town.

Because the small boats can get so close to everything, there is a good chance that you will spot many birds. For example, close to the departure point you will find birds that build a nest for a female in the reeds that grow on the side.

The occasional flight of the different males and the building of the nest is special to see. It seems that things are not much different in the bird world than in ours. The male flies from place to place for seven consecutive days to build a nice nest for his future female.

When the male finds that the nest is finished, the female may come and inspect the nest. If she does not like the nest, she will demolish the entire nest until there is nothing left of it and the male can start again.

Boat cruise St Lucia

When you take a boat trip on the St. Lucia Estuary you of course hope that you will see hippos. Fortunately, in most cases you don’t have to worry about that. There are about 900 hippos and numerous crocodiles, so the chances are very good that you will see a number of them.

The hippos spend their day in groups in the water. They yawn a bit, they occasionally fight for their territory, roar a little and walk across the bottom of the water in search of food. May not sound that exciting but it certainly is.

You can book your tour with Heritage Tours and Safaris, which is well regarded on the internet and with which we have also had a good experience.

If you don’t like a boat trip, you can also drive with your own transport or with a tour through the St. Lucia Wetlands.


If you have your own transport you can drive from St. Lucia to the tip of the coast near the Ski Boat Club. For the more active, it is also possible to walk to the coast from the center of St. Lucia.

Just past the Ski Boat Club a short boardwalk starts which continues to the coast. This walk is only recommended during the day for safety reasons.

Just before the boardwalk starts you can buy some fun and unique souvenirs, such as carved hippos as they walk around there. You can walk all the way down the beach to an old shipwreck.


Want to visit St Lucia in South Africa with a guided tour? We offer a variety of tours in and trough the country. Learn more

We even can offer our Dutch friends a guided tour. Learn more

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