Elephant Coast of KwaZulu Natal
Certainly one of South Africa’s most beautiful and well-preserved places, this narrow strip of land is approximately 200 kilometres long and 70 kilometres wide. It is home to an implausible 21 different eco-systems. An abundance of African elephants, game, fish and rare species of animals, birds, trees and plants live in an environment unchanged by time. The Elephant Coast provides the perfect mix of adventure, comfort and a unique experience of African elephants in unspoilt Africa. This place is relatively unknown to tourists but not to worry, it’s not difficult to find guides who know it like the back of their hands.
They call it the African Elephant Coast because it is home to South Africa’s largest herd of indigenous African elephants, living and foraging in the sand forests as they have done since the dawn of the continent. Impenetrable evergreen forests of towering fig trees stand in an abundant undergrowth of ferns and wild orchids hanging from the trees. The white sand of the undulating landscape is dotted with palm savannahs and thousands of wild date and lala palms. An exquisite scene plays home to myriads of beautiful birds where mountainous sand dunes are background to swamp forests with large raffias and tangled masses of greenery.
The Elephant Coast forms the north-east region of South Africa’s unique KwaZulu-Natal Province, stretching northward from Lake St Lucia (a world heritage site), to the borders of Swaziland and Mozambique. To the east the elephants’ habitat is bounded by the Indian Ocean, where mile after mile of glittering beaches are lapped by azure waters and creaming surf – this is where raw natural beauty teeming marine life meets lush sub-tropical vegetation.
The stretch of beach was named “Rio de la Medaos do Oura” by the first shipwrecked mariners. Translated from Portuguese to English this means River of the Dow’s of Gold. The survivors of the Portuguese Ship, Saint Benedict, were mesmerized by the majestic golden beaches embraced by ancient vegetated sand dunes on the west and the deep blue warm Indian Ocean in the east. 25 000 years ago the painstaking formation of 180-meter high vegetated sand dunes started which now tower over the exceptional coastline. A peaceful and tranquil place where merely taking a walk could change your life. The Elephant Coast is the only remaining coastline along the Southern Africa coast where the encroachment of humans is restricted to development behind the Coastal Dune Range.
By road it is only a comfortable few hours drive from the city of Durban, tourist hub of the province. Imagine viewing the Big Five, snorkelling or scuba-diving at one of the world’s most highly-rated dive sites, exploring the shores of South Africa’s largest fresh water lake and visiting a 180 000 year old archaeological site believed to be the cradle from which modern man evolved, all in one day! The elephant coast is the only place where this is possible.
The Elephant Coast is home to, among others, Tembe Elephant Park, Hluhluwe/iMfolozi Game Reserve and Elephants in the Coastal region of The Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park. But not only can you see elephants here, annual whale migration of the Humpback and Southern Right Whales takes place from July to December along the Elephant Coast. These monolithic creatures use these natural nurseries for mating or as a maternity ward for their young. The Elephant Coast is also host to the ancient sea turtles nesting along the beaches during the summer months. These living fossils provide for a life altering experience. And if that’s not enough, why not visit the crocodile centre at St. Lucia. With so much to do, so much to experience, the Elephant Coast is an experience that simply cannot be missed!