Cyclone Irina breaks 10 yr drought at iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Indian Ocean beachesWe tour operators are often guilty of complaining when adverse weather affects our best-laid plans. We work extra hard to move people from affected areas and of course the clients themselves are inconvenienced.

But afterwards, especially in Africa, its time to reflect on the good that comes out of a sudden onslaught of rain. Recently this has been the case in KwaZulu Natal where the Tropical Cyclone Irina has broken a decade-long drought at iSimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly known as the St Lucia Wetlands Park). The iSimangaliso Wetland Park was South Africa’s first World Heritage Site, which includes 9% of the country’s coastline.

Dry pans on the eastern and western shores of Lake St Lucia have recharged and lake levels have risen significantly, and as winter approaches, this is great news for the area’s wildlife.

The uMfolozi River is now flowing strongly and no significant damage has been reported. The upshot is that the area has been revived with clean fresh water and the strong water flow has washed away much of the sediment which had built up over the years. Good news all round.

Now is a great time to visit the St Lucia area. You can stay at one of the charming guesthouses in the resort town of St Lucia such as KwaLucia or Serene Estate. From here you can both enjoy the lake with boat cruises on offer to view the wildlife on the lakeshore, relax on the Indian Ocean beaches or visit Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Wildlife Park which is just 40 minutes away by car.

Alternatively you can stay at one of the lakeside lodges further north such as Hluhluwe River Lodge just outside the town of Hluhluwe or Makakatana Bay Lodge which probably has the best spot of them all.

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Kate Bergh is co-founder of Cedarberg African Travel, a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa.

She heads up the South African office, having lived in South Africa since 1993. Her home looks up to the Cedarberg Mountains, where she enjoys hiking and cycling, when she’s not out discovering new places to visit, with her three children in tow. Kate has travelled extensively throughout the region to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as most areas of South Africa. She also loves history, meeting people and a good thriller...

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