Best Guided Walking Safari St.Lucia, iSimangaliso Wetlands

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Take a Guided Walking Safari in St. Lucia

There was a rustle in the bushes beside us – not just a gentle disturbance – a heavy clomping sound.  To my relief, whatever it was, trundled away with a heavy stumpy trot.  

Good job too, because the retreating galumphing sound wasn’t that of a hooved animal like an impala or a zebra.  It was a hippo – one of Africa’s most dangerous animals.

Fortunately, we hadn’t been between the hippo and the water — its escape route. When disturbed on land they head for the water. So, you should never be between a hippo and the water — that’s just asking for trouble.  

And that was just one of the many things we learnt on this guided walking safari in St. Lucia, South Africa — one of the many activities available in iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Safari and Surf guide, Sukhile Duba  with Lars on guided walking tour iSimangaliso wetlands
Our guided walking safari in St. Lucia iSimangaliso Wetlands
iSimangaliso wetlands and duck
There are plenty of lakes in the iSimangaliso Wetlands

iSimangaliso Wetlands Guided Walking Tour

We embarked on a guided walking safari in one of the most pristine environments of South Africa. Within the UNESCO-listed iSimangaliso Wetlands.

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a collection of natural ecosystems of over 1,200 square miles. It is situated around the main Lake St Lucia, where the ecosystem supports hippos, crocodiles, pelicans, and flamingos.

The park comprises coral reefs, long sandy beaches, coastal dunes, lake systems, swamps, and extensive reed and papyrus wetlands. One of its most famous natural spectacles includes nesting Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles.

In the grasslands around the lakes, grazers such as blue wildebeest, zebra, impala, and waterbuck roam.

🦛 Staying in St. Lucia, at the southern end of the wetlands, meant we were in just the right place to take this ⭐️ 5-star guided walk in iSimangaliso, run by Safari and Surf Wilderness Adventure.

Booking a tour with Safari and Surf means you have Free cancellation (Cancel up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund) and you can keep your plans flexible with a reserve now pay later option.

Impala and scenery of iSimangaliso Wetland Park on walking tour
Getting close to the bachelor impala group on the guided safari walk
iSimangaliso Wetlands scenery
iSimangaliso Wetlands – Eastern Shores

Quick Video Snippet of This Awesome Guided walking Tour

More on that hippo…

Once the stomping feet had retreated, and my adrenaline rush abated, our guide, Sakhile, didn’t take us off the path to investigate further because there was a possibility that it was a female hippo, possibly with a calf nearby. And we certainly didn’t want to get between her and her calf.

We learnt that female hippos behave differently depending on the sex of the baby they are having. The mother will move away from the herd if she realises that she is having a male baby.

Only later, introducing it to the rest of the hippo family after it is able to fend for itself. Whereas, if it is a female baby, the mother will remain with the herd.

Sakhile also explained how hippos like to rest their heads on the riverbank and prefer to be able to stand in the water. Below he demonstrates in his

Guide on St Lucia iSimangaliso walking tour
Sakhile demonstrates a hippo resting its head on the river bank and how it, therefore, prefers to be able to stand in the water to rest.

Entering iSimangaliso for our Guided Walk

Our walking travel safari tour began at 6 am.

Our guide, Sakhile Duba, of Safari and Surf Wilderness Adventures, met us at the carpark of the Crocodile Centre in St. Lucia, part of the iSimangaliso Wetlands Reserve.

From our campsite, Sugarloaf Camping, we’d passed three roadblocks. At the last one, we were told to pull our 4×4 bush camper off the road and were questioned about the carriage of alcohol. Our vehicle was then searched.

One of the strict rules for entrance to the park is that no alcohol can be taken in. One of the main destinations for many entering the park, is the beach at Cape Vidal, to the north of the Eastern Shores of iSimangaliso. The ban on alcohol was a strange concept for us coming from Australia, where everyone heads to the beach with a cold beer!

Not that it worried us because we aren’t drinkers, but it was interesting nonetheless.

With the obligatory car search in order, we parked and looked around for our guide, Sakhile, who would guide us on a two- and half-hour walking safari.

We would be learning not only about the wetlands but also getting an insight into the Zulu culture and that of the collective Ngoni people of South Africa.

6 White faced whistling ducks all in arow
White faces whistling ducks in iSimangaliso Wetlands

What to Expect on this St. Lucia Guided Walking Safari

The first thing to strike me was Sakhile’s smile. His face lit up and the warmth of his personality shone through. And during the morning, his knowledge, passion for the bush and his affinity with nature would impress us even more.

The first part of the walking tour began with some history of iSimangaliso Wetland Park and an orientation as to where we were in the park.

Sakhile would stop and point out any birds trying to join in on the conversation. His years of living in the bush came into play with his incredible recognition of and mimicking of bird calls.

As bird lovers trying to get a grip on the names of the birds, this was particularly helpful to us as there are 526 identified bird species in the wetlands.

bird watching on iSimangaliso walking tour
Bird watching on the guided safari
African jacana bird iSimangaliso wetlands
The African jacana delicately walks between the Lilly pads
Diederik cuckoo -a green and white mottled fathers - iSimangaliso wetlands bird watching
Diederik cuckoo – iSimangaliso wetlands

On several occasions, Sakhile would be mid-sentence when he would suddenly point out a tiny frog in the midst of a group of reeds or scoop his hand in the air and catch a locust to show us. Like a magician in the midst of the African bush.

The bigger game was easier to spot. We saw impala and zebra, hanging out together as is often the case. Helping each other spot the predators who might be on the lookout for a tasty takeaway.

But to be honest, apart from the blind hippo encounter, it was the little things that were so intriguing. The tiniest of animals that can really only be spotted whilst on foot.

Painted reed frog on a reed
Painted reed frog
Painted reed frog with yellow and black patterned skin clinging to a reed iSimangaliso
A guided walking safari allows you to see things you’d miss on a drive – like this tiny painted reed frog

We were never alone, having been joined by hundreds of grasshoppers. Brightly colourful insects with distinctive markings.

But, as Sakhile explained, although pretty, they were pests that ate crops and were a real pain for the people. He called them stinky grasshoppers – they apparently let off a stinky smell when threatened. All in all, he had no good words to say about the plethora of bright bugs jumping around our feet.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t resist taking photos — even though I felt I should really be shunning these pesky plunderers.

Elegant grasshopper in iSimangaliso wetlands with red, yellow and black skin and red and black striped antenna
The aptly named elegant grasshopper – a widespread pest that eats crops

To show us the local, and much more beneficial, locust, Sakhile, simply plucked one from the air – as I said, the magician of the bush.

He explained that these did not attack crops and made a great snack when roasted on a spit.

A common food in these parts for the Nguni people.

“This locust… is great threaded onto a stick and roasted.”  

Garden Locust iSimangaliso wetlands
The garden locust – a tasty treat!

On a guided safari walk there are 114 butterfly varieties to capture your attention, frogs so small you’d almost certainly miss them if you didn’t have a guide to point them out, and bugs of all shapes and sizes scurrying this way and that.

The macro world often remains unobserved by the 4×4 cars and tour guide trucks trundling by.

I don’t know about you, but I delight in finding out about the way nature works and in particular the symbiosis of how animals co-relate. And there are so many examples of this in the African Bus.

One that I was particularly intrigued by, and learnt about on our guided safari walk in St. Lucia, was that of the dung beetle.   

I already knew that the dung beetle carries away dung, burying it underground, but what I didn’t know was that it has its own personal team of groomers.

On the undersides, in the soft parts of the beetle, are tiny flies that feed on the beetle’s detritus keeping the beetle’s airways clear. These microcosms of nature are just incredible.

Dung beetle underside  with tiny flies cleaning it in the iSimangaliso Wetlands
The dung beetle has tiny flies cleaning its underside – if you look closely you can see that they also lay their eggs on the underside of the beetle
blue whire and brown Butterfly - blue pansy iSimangaliso wetlands walking tour
A blue pansy butterfly we spotted on our iSimangaliso wetlands walking tour

 From the animal world to the plants around us, we were treated to knowledge about the whole ecosystem’s functionality.

We passed reeds that are used to make mats, and the monkey apple (or monkey orange ) tree, which can not only be eaten when ripe, but locals carve pictures and shapes into them. The shapes remain when the shell hardens and make for a great item to sell to tourists.

Monkey apple with a rouhg outline of a rhino to show how the locals carve shapes in the fruit. - iSimangaliso wetlands
Sakhile shows us how the locals carve shapes in the fruit and then wait for it to harden

Don’t eat any of the unripe monkey fruit though. The unripe fruit contains strychnine and although locals use it as a tincture to cause vomiting if they have an upset stomach, I don’t suggest you try it.  

⭐️ Reserve your spot today (Pay later) or to find out more details on this Guided Walking Tour iSimangaliso Wetlands, CLICK HERE. | ⭐️ 5 Star ratings | ⏰ 2.5 hours

But don’t just take our word about how good this tour is – here are a few comments we found on Tripadvisor about this Safari and Surf Wilderness :

brown arrow

 “Our guide Sakhile was a delight and so informative. Even as South Africans, we’ve learned so much about the Nguni People. We really enjoyed his sense of humour and stories. “ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

— A Tripadvisor Reviewer, Sep 2022

Prompt response from the team – readily available to answer all your questions on their WhatsApp line. Was worried about the weather and they had already checked it when I enquired. Fantastic guide – Sakhile was very informative.” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

— A Tripadvisor Reviewer, Aug 2021

This is an experience you should not miss! If you want a safe walking safari to get close to the animals, this is the walk you should choose. A knowledgeable, professional, and personable guide … This is the company we will use in future for any activities in St Lucia.” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

— A Tripadvisor Reviewer, Nov 2019

Sakhile made our day! (Guided walking tour) … Not only that we learned a lot about nature, but we also learned so much about the culture and Africa’s history. … This was a really beautiful and special experience! Giabongo!” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

— A Tripadvisor Reviewer, Oct 2019

👉 More reviews and info

Zulu Culture

Sakhile is Zulu and is proud to share information about his and the Ngoni people’s culture — the four main groups of people in KwaZulu-Natal.

Watch this video with Sakhile explaining the four groups that make up the Nguni people and their language:

On the walk, we learnt so many interesting facts about the culture and also Sakhile’s personal stories of growing up in rural South Africa, minding cattle and of both his adventures and misadventures in the African bush.  

Some of the Zulu cultures are a world apart from what we are used to — paying a dowry in cows and sending good negotiators in your family to introduce yourself to a prospective wife’s family, springs to mind.

But what was markedly evident in the stories Sakhile told us, was the high regard for respectful behaviour in the Zulu culture.

Moreover, it was interesting to see that what is expected in one culture can be so improper in another.

For example, in the Zulu culture, it is disrespectful to look an elder in the eyes. The complete opposite of expectations in Europe for example, where it is considered rude not to look someone in the eyes when talking to them.

reeds to make matting
Locals use the reeds to make rope and mats

Zulu Words to Learn

Before we left Sakhile he gave us a list of words to use to help immerse ourselves just a little more into the local culture.

Zulu words to use while in South Africa are:

Note: how to pronounce the word is in bold and the actual spelling in italics.

  • Hello = sow -a bawna (sawubona)
  • Thank you = gee-a -bonga (ngiyabonga)
  • We thank you = see-a-bonga (sibonga)
  • Thank you very much = gee-a-bonga ka-koo-loo (Ngiyabonga kakhulu)
  • How are you? = un-ja -nee? (unjani)
  • I’m fine = n- gee-a-peela (ngiyaphila)
  • How much? = ma-leen-ee (malini)
  • Go well = hum-ba-gash-ay (hamba kahle)
  • Stay well = sala-gash-ay (hlala kahle)
  • Go = hum-ba (hamba)
  • Stop = ee-ma (ima)
  • Look = bokka (bheka)
  • Come here = wa-sa-la (woza alpha)

For more on Sakhile, including more information about the wetlands and Zulu culture – check out his YouTube Channel here.

brown and cream Butterfly -Novice or Amauris ochlea ochlea see on our Guided Walking Safari St.Lucia, iSimangaliso wetlands
A novice butterfly (or Amauris ochlea ochlea) in iSimangaliso wetlands

What to Bring on the St. Lucia Guided Walking Tour

The guided walk is at an easy pace — expect to stop and admire the wildlife at regular intervals. Bring your camera, and for those of you who love macro, this is an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the smaller residents of the park.

You will be walking in African scrub, so make sure you have comfortable, closed-in shoes and wear clothes that make you blend in with the landscape rather than bright colours that will scream your presence and scare away the wildlife you are there to observe.  

It may be hot, so wear a hat and sunscreen and I’d also recommend wearing bug spray to keep any little bitey things at bay. Be aware of ticks in the grass which may prompt you to wear long trousers.

What to bring Summary:

  • Comfortable shoes
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Neutral-coloured clothing – khaki and browns are great.
  • Camera
  • Binoculars

Guided Walking Safari St.Lucia … That’s A Wrap

There really is nothing quite like experiencing the African bush on foot.  And having an expert along makes the event that much more rewarding.

If you are staying in St. Lucia, don’t miss out on this tour to get up close and personal with iSimangaliso’s wildlife and for a unique chance to find out about the Zulu culture and way of life.

⭐️ Book this exceptionally rated Guided Walking Tour in St. Lucia here.  👣

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