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The park was proclaimed a world heritage site because of the rich biodiversity, unique ecosystems and natural beauty occurring in a relatively small area. The 332 000 hectare Park contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, 700 year old fishing traditions, most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuarine system, 526 bird species and 25 000 year-old coastal dunes – among the highest in the world.

iSimangaliso Wetland ParkiSimangaliso Wetland Park (previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park) is situated on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, about 275 kilometres north of Durban. It is South Africa’s third-largest protected area, spanning 280 km of coastline, from the Mozambican border in the north to Mapelane south of the Lake St. Lucia estuary, and made up of around 3,280 km² of natural ecosystems, managed by the iSimangaliso Authority. The park includes: The park was previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, but was renamed effective from 1 November 2007. The word isimangaliso means “miracle” in Zulu. The Park is due to be integrated into a transfrontier park, the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay Transfrontier Conservation Area, straddling South Africa, Mozambique, and Swaziland. This is in turn planned to become a part of the greater Greater Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area. Until 1875, the bay has been a proud home of the Tsonga people and their primitive fishkraals. The Tsonga people have lived here for more than 800 years. Records from early Portuguese sailors rightfully point out this area to be occupied by the Tsonga people and further down south. The Tsonga people were forcefully removed from the park when Britain colonised the area in 1875. Despite colonisation and annexation of land, the Tsonga people still lives in the northern part of the park, at Kosi Bay. The Tembe Elephant Park, run by chief Israel Tembe, is a living history that testify to the rich Tsonga history of this wetland park. Chief Israel Tembe is the custodian of this ancient Tsonga land that was taken away during colonisation. The Tembe kingdom, one of the most powerful kingdom in Southern Africa before colonisation, was a ruling class for more than 8 centuries. St. Lucia was first named in 1554 as “Rio de la Medaos do Oura” (“River of the Dows of Gold”) by the survivors of the Portuguese ship Saint Benedict. At this stage, only the Tugela River mouth was known as St. Lucia. Later, in 1575, the Tugela River was named Tugela. On 13 December 1575, the day of the feast of Saint Lucy, Manuel Peresterello renamed the mouth area to Santa Lucia. In 1822, St. Lucia was proclaimed by the British as a township. In 1895, St. Lucia Game Reserve, 30 km north of the town was proclaimed. In 1971, St. Lucia Lake and the turtle beaches and coral reefs of Maputaland have been listed by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention). In December 1999, the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site at an unveiling ceremony, where Nelson Mandela was the guest of honour. The park was proclaimed a world heritage site because of the rich biodiversity, unique ecosystems and natural beauty occurring in a relatively small area. The reason for the huge diversity in fauna and flora is the great variety of different ecosystems on the park, ranging from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannas, and wetlands.

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