The Eastern Shore of the St Lucia Lake and Cape Vidal are the most visited areas of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, in South Africa, and the reason is simple: this part of the park is wonderful and is also easily accessible and is close to the town of St Lucia.
Here animals abound, both on land and in the water, it is a real paradise for lovers of safaris, birdwatching and animals in general.
The waters that face the Eastern Shore abound with life, here are dolphins, turtles, whales, whale sharks, marlins and sailfishes of the Pacific; in the months from June to November it is possible to spot humpback whales and Southern right whales, while from November to March you can see Leatherback turtles and Loggerhead turtles laying eggs on deserted beaches.
In the waters opposite Cape Vidal there is a barrier, of rock of coral origin, that protects the coast from the powerful ocean waves; the beaches are immense and deserted and are perfect for a walk or a picnic or to try to spot whales, that pass through these waters.
The name of Cape Vidal derives from the name of Captain Alexander Thomas Emeric Vidal of the British Royal Navy, who had been commissioned to map this African coast in the 1820.
Recently in this area two submerged barges have helped to develop an artificial coral reef, with the result that there are now 329 species of fish and a new species has recently been discovered: the Cirripectes heemstorum (yellowtail blenny), that belongs to the slobber family.
Also in the waters in front of Cape Vidal is the wreck of the Dorotea, a ship that transported gold and ran aground on the coral reef in 1898 and sank; its exact location has not yet been identified but some of its cargo has been sighted several times.
Cape Vidal is the perfect place to swim, snorkel and fish; the bay is protected by the coral reef that, during low tide, is completely emerged, creating a series of rocky natural pools perfect for snorkeling.
The Eastern Shore offers several opportunities for spotting animals, with both day and night game drives, and birdwatching can be practiced; while in the ocean waters it is possible to practice water skiing, fishing, swimming, snorkelling, but it is advisable to snorkel only when there is low tide, besides you can see whales or turtles, based on the time of year.
This part of the park is extraordinary not only for the presence of many species of animals, but also for the spectacular landscapes.
The animals that can be spotted on a safari on the Eastern Shore are rhinos, buffaloes, leopards, various species of antelope, hippos, Sykes'Monkeys or Samango Monkeys, Vervet Monkeys, spotted hyenas and many others; there are also several species of birds.
On the Eastern Shore there are some paths, that can be traveled by car, to explore the park and look for animals: each path has its own specific characteristic that is also recognizable by the name of the loop itself; the main road, that runs parallel to the coast, starts from the Bhangazi Gate and ends at Cape Vidal.
The Eastern Shore trails at the Isimangaliso Wetlands Park:
Vlei Loop: located on the right, going up North, it is a dirt path that runs parallel to the main road.
This loop is 5 km long and crosses a very beautiful area where there are few cars, so the animals are less disturbed and it is easier to see them; here there are rhinos, buffaloes and other herbivores, such as, for example, antelopes; when there is water it is possible to spot hippos at the pools.
Here there are also many birds, especially birds of prey and typical forest species.
Pan Loop: this route heads towards the St Lucia Lake and the pans found in this area; depending on the period of the year, the pans are full of water or dry and the number and type of animals that can be found here depends on this.
Dune Loop: this path takes a semicircle around the vegetated dunes that are located near the ocean coast; they are very interesting to observe, moreover also here live different animals and the landscapes are splendid.
Forest Loop: this is the most recent route, it was only opened in 2017, and allows to explore the small portion of forest that is found on the Eastern Shore.
Grassland Loop: this semi-circular path is the longest of this side of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and it first runs along the Southern shore of the Bhangazi Lake, where the Bhangazi Lookout is also located, to then penetrate a swamp forest and continue to the area where are the red dunes, Ezibomvini.
Mission Rocks: this road leads to the Mission Rocks Lookout, from which there is a view of the Indian Ocean and its surroundings, to a picnic area where you can take a break and, of course, to the Mission Rock sbeach where there are several rock formations on which the waves of the ocean break with all their impetus.
Catalina Bay: not a real path, but rather a detour from the main road, that leads to this lookout and picnic area overlooking the St Lucia Lake; a perfect place to enjoy relaxation, sight of crocodiles, hippos and water birds; it is also one of the best places in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park from which to watch the sunset.