The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is located in South Africa, in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, in the Eastern part of the country, and is a vast protected zone, that covers an area of 3320 sq km and preserves 220 km of pristine coastline.
In reality, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a huge protected area that consists of 13 separate but contiguous conservation areas present on this stretch of coast; these areas have been unified under a single administration for a double reason: a better optimization of economic and management resourcesand a greater ability to make the park knownand to attract visitors.
At a provincial level, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is managed by the KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service, that works in synergy with the provincial administration, in compliance with provincial and state laws; in addition, the World Heritage Convention Act legally protects the iSimangaliso.
The history of the conservationof this territory began in 1895 when the first reserve of South Africa was established, after the request to open a titanium mine was rejected; the reserve was created precisely to protect the territory from potential subsequent attempts to exploit this pristine area.
The conservation project, that has been implemented here over the decades, has covered different aspects such as the preservation of water resources, so that they were not exploited by agriculture, that in turn is prohibited in the park and to which many lands have been stolen to bring them back to their original state, and the impediment to build roads and infrastructure and more.
The territory of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is not inhabited, except for 6 small towns and two villages, while about 100,000 people, belonging to 48 different tribes, live in villages that are immediately outside the boundaries of the iSimangaliso; conservation programs are the key to ensuring that nature-man conflicts are minimized and benefits are maximized, such as the use of these people in the management of the park itself or in related activities.
Tourism has contributed to increasing both direct and indirect jobs, it is estimated that 1,291 full-time employees are directly connected to tourism, while there are 6,924 jobs in related industries.
About 42% of visitors are foreigners, while the remainder are South Africans; tourism revenues are estimated to be around 46 million South African Rand, or approximately 2.8 million euros or 3.1 million US dollars.
The creation and maintenance of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a successful case history of conservation of a primitive territory and of ecosystems so important for the preservation of some plants and animals; a balance that, without the establishment of the iSimangaliso, would inevitably have been compromised.
Also in these respects the iSimangaliso Wetland Park was included in the List of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1999; on that occasion the then president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, pronounced the following words: “The iSimangaliso is the only place in the world where the oldest mammal (the rhino) and the largest land mammal (the elephant) share the ecosystem with the oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the largest marine mammal (the whale) "
Nelson Mandela's original speech is as follows: “The iSimangaliso must be the only place on the globe where the oldest land mammal (the rhino) and the world's biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale).