Hippo's St Lucia EstuaryAfter Cape Vidal we head to St Lucia Estuary to camp at the Sugar Loaf site also one of the iSimangoliso facilities in Zululand South Africa. This camp site is very different to the Cape Vidal site in that it is located at the estuary in high coastal forest so is a lot wetter with a high moisture content so be carefully working on electronic devices in the evening.

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There is a lot of wild life here though not as tame as the Cape Vidal mammals but still good sightings of Red Duiker, Bushbuck (females mainly), Vervet and Somango monkeys, including many bird species. The vervet monkeys are just as naughty here as in Cape Vidal so again keep you food locked up in your car or trailer not in your tents as they will tear through them to get to it! Somango monkeys are rare here as well and the ring tailed Mongoose so you have less to worry about as far as food defense goes.

There are a variety of birds and at night you will hear a lot more noises from birds and of course the resident Hippo that you can observe up closely from the walkway at the entrance of the camp site. Good times to go down and photograph them are in the evening 2 hours before sunset when you have really nice soft light. The Hippos start getting active after sleeping most of the day and are now often getting out of the water to bathe in the last few rays of sunshine to warm up for the evenings grazing on the banks of the river.

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Treat yourself to a trip down the river booking at one of many of the tour operators to get up close and personal with all the activity on the St Lucia lake. There are plenty crocodiles and Hippo, which the operators take you to within a few meters of with no sign of irritation displayed by them as they have become so used to all the boats and tourist noise, which I found annoying including the skipper describing in detail the animal/bird you are observing close to a group of sleeping hippo!

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The skipper commentaries are generally good though and give you a lot of detailed information out the ecosystem in general identifying birds, trees and anything else interesting about the lake itself so very educational! This is also a photographers delight as you get up really close to most of the species in the region including fish eagles, which also seemed to have become accustomed to the boats on the river sometimes following them hoping they will exposé some tasty morsal while their props churn through the lakes waters. Check the video out we have created thanks to Advantage Hippo tours.

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Again look in between the big stuff and focus on the smaller details around you. This region is very moist and humid so you find plenty insects, butterflies, flowers and interesting trees. Remember your macro lens, tripod and shutter release for these tricky depth of field shots that make all the difference.

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Make sure you join the Rhino club and get your discounts out of season, which are well worth it often giving discounts up to 40% on the Rhino gold card at selecting reserves, boat trips etc. see http://www.rhinoclub.blog site for more details.

ARP Rating : ***** (40/40)

Overall I give St Lucia a high African Rhythm lifestyle rating as you can satisfy just about all your requirements in one week for the month. Let’s start with Social 5 (great to take friends with and camp in the large camping sites they have); Financial 5 (rates are low R85 in season and 40% off out season when on special); family 5 (great to take the whole family with for fishing, great beaches and generally safe for kids to run around even through they’d do warn you this is a game reserve and there are wild animals!); spiritual 5 (there is not much night life here besides restaurants so you are able to spend most of your time evaluating your life etc. and spending quality time on your own, meditation etc.); Intellectual 5 (there is so much to learn in this region and you have a variety of tours to select from to observe and learn from nature besides the many day hikes you can do from various points in the village); health 5 (there is so much outdoor activity here from cycling to walking along the huge wide beaches and forest walks including some great surf and kiteboarding etc.) Overall St Lucia gets full marks for offering a complete lifestyle solution if you spend one week there! Accommodation 4 (-1 for the electricity) top class plus the are also rondavels for the not so happy campers.; ECO Footprint – 5 – as this reserve is near StLucia and is not From Durban it is quite easy to get there and you do not need a 4×4 to get there.

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