Saved from dune mining, the 332 000 hectare iSimangaliso Wetland Park was listed for its outstanding natural values as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1999. The iSimangaliso Authority was set up to manage the Park, created from 16 different parcels of land – a patchwork of state-owned land, commercial forests and former military sites.
These natural values are exceptional biodiversity, ecological processes and superlative scenic beauty – the sense of place that roused public opinion against mining. iSimangaliso also contains four wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
iSimangaliso has 220km of coastline, bringing together five major ecosystems and ten unique destinations: Maphelane, Lake St Lucia, Cape Vidal and the Eastern Shores, Charters Creek and the Western Shores, False Bay, Sodwana Bay, uMkhuze, Lake Sibaya, Coastal Forest and Kosi Bay.
Park establishment programs have seen the removal of some 12 000ha of alien plants and commercial forests. Wetland and dune rehabilitation programs, the introduction of game, the building of new roads, game fences, new water supply and bulk electricity supply systems and substations have all contributed to building the new Park.
The all-weather 'Lubombo Road' (R22) – linked to the N2 from Durban – from Hluhluwe to the Mozambique border, via Kosi Bay has created an easy route for tourists and improved community access. Close co-operation between the Mozambican, Swazi and South African governments has almost entirely removed the threat of malaria from the area.
The visa waiver agreement between South Africa and Mozambique, effective since April 2005, has eased access into the region.