After our detour through Swaziland, we continued our trip around South Africa, heading to the coastal town of St Lucia, known mainly for the local hippo population.
We had heard stories of hippopotami wandering the streets of St Lucia, a herd that the locals call ‘townies’. Apparently, if you drive around at night you will see them on the verges of houses along some of the quieter streets. There are signs all around town warning you to watch out for them (as they can be dangerous). On three of the four nights we were here, Rob headed out after dark to drive around town looking for them, but to no avail. Do they really exist? We started to disbelieve all the reports.
The best and surefire way to see the hippos is from the water, on a cruise of the estuary. There are quite a few companies offering that service. We took a cruise with the Shoreline company, in a small 15 passenger boat that was able to get up close and personal with hippopotamuses that call this area home. They are an amazing sight, huge, lazily floating in the water, until you see them move, which can be aggressive as they agitate each other and get quite upset about it!
We also saw lots of birdlife and a big crocodile on the very informative cruise. We also liked that we could bring our own food and drinks, and sit back and relax on this low key cruise.
On the ocean side of town there is the Ski boat club. We had a relaxing drink here and something to eat in the beer garden.
This is the start of the pleasant boardwalk to the beach, as long as you take heed of a very prominent sign warning of crocodiles. We were very sure to keep to the path and follow instructions of keeping away from the water’s edge.
We spied some large crocs on the opposite bank of the estuary, though we were more excited about spotting a shark in the water. Just another reason to avoid going for a swim. The boardwalk took us to an expansive beach, with the tide far out it left a large area for the kids to play in.
Just out of town was a modern Zulu village, the Veyane Cultural Village or Khula Village. It was very quiet the day we visited, we had a personal guided walk around the village where people still live and work.
We saw how they live now and also were told stories about their culture and how life was before. We visited a witch doctor, but felt like she was not really into it and was just wanting a handout.
The tour included visiting a local cafe for some local food, we couldn’t tell you what we were served, but it was basically inedible. We think it was mostly offal! We hope we did not offend the cook by not eating it. Luckily they also served some doughnuts type things which we liked.
On our final day here we drove out to Cape Vidal, through iSimangaliso Wetland Park, just to the north along the coast from St Lucia.
It was a chance to see more animals in the wild, there were plenty of deer as usual, birdlife, and we also saw zebras. On the way, we stopped at Mission Rocks to play around and explore the rock pools.
There were a few other lookouts along the way. At Cape Vidal, we had to get past the cheeky monkeys at the car park, to get to a nice beach for swimming.
St Lucia is not a well-known place to visit in South Africa, but a very worthwhile destination, particularly to see hippos. Another South African animal experience to add to our list.