"Miracles and Wonder"
North Coast, KwaZulu-Natal
iSimangaliso is a Zulu word that means “miracle and wonder”, a name that aptly describes the pristine and intricate ecosystems of this World Heritage Site.
This 10 700 km2 MPA is home to coelacanths, fish that have been around since the dinosaurs. The original Maputaland and St Lucia MPAs were proclaimed in the 1970’s to protect the nesting grounds of leatherback and loggerhead turtles and the beautiful coral reefs enjoyed by thousands of local and international scuba divers. The offshore expansion was proclaimed in 2019, which protects the homes of the most accessible coelacanth population on the planet. Thirty three individual coelacanths, each recognised by their distinct spot patterns, live in this MPA. Whale sharks, manta rays, marlin, broadbill swordfish, thresher sharks and even giant sawsharks visit the deep canyons. These areas (40 to 2200 m) are home to dense fields of seapens, soft corals adapted to living in mud and sand, bands of delicate birdsnest glass sponges and rocky cliffs with giant branching sponges that cascade down steep walls. The deep soft sediment provides homes for spider crabs and deep water rock lobsters, species that are caught by fishermen south of the MPA and in Mozambique.