Friday, 20 November 2015

Richards Bay - St Lucia

Hi everyone,
Today we drove north to the town of St Lucia.  The town is next to South Africa's first World Heritage listed site called iSimangaliso (Zulu for "place of miracle and wonder").

We explored the town in the late morning, having lunch at the Thyme Square cafe which had excellent food despite a rather twee ambience.  We attempted a walk on one of the nature trails but retreated after a hippo roared nearby in the bush - so much for their being nocturnal!  From there we drove to the beach, where at least you'd have a chance to see them coming.  We walked along the boardwalk where we saw hippos in the distance, plus a couple of crocs and a shark.  Absolutely, positively not a place for a swim!

Two crocodiles and one zambezi shark (look carefully!)
We had dessert at the Angling Club from where we had an even better view of the same hippos, crocs and shark.  Then it was time to head for the sunset jetty to join our 4pm boat tour on the lake.

The park includes large areas of lakes which are home to a huge variety of wildlife, including over 1000 crocodiles, 800 hippos, many sharks and a host of various bird species.  The lakes used to be open to the sea but the bar has not been breached for 15 years and the water level is gradually falling.

Yellow-Billed Stork
Great White Egret
Yellow Weavers and nests
Goliath Heron
Giant Kingfisher
Apparently hippos don't float, so in the photos below they're standing on the bottom.  It's said hippos can do 8 knots along the bottom underwater and 40kph ashore.  Surprisingly fast and agile, hippos kill over 3000 people each year.

Hippo and two crocs
Dozing Hippos
Hippos are nocturnal so our evening tour was a good time to see them.  Initially they were dozing in the shallows, only occasionally raising their heads to breathe.  Later they started to become more alert and wake with impressive yawns.

Wake-up time for a hippo
Big yawn - stay well clear!
Hippos go ashore - often alone - to feed at night.  They can travel up to 30km inshore.  Roadside and beachside signs make it clear one should be careful at night around here!

You are being watched
Sunset on the lake
Our hire car goes back tomorrow morning so we expect to stay in Richards Bay for the next few days.  If no weather window for sailing south appears next week we may get another car and explore some more.

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