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Long in the tooth: The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park SA

By Ed, 03/05/2010 - 04:11

Yesterday's slow pace is just a memory - a 4 hour drive from Durban is St Lucia estuary. We arrive at Amazulu lodge, put our bags into the room then sprint down the jetty for a boat trip. Davide is almost left behind when he rushes back to fetch the camera tripod.

The boat trip is well worth the journey. We soon see hippo nostrils peeking out from the river. Then shortly afterwards we cruise past an unnervingly fast crocodile - apparently the crocodile is not really pushing it, either.

Our captain and guide also introduces various species of bird, from the big (Goliath Stork, Giant Kingfisher) to the small (Yellow Weaver). But would you have expected to learn so much about Climbing Whelks? These little invertebrates climb up mangrove trees when it should be wet, then down onto the ground when it should be dry - but their timetable is not set by the rains. Instead, they know when to climb based on the gravitational pull of the moon. South Africa's shifting climate patterns will confuse these deaf and blind creatures, and their symbiotic relationship with the mangrove trees.

St Lucia is now listed as a world heritage site - 1 of 8 in South Africa. This recognition protects the estuary from the titanium oxide mining which is happening in neighbouring sites.

If you want your other senses to get involved, you can also hold a hippo tooth - this 1 is about 50cm. The largest measured hippo tooth was around 1 metre, so it's easy to see how hippos cause 60% of wildlife deaths in South Africa

On our return to the Amazulu lodge, I can see this is easily the best apartment I've ever stayed in. I feel a little guilty having seen some of the poverty on the drive here. I switch the television off of standby and browse the menu on the room's coffee table: I think I'll leave Lady Di's beauty salon for other guests.

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