This entry was posted on Monday, May 18th, 2015 at 10:06 am and is filed under Featured, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Parks, People, Poaching.

I had the fantastic opportunity recently to fly over Lake St Lucia and the coastline of iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the north-east coastline of South Africa.

I flew with the pilots from ZAPWing, which stands for Zululand Anti-Poaching Wing, and comprises a group of pilots funded both by government and private sector to patrol and survey the protected areas which contain white and black rhinos in northern KwaZulu-Natal. This region has the second-largest population of rhinos in the world, after Kruger National Park. ZAPWing also react to poaching incidents, and are critical in the region for effective control of rhino poachers.

It’s the third or fourth time I have flown with the ZAPWing, and I hope it’s not the last. Be sure to check out my upcoming article in Wild Magazine on the good work these guys are doing. Thank you to Lawrence Munro, Etienne Gerber and Wayne Cornhill for the opportunity and privilege.

ZAPWing fly over all of the protected areas in northern KwaZulu-Natal, and I’ve flown with them before over most of the reserves, but this time we flew over iSimangaliso Wetland Park, one of South Africa’s most beautiful protected areas, and one of the biggest (it’s over 300 000 hectares). It stretches from the town of St Lucia for about 250kms along the coast to Kosi Bay on the Mozambique border, and includes both terrestrial, fresh water and marine areas. Definitely one of my favourite protected areas. By some accounts, it has more species of animals per hectare than any other protected area in Southern Africa! A very diverse, biologically-rich place. No wonder it was South Africa’s first World Heritage Site.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

ZAPWing chopper pilot Etienne Gerber flying over Lake St Lucia

iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

The western shores of Lake St Lucia.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

The light for photography wasn’t great, but the reflections of clouds and colours on the water were pretty good.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Heading into the Ozabeni wilderness area

iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

My chopper pilot Wayne Cornhill…with Etienne below him.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Etienne Gerber turning flying over the forested dunes and heading north along the spectacular Indian Ocean coastline.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

These dunes were once earmarked for mining, but after a huge outcry by the public (including Nelson Mandela), a petition was presented to government, and this area was declared a World Heritage Site. Long may it last.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

A few years ago I was privileged to dive on the reefs of iSimangaliso’s marine exclusion zone…absolutely pristine reefs. To fly over this coastline is almost as good!

iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

The recent drought in the area has lowered the water of Lake St Lucia…they need lots of rain!

iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Heading south over Lake St Lucia, with clouds on the horizon.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Chopper pilot Wayne Cornhill heading back to the ZAPWing base…

iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Full of smiles. Pilot Etienne Gerber clearly enjoys his job! I guess anyone would!

Scott Ramsay of Love Wild Africa is a photographer and writer in protected areas, national parks and nature reserves in Africa.
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