• The iSimangaliso Wetland Park (“Park”) was listed as a World Heritage Site in December 1999. It was the anchor project of the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative (LSDI). The LSDI is a regional, cross-border initiative with Swaziland and Mozambique. Under the auspices of the LSDI, critical blockages to economic development were addressed. These included building new roads such as the developmental R22 and N2 upgrades, malaria reduction of over 90%, improvement in border posts and access, the identification of iSimangaliso as (a) the economic anchor project for South Africa and (b) as an important trans-frontier park with Mozambique. Presently, South Africa and Mozambique are jointly pursuing the listing of the first ever trans-frontier World Heritage Site, which spans iSimangaliso and Ponto-do-Ouro Special Reserve.
  • The region in which iSimangaliso is situated is one of the poorest regions in the country. It has a population of some 640 000 people, 80% of whom live below the poverty line. Unemployment is rife (above 40% and youth unemployment is around 80%). Only 15.3% of the economically active population is formally employed. There is a high dependence on social grants for survival.
  • iSimangaliso has been instrumental in turning around the tourism trajectory of the area. In 2000, the region’s tourism was in decline. Today, as a direct consequence of the improvements to infrastructure and day-visitor facilities, the Park accounts for some 7% of KwaZulu-Natal’s tourism GDP and the number of businesses around it has grown by some 89%. All of the privately-run tourism accommodation facilities in the Park have community-equity and nine activity licences are majority community-owned. In addition, iSimangaliso supports 215 black-owned small and medium enterprises.


  • The table below sets out some of iSimangaliso’s deliverables to date:
Programme Outcome
Regional Tourism Growth and Development The number of facilities in and around iSimangaliso has increased by some 89% since iSimangaliso was established in 2000. Tourism now accounts for over 8000 permanent direct jobs and contributes some 7% of KZN’s tourism GDP and 1% of South Africa’s.
Tourism Development There are three community-private-public tourism accommodation partnerships at present in iSimangaliso with local community equity ranging from 17% to 68%. In addition: (a) three more contracts are in process (b) one EIA is in process (c) one refurbishment is underway (d) 14 new opportunities are being scoped and (e) eleven existing sites have been earmarked for redevelopment. All of these are being redeveloped with mandatory community equity.  Currently, iSimangaliso also has nine community-owned activity projects including game drives, estuary cruises, turtle tours and charter fishing.

Tourism accommodation and activity opportunities in iSimangaliso are tendered on the basis that: (a) there is a minimum mandatory community equity participation of between 10% and 20% in accommodation facilities and (b) a proportion of licences is reserved for community owner/operators with equity participation upwards of 70%.

Revenue-sharing iSimangaliso has entered into co-management agreements with land claimants. It pays 8% of its gross commercial revenue to claimants each year in accordance with these agreements.
Rural Enterprise Programme iSimangaliso’s Rural Enterprise Programme has trained and mentored 215 entrepreneurs and currently supports 110 small businesses. The programme also makes provision for start-up grant funding. To date, R7.8m has been paid out to 106 businesses. Businesses range from tourism operators, Internet cafes, spaza shops and caterers to poultry producers and hairdressing salons.
Job Creation – temporary Temporary jobs are primarily created through iSimangaliso’s infrastructure and landcare programmes. In the last 16 years, iSimangaliso has created 166 503 temporary jobs – an average of 11 000 jobs for each year of iSimangaliso’s operations.

Contractors and workers receive accredited and non-accredited training in their respective fields.  For example, landcare contractors and workers are trained in alien identification, herbicide application and understanding labour guidelines, while infrastructure workers are trained in brick laying, steel fixing and carpentry.  Annually, between 1 400 to 1 900 infrastructure and landcare workers are trained.

Job Creation – permanent direct iSimangaliso outsources many of its functions to third party providers. These functions include facilities management, fence maintenance, security and day-to-day conservation management. Minimum targets are set for local community participation. The total employment related to these functions is 1 200.  Over 90% of these jobs are filled by local community members.
Tourism Skills Training iSimangaliso is implementing a tourism skills programme which is currently:

  • Training ten new guides in the National Certificate in Tourism: Guiding (NQF2)
  • Upgrading ten NQF Level 2 nature guides to NQF Level 4
  • Upskilling 40 existing guides through information workshops and seminars to improve the standard and quality of interpretation of the natural and cultural values of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park

This project is conducted in partnership with the national Department of Tourism.

Agricultural Gardens 14 gardens – aimed at improving food security and supporting sustainable agricultural practices – were established. New funding is being pursued because it has not been available for some years.
Community-based Natural Resource Harvesting Resource use in iSimangaliso includes grazing, rushes, reeds, ilala, isikhonkho and fish, amongst other.

For example, over 15 000 households who live within 15km of iSimangaliso use the natural resources of the Park extensively. Some 3 500 women harvest ncema each year and there are approximately 1 000 subsistence fishers in the Park. There is a joint iSimangaliso/DAFF process to register and verify fishers under the small-scale fisheries programme and to allocate rights within the parameters of the Park’s IMP.

Higher Education Access Programme iSimangaliso’s Higher Education Access Programme has a pass rate of approximately 81%.  The national average is in the mid 30%’s. Since 2010, the programme has supported 87 students in undergraduate and postgraduate studies related to conservation, tourism and park management. This includes conservation, tourism, finance, engineering and community development. To date, 48 students have graduated and a further ten are expected to graduate in 2017.

The programme also includes work-place experience. iSimangaliso is now exploring mechanisms for improving maths and science in regional schools in order to increase the number of students that qualify for tertiary study.

Internship Programme iSimangaliso has hosted and provided training/mentoring to 14 graduate interns over a two year period. All of the interns have secured permanent employment. Eight of these appointments have been into the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Craft Programme Approximately 200 crafters receive training and support in design, production, and distribution of craft. Product has been available at retail outlets such as Mr Price and select high-end outlets. All products are handmade and produced using raw materials from iSimangaliso such as ilala, incema and isikhonko.
Art Programme 50 local artists participated in iSimangaliso’s programme which ran from 2009 -2011.  Artists were trained in printmaking, painting, sculpture and the business of art.  A selection of the artworks is on permanent exhibition in the Presidential Suite of the Moses Mabhida stadium in KZN, as well as Dube Tradeport. Two commissions sold for R100 000 each to a private buyer.

A second group of artists will be taken in this year as iSimangaliso has received funding to continue the programme.

Public Access iSimangaliso runs a number of equitable access programmes for schools and communities. Over 70 000 people visit iSimangaliso on New Year’s day as part of its equitable access programme.
Schools Programmes iSimangaliso engages with between 40 and 70 local schools each year.  The Authority runs a school awards programme every two years, inviting schools to engage creatively with conservation through art, poems, stories, quizzes and songs, which are themed around the natural and cultural heritage of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Each year, the Authority also hosts an Environmental Education Programme, bringing schools into the Park for fieldtrips so that they can see, touch and feel the natural wonders of iSimangaliso.

Land Rehabilitation Some 16000ha of pine and gum plantations have been removed and approximately 20000ha of alien invasive plants are cleared annually.

iSimangaliso is currently implementing South Africa’s largest wetland rehabilitation project – the rehabilitation of the 350km2 Lake St Lucia, Africa’s largest estuarine lake. This estuary forms 60% of the country’s estuarine systems and is an important source of economic support for 80 000 people living within 15km of it. In addition, it supports the national line and prawn fisheries industries of KZN’s coastline.


Programme Outcome
Park and Infrastructure Development The infrastructure programme being rolled out by iSimangaliso provides the platform for regional tourism development.  Major arterials have been constructed as well as feeder routes that have the dual purpose of supporting tourism and assisting community-access to economic centres. The redevelopment of the south of the Park and uMkhuze section is all but complete, an EIA record of decision has been issued for the redevelopment of Sodwana Bay and local surrounds, while infrastructure plans are near complete for the northern sections of the Park. This progressive implementation was based on an assessment of returns to investment required by Treasury regulations.

450km of Big 5 fencing has been erected to protect communities from roaming animals and enable the introduction of historically occurring game species such as elephant, wild dog, rhino, cheetah, lion, buffalo etc.  These species are necessary to enhance: (a) ecological functioning and (b) the world heritage values, and to establish the region as a premier tourism destination.

Day-visitor facilities (hides, picnic sites, canopy walks, jetties, ablutions and beach facilities) have been constructed to enable the development of regional tourism. Over 70km of water reticulation systems and 300km of visitor roads have also been constructed along with park entrance complexes, craft markets and visitor centres.