South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal)
The Kosi Bay Nature Reserve lies on the coast in the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal and surrounds the unique and beautiful Kosi Bay lake system which is part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site. This system consists of four lakes and a series of inter-connecting channels which eventually drain, via a sandy estuary, into the Indian Ocean.
The closest town is Manguzi, some 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) away from it. Kosi Bay estuary is only 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the Mozambique border. It is possible to walk from the estuary to Ponta do Ouro in only an hour or so. It is one of the quietest beaches in South Africa.The Kosi River Mouth is known as “the aquarium” because of the clarity of the water and the abundance of fish species.
Bird species in the area include the Palm-nut Vulture, Pel’s Fishing Owl, White-backed Night-heron, and kingfishers. It is also home to a large variety of animals including hippos and crocs. Humpback whales can be seen off the beaches on their northerly migration to calve in Mozambique. In December and January, loggerhead and leatherback turtles come onto the beaches to lay their eggs in carefully prepared nests. Proclaimed in 1950 and extended in 1984, this is the most pristine lake system on the South African Coast.
The Kosi Palm has the largest leaf of any plant in the plant kingdom. Endemic species include the Kosi cycad, Kosi Fern and cycads. It is one of very few places on Earth where 5 different species of Mangrove trees are found in one area. Kosi Bay is particularly famous for the traditional fish traps built to trap fish moving in and out of the estuary with the tide.
The Bay is noted for its aggressive Bull shark population, also known as Zambezi sharks. (NEVER get the Blue Bulls and the Sharks mixed up. It could be very painful.)
There’s a jetty and a tarred slipway at the Parks Board’s Kosi Bay Camp. You must bring your own boat, and have to get a fishing permit. Watch out for hippos at all times. The crocs here don’t really like the salt, but you might get them in the upper lakes. The lower lakes could very well get you some Zambezis coming in, so if you want to swim, go to the shallows where you can stand and see the bottom, to make sure the sharks won’t sneak up on you.
No powerboating on Lake 4 to protect the breeding fish, and please do not speed in the linking channels: other than oncoming boats, there often are local women cutting the reeds for roofing material. Tsonga people are incredibly friendly, and you are a visitor at their place. So if you want to take pictures – ask first.
The reserve offers a unique snorkelling experience with a reef situated inside the mouth of the Kosi system. One needs to drive to the mouth, (4X4 vehicles only,) or walk with a trail guide ± 12 km. At low tide one can walk across the estuary mouth to this wonderful snorkelling site which is demarcated as a sanctuary. Fishing and spear-fishing are not allowed. The best time to snorkel is at the start of the incoming tide which brings clean sea water. Shore fishing is popular off the beach or in the estuary.
Location (from 26° 53′ 41.3592″ S, 32° 52′ 48.6912″ E
to 27° 2′ 14.748″ S, 32° 49′ 6.1032″ E)
To access the Kosi mouth and the Indian Ocean beaches is a 45 minute drive requiring a 4X4 vehicle. The drive is spectacular with views across the fish kraal dotted lake to the sea as you crest the huge coastal dunes. The condition of the last 7 kilometres of the Kosi Bay Camp entrance road is very sandy and requires a 4X4 vehicle or one with a difflock. As most of the ‘roads’ in the area are sand tracks, a 4X4 is required to fully access all the areas of the park.
The drive up from Durban is excellent via the N2 toll road, taking the turn-off at Hluhluwe to enter Maputaland. Turn right (east) at the T-junction with the Jozini road and you’re headed straight into Manguzi. 4 hours should do it & if you get hungry on the way, Hluhluwe is your last option for some decent chicken.
The journey from Jo’burg is hectic, at over 600 km with a ton of constructions on the way. The N17 toll road is fine, but then it gets very bad up to Pongola. Waiting time at constructions can be up to 30 min and there are lots of mining trucks, which means you’ll have to crawl uphill behind them. From Pongola up to Jozini the views are stunning over Lake Jozini, and you might want to plan a few nights here for great Tiger fishing and 4 of the Big Five (no buffalos).
Proceeding through the last bits of Zulu settlements, beware of cows and drive carefully. As you enter the Tsonga areas, on top of cows, you’ll get donkeys, goats and thousands of walking schoolchildren on the road. School’s out at 14h30 on weekdays, and everyone’s walking home.
View Kosi Bay in a larger map
Kosi Bay Camp is situated on the western shore of Lake Nhlange, the largest in the Kosi system. Kosi Bay Camp features three rustic cottages. These include a six-bed cottage with three bedrooms, two en-suite bathrooms, lounge/dining room and kitchen with a large viewing deck with barbecue facilities. The five-bed cottage features two bedrooms, two bathrooms with showers, lounge/dining room and kitchen and the two-bed cottage has an open plan room with bathroom, kitchenette and lounge/dining area combined.
Kosi Bay Camp has fifteen shady open campsites in a beautiful coastal bush setting that can accommodate up to seven guests each. Each site has cold running water, barbecue facilities and a plug point. Two modern ablutions feature hot and cold running water, flush toilets and showers, but no dishwashing or laundry facilities.
A massive Zulu Podberry tree is the focal point of the main lodge with the lounge, diningroom and bar all opening onto a large, wooden deck around the tree. Kosi Forest Lodge takes full advantage of Maputuland’s sultry weather with most meals served alfresco – on the deck or under large Albizia trees. A swimming pool, built into the deck, at the lake’s edge is always a welcome sight. Candles light the area at night giving it a warm, romantic ambience reminiscent of wild African adventures of long ago.
The thatched bush suites are hidden in the sand forest of the Kosi Bay Nature Reserve providing privacy under the forest’s peaceful canopy of shady trees. The rooms are raised on a wooden deck with a beautifully appointed bedroom, balcony, dressing room and separate bath and shower. The romantic en-suite bathroom is open-air in a reed-enclosed boma. Set in white beach sand and positioned under one of the huge forest trees, guests are guaranteed a truly unique experience.
The bedrooms have low wooden walls with mosquito netting and roll-up canvas blinds allowing for full views of the surrounding forest. Kosi Forest Lodge has become increasingly popular as a honeymoon destination. The honeymoon suite is completely private and allows couples to enjoy the serenity of the surrounding sand forest undisturbed.
Just a few hundred meters from the water’s edge of Lake Nhlange (the 3rd and largest Lake), Kosi Bay Lodge offers full board or self catering options. All chalets have fully equipped kitchens with private braai and access to boma areas. Sip sundowners in Nhlange Pub with amazing view and enjoy cuisine with a distinctive local flavor in the cosy atmosphere of the Umdoni Restaurant & bar overlooking the pool and the sun deck.
Two, four and six bedded chalets are comfortably appointed. Structures consist of thatched roofs, treated poles, wooden floors on stilts and reed walls – typically rustic Tsonga/Zulu style.
Overlooking the sand forest across Lake Nhlange (3) toward Bhanga Nek, the property is a 15 min walk from the lake, surrounded by Umdoni (Water Berry), Maurla Wild Mango and Monkey Orange Trees.
The Main Bush House offers 5 rooms (not all en-suite) and a large lounge, open plan with reed thatched roof, TV and extensive sitting areas. The kitchen is fitted with Bosch gas stove, Bosch fridge freezer, microwave, toaster, pots, pans, crockery and cutlery. Veranda with Swimming Pool, lake and forest vistas (rooms 1-4), 2 braai areas as well as other seating and loungers.
Two Bush Chalets are self catering and each equipped with a double Bed; ensuite shower, toilet & basin; kitchenette; fridge/freezer, 2 plate gas cooker, microwave, toaster, pots, pans, crockery and cutlery. Portable mini-braai. Dining table and folding chairs.