Wilderness Safari’s Rocktail Beach Camp is a tented camp on the northern KZN coast. I’m sure some of you wince when you hear the word “tented”, getting all sorts of images of lumpy mattresses, sweaty sleeping-bags and, shall we say, rustic toilet facilities. But forget all of that! This is camping delux; large canvas tents with hardwood floors, comfortable beds, fully equipped bathrooms and fans to cool you down during hot nights. I have a friend whose idea of “roughing it” is slow room service, and even he would have no problem with this kind of camping!
Offshore from the lodge is the Maputaland Marine Reserve which together with the St Lucia Marine Reserves forms a continuous protected area stretching 150 km from the Mozambique border southwards to Cape Vidal and 3 nautical miles out to sea. These marine reserves are component areas of the World Heritage Site iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The 332,000 hectare park contains three major lake systems; eight interlinking ecosystems; 700 year old fishing traditions; most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests; Africa’s largest estuarine system; 526 bird species; and 25,000 year-old coastal dunes – among the highest in the world. The name iSimangaliso means miracle and wonder, which almost seems to be an understatement for this unique place.
Most of the activities at Rocktail are centred around this beautiful and unique marine area that guests have exclusive use of. You can snorkel in warm, crystal clear tidal pools; walk for miles on deserted beaches; swim with dolphins; and dive on untouched coral reefs that are teeming with life. But there are also opportunities to explore the culture of the area, to see more of iSimangaliso and even opportunities to see some of Africa’s biggest tuskers in Tembe Elephant Park which is only one hour away.
The area is a nesting site for loggerhead and leatherback turtles, and one of Rocktail’s biggest conservation projects is aimed at protecting and monitoring these turtles. The Wilderness Wildlife Trust has provided funding of approximately one million Rand since 1999 and data shows that both turtle populations are in fact increasing – one of the few populations in the world known to be doing so.
During the turtle season (Oct-Mar), a total of 30km of beach is patrolled nightly by Rocktail’s Turtle Monitors for signs of nesting turtles. In addition, fishermen from the local communities assist the Turtle Monitors by reporting any suspicious activity in the area. Guests visiting the camp can join the Turtle Monitors as they patrol the beaches at night and may get the once-in-a-lifetime experience to watch a turtle lay its eggs, while at the same time making a difference to turtle conservation. A story about my experience will come!
Rocktail Beach Camp provides a beach experience with a difference; a wonderful protected area that only a few lucky people have the opportunity to visit. It is well worth going out of your way for and I promise that you will not be disappointed!