Maputaland, one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet
Maputaland begins at St Lucia mouth and ends at Maputo Bay, there is no other place on Earth like it. That's why Andy & Grant put their heads together and figured out the best route for an adventure slack-packing trail, overland from Kosi to Sodwana, to immerse you in as many different environments as possible. They found all their old friends from the community, some of whom they’ve known over 25 years and have recently been laid off with the pandemic, chefs from Phinda & Rocktail Bay and pulled them in so their skills can continue to be utilised.
Nelson Mandela famous quote probably sums it all up for us…“The wetland park must be the only place on the globe where the world’s oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest land mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (the Coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale).”
This magnificent world heritage site is situated in Maputaland which stretches from the mouth of Lake St Lucia in the south all the way up to the Mozambique border in the north. It encompasses the fresh-water lakes of St Lucia, Sibaya and the beautiful string of four Kosi Bay lakes. The forested dunes which run from Sodwana to Kosi Bay are the highest in the world.
The sandy coastal plains of this south-eastern section of the African coastline stretches from Lake St. Lucia in South Africa, right up into northern Mozambique and the Tanzanian border. In South African the coastal plains start near St. Lucia and end just south of Ponta D Ouro, the most southern town on the Mozambique coastline. This is a distance of some 250km of coastline. It also extends westwards from the warm Indian Ocean to the base of the Lebombo Mountains.
The many names of Maputaland
The name ‘Maputaland’ refers to a little town of Maputa, which should not be confused with the modern-day Maputo, capital of Mozambique, which is further north. The small town of Maputa, is currently known as KwaNgwanase, which mean ‘place of the Ngwanase’, a family who have been influential in the region for many years.
The busy little town of Maputa/Kwangwanase is also still often referred to by locals as eManguzi, meaning ‘The place of the mangoes.’ This references the many mango trees which were apparently brought to the region by missionaries.
In the past, the entire region of Maputaland was known to locals as ‘uHlabayulingana’ which means simply, ‘the level area’, or ‘the place where everything is level/equal’. This is because for 90 km westward from the ocean, the elevation only rises some 90 m above sea level.
And just to round it off, this unique area of the country is also still known in some quarters as Thongaland. The dominant royal clans living in the area were of Thonga descent, and it is from this that Thonga Trails takes its name.