Kosi Bay Nature Reserve
This unspoiled nature reserve surrounds the rare and beautiful Kosi Bay lake system. It has been incorporated into the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, an internationally recognised World Heritage Site. The 11,000ha, 30km-long reserve is a tropical paradise of crystal clear water, marshland, swamp and coastal forests that is home to about 250 species of bird. Kosi Forest Lodge is the only private lodge in the nature reserve.
Hippo and crocodile bask in and around the lakes and the reserve provides a haven for a variety of rare fish, flora and fauna. The Kosi lake system has long been regarded as the best-preserved large estuary system on South Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline.
Kosi Bay System
The system consists of four large lakes and a series of inter-connecting channels that eventually drain via a sandy estuary into the Indian Ocean. The lakes are separated from the ocean by a strip of forested sand dunes. The system is characterised by grassland, interspersed with lakes, pans, streams, marshes and swamps. The swamp forests found in this area are the largest in the country.
The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) is the most dominant mammal of the Kosi system with a population of about 60. Other estuary-associated mammals include the water mongoose (Atilax paludinosus) and the clawless otter (Aonyx capensis).
There are number of rare bird species in the Kosi system, many of which are at the most southerly limits of their distribution and are not encountered elsewhere in South Africa. The prolific bird life of the system is essentially forest associated. Amongst the rare water/estuary associated species are Flufftail (Sarothrura spp), Whitebacked Night Heron (Gorsachius leuconotus) and the Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)
There are nearly always small numbers of greater flamingoes (Phoenicopterus ruber) and lesser flamingoes (P. minor). Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) are regularly seen. The raffia forests are also home to the Palmnut Vulture (Gypohierax angloensis), a Red Data species, and the only fruit-eating vulture in the world.
A particular species of butterfly, a skipper (Parnara micans) is regarded as endemic to Kosi Bay. Charaxis protoclea azota is a Red Data butterfly species. It is a marginal species that occurs only in Kosi Bay in South Africa and is distributed from South Africa to East Africa
Kosi Bay supports a great variety of fish and other aquatic fauna due to the different physical characteristics of the lakes. There are 8 known Red Data fish species in the area, most of which have their largest known populations in the Kosi system.
The Kosi Bay area is of considerable botanical importance with several Red Data species found here. The swamp forests found in this area are the largest in the country and the giant palm Raphia australis, on which the Palmnut vulture is dependent, it as its natural southern limit here. This is the only area in South Africa where five species of mangrove are found, two of which (Luminitzera racemosa and Ceriops tagal) are at the southernmost limit of their distribution.
The rural people in the area use traditional fishing methods to harvest the numerous fish species in the estuary. Fish kraals or traps, which have been passed down from father to son, are spread throughout the estuary, providing an important source of protein to the local people and a tourist attraction to Kosi Bay’s many visitors. Good management and the controlled use of resources makes Kosi Bay an excellent example of the concept ‘wise use in action’