Lake Sibaya

Lake Sibaya has 100km of untouched shoreline and at 70km2 is South Africa’s largest freshwater lake. The lake falls within the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, now a World Heritage Site, and the Ramsar Convention assures its international conservation status.

Mabidi - Lake Sibaya
Mabidi wildlife hippo
Wildlife crocodiles at Mabibi

The lake’s diverse flora provides a variety of habitats for birds, mammals and aquatic life. Research reveals that hundreds of years ago the lake was once connected to the sea and with the natural closure of the estuary; numerous fish and aquatic creatures were trapped in a freshwater environment.

Lake Sibaya contains the second largest population of hippopotamus and crocodile in KwaZulu-Natal and is an important breeding, feeding and roosting area for a host of bird species. Surface water in the surrounding coastal plain often disappears completely during dry spells, making the lake the only source of permanent water for birds and mammals. The wetland also supports many of the rural people of this region, who in many cases are totally dependent on the water resource and its associated flora and fauna. Good management, careful conservation and controlled use of resources make Lake Sibaya an example of the concept ‘wise use in action’. Lake Sibaya and its feeder streams support 18 species of fish.  The fauna reflects a marine origin and has close affinities with tropical forms.  A freshwater goby (Silhouetta sibayi) is almost endemic to this water system, as very few records of it have been received from other localities.


Plants and trees growing around the lake are typical of coastal dune forest vegetation.  Of particular importance is the growth of an orchid Vanilla Roscheri, which only occurs at Lake Sibaya.

Another orchid, Oecevelades decaryanum, was collected at the Lake for the first time in South Africa and an unknown Oecevelades sp. occurs near Sibaya.


There are 6 mammal species associated regularly with the Lake. These are the white-tailed mongoose, water mongoose, hippopotamus, reedbuck, vlei otomys and African marsh rat. Other mammals associated with the area include tona red squirrel; suni; four-toed elephant shrew; samango monkey; red duiker and blue duiker.

Amphibia and Reptiles

There are 22 species of frog recorded at Lake Sibaya, 20 of which are tropical forms. Common species are Reed Frogs, Grass Frogs and toads. Larger reptiles include Water Monitor, African Python, Forest Cobra and Nile Crocodile.

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