Designated 2 October 1986
Stretching from south of Cape Vidal on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal to the Mozambique border, the Ramsar site comprises two contiguous protected areas, the St Lucia Marine Reserve and Maputaland Marine Reserve. This section of coastline is the only true subtropical part of South Africa's coastal waters, and with its associated coral reefs, intertidal zone and turtle breeding areas is still in a natural and undisturbed state, making it of particular conservation significance.
Conditions favour the growth of corals, reef fish and a variety of Indo-Pacific fauna and flora, but true coral reef formation does not occur to a marked degree at this latitude. Although virtually indistinguishable from true coral reefs, the coral communities found in the Ramsar site consist of encrustments on sandstone reefs. It is estimated that some 1 200 fish species are to be found along this stretch of coastline. Forty-one 41 marine mammals are thought to occur in these waters, including the dugong Dugong dugong. Some of the cetaceans, the dugong and all five turtle species are listed as threatened.
Five marine turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata, Chelonia mydas, Lepidochelys olivacea, Caretta caretta and Dermochelys coriacea) and the sea snake Pelamis platurus have been also recorded. The beaches host the only nesting populations of leatherback turtles Demochelys coriacea in the Indian Ocean south of Sri Lanka on the western half of the ocean and south of Sumatra on the eastern side. The loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) also has breeding sites of high conservation significance on the beaches along this stretch of coastline.Map of the site (103 kB)
If you have any comments on this page, or need more information, please contact John Dini at nat_jd>@ozone.pwv.gov.za. This page is maintained by the South African Wetlands Conservation Programme and was last updated on 12 January 1999.