Rocktail Beach Camp
Maputaland Coastal Forest Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
of KwaZulu-Natal Reserves
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BEACH CAMP - MAPUTALAND COASTAL FOREST RESERVE
Rocktail Beach Camp lies in the lush, tropical shade of the Maputaland Coastal Forest with the Maputaland Marine Reserve just offshore. This reserve provides sanctuary for marine life with extraordinary diving and snorkelling encounters with huge shoals of fish, dolphins and whales - just right for world-class diving and snorkelling, remote, unspoilt beaches and other beach adventures.
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The camp consists of 17 rooms (9 standard rooms plus 8 suites), all of which with en-suite bathrooms, open-feel indoor shower and overhead fans. Seven of these are family suites with a shared bathroom and two bedrooms for two adults and two children. A honeymoon suite has wonderful views over the ocean and dune forest.
Rocktail Beach Camp also has a central dining room, bar and lounge with large wrap-around veranda. A raised viewing deck just off the veranda has wide views that extend out to the ocean. The camp's main area has a large pool, curio shop and children's playroom, complete with board games and other fun activities for families.
17 rooms consisting of:
5 twin-bedded rooms
• 4 double-bedded rooms
• 7 family units consisting of 1 double bed in
1 room and 2 x ¾ beds in the 2nd room
• 1 honeymoon unit with double bed.
Each family unit accommodates maximum 2 adults and 2 children and the family shares a bathroom.
This camp accommodates 30 guests including children.
Room details: En-suite bathrooms with an open feel, indoor shower, fans.
The following amenities are provided: bath towels, hand towels, pool towels, torch, laundry bag, mosquito coil, insect repellent and bird list, as well as soap, shampoo, insect repellent, and safe in room.
Drinks Policy: Drinks are not included in the nightly tariff.
Laundry Policy: Daily laundry service can be provided but is not included in the nightly tariff.
at Rocktail Bay is the miles and miles of pristine
and undeveloped coastline. In addition to simply
sunning yourself on the clean golden beaches, a variety
of guided activities are available.
Nature drives through
the park, beach picnics and lazy strolls in search
of the perfect secluded spot are always on offer.
Snorkeling in one of the secluded bays or out at
sea from the dive boat allows an exhilarating experience
of the extraordinary richness of the Indian Ocean.
Many butterfly- and angelfish are frequently seen,
as well as rays, octopus and other fascinating
marine species. Nature walks take guests through
the coastal forests or rolling grasslands in search
of Maputaland endemic birds, butterflies and plants.
Surf and fly-fishing (tag and release is promoted)
is among the best on southern Africa's coastline.
Activities at Rocktail
Beach Camp include turtle drives on the beach during
the summer months, exploratory birding (and other)
trips to the surrounding forests and grasslands
by means of Land Rover or by foot, snorkelling
in the secluded bays or off our boat (Snorkelling
off the boat at an extra charge of R200.00 p/p
per day - subject to change), and optional trips
to the Kosi Bay area.
Drives in open Land
Rovers around the coastal forest, to the Hippo
Pools and to the surrounding community form part
activities. One of the best
activities offered is a trip to Black Rock- an
imposing chunk of sandstone that juts directly
into the sea. Guests have often seen turtles,
sharks and rays whilst standing on the edge of
this immense feature. Also popular are birding
trips to Vuzi Pan, around 30 minutes drive away,
by Land Rover. The marsh is a mini-Okavango,
with special birds such as Lesser Jacana, Lesser
Moorhen and Pink throated Longclaw occurring.
This is a great trip when diving is not possible.
Indian Ocean is ideal for snorkeling in search
of tropical fish (flippers and snorkels may be
borrowed at the lodge). In the summer months
Rocktail Beach Camp is integrally involved in
and guests are able
to accompany the resident turtle expert on "night
beach drives" at low tide to help monitor
the turtles' nesting movements. SCUBA diving
is amongst the
very best in the world and is available at an
additional cost (see more below).
From a scuba diving perspective, Rocktail Bay is unique. Not only is the diving conducted within a Reserve and World Heritage Site along unspoiled reefs, but divers have the luxury of knowing that they alone have access to these sites and are the only underwater visitors along this stretch of the coastline.
The reef systems here are amongst the most pristine in the world, boasting healthy soft and hard corals. Large numbers of the butterflyfish and triggerfish families are seen on every dive, interspersed with clown triggerfish, moorish idol, bannerfish, coachman, pencilled, powder-blue and bluebanded surgeonfish, firegoby and scissortail. At one site we are lucky enough to have regular sightings of the rockmover wrasse, while various eels, such as honeycomb morays, and black-cheek, are commonly seen. Marbled electric rays, blue-spotted and round ribbontail rays are common representatives of this family while the occasional manta and spotted eagle ray have also been sighted.
Sharks are sighted at intervals, including great hammerheads, tiger sharks, blacktip reef sharks and the enormous whale shark. Large numbers of pregnant spotted ragged-tooth sharks (also known as grey nurse sharks) appear in the area from late November until March and Rocktail Bay Lodge assists the Natal Sharks Board in monitoring and understanding what drives the arrival of this species in the area. The site most often frequented by these sharks is only in 10m of water and as such can be enjoyed by both divers and snorkellers.
The Rocktail Bay area hosts an annual spectacle that has remained unchanged for thousands of years. Every summer, hundreds of Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles complete their breeding cycle and emerge from the Indian Ocean to lay their eggs on this stretch of coastline – incredibly most returning to the exact beach on which they themselves hatched! However, turtle numbers seemed to be dwindling, possibly due to over-exploitation of sea turtle products, so in 1963, scientists from the then-Natal Parks Board (now Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife) under the direction of Dr George Hughes initiated a project to monitor the number of nesting females per season, and to protect the beaches on which they nest from further disturbance
In 1971, the project was expanded to include collecting data on Loggerhead hatchlings. Between January and March, hundreds hatch from the nests and make their way down to the sea. Ironically, results of this study show that both turtle populations are in fact increasing – the only populations in the world known to be doing so!
When funding dwindled in 1981, donations from the World Wildlife Fund, Wilderness Safaris Wildlife Trust and Rocktail Bay Lodge allowed the project to continue, making it one of the longest running turtle projects in the world.
For the past few years, Wilderness guides have shared the nightly patrols and monitoring with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, while part of the annual concession fees that Rocktail pays go toward the wages of the seasonal turtle scouts who are employed at this time of year to guard the turtle nests and help patrol the beaches.
Guests visiting Rocktail in summer are therefore able to interact with the guides and scientists patrolling the beach at low tide at night in search of nesting turtles. The sight of a 750kg Leatherback heaving herself up and down the beach to lay her eggs must rate as one of the most moving wildlife experiences anywhere – often inspiring guests to donate funds or even ‘adopt’ their very own turtle.
Maputaland and Wildlife
Maputaland, situated on KwaZulu-Natal’s north-eastern seaboard, is a diverse region of forested dunes, wetlands, sandy beaches, woodlands and warm seas.
The camp is set within iSimangaliso (Greater St Lucia) Wetland Park, one of South Africa’s World Heritage Sites, while situated offshore is the Maputaland Marine Reserve, which offers sanctuary to prolific marine life including coral reefs, huge shoals of fish, and various dolphin and whale species.
On land, this lush area abounds with a variety of animals, birds and plant life that provide a natural counterpoint to the bushveld. Common reedbuck frequent the marshes and grasslands and the red duiker lives in the forest areas. Hippo are found in freshwater lakes. Birding is outstanding, with a number of typical coastal forest species – Green Twinspot, Green Malkoha, Grey Waxbill, Purple-crested and Livingstone’s Turacos, Red-capped Robin-chat, the jewel-like African Emerald Cuckoo in the forests and Rosy-throated Longclaw in the grassland areas.
Few sections of the South African coastline are as unspoilt and secluded as the area in the vicinity of Rocktail Bay. The bay itself is a little further away, but the 40km stretch of coast is known for its superlative, pristine dive spots as well as the loggerhead and leatherback turtles that come to lay their eggs and hatch on the beaches.
The annual spectacle of hundreds of Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles returning to the beaches on which they hatched to lay their eggs has remained unchanged for thousands of years. Rocktail Beach Camp is involved in the Maputaland Sea Turtle Project to protect and monitor these ancient animals; running since 1963, this is one of the longest running such projects in the world!
During summer, guides at Rocktail share the nightly patrols and monitoring with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, while part of the annual concession fees that Rocktail pays go toward the wages of the seasonal turtle scouts employed to guard the turtle nests and help patrol the beaches. Guests visiting Rocktail at this time are therefore able to interact with the guides and scientists patrolling the beach at low tide at night in search of nesting turtles.
For updates on Maputaland Sea Turtle Project, see the Trust website here.
Rocktail Beach Camp is building off the excellent partnerships forged between Rocktail Bay Lodge and the local community. Rocktail Bay Lodge was one of the first joint ventures in South Africa between community, a conservation authority and ecotourism, and for its innovative operating model has received a number of awards. These include the 1999 Tourism for Tomorrow Award and the Imvelo Award for Best Community Tourism Partnership at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. The model, involving Safari & Adventure Co., the surrounding Mqobela and Mpukane communities and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, has evolved since then, to the point where Rocktail Bay became a partner site in the Pro Poor Tourism in Southern Africa Programme.
The Mqobela and Mpukane settlements are members of the coastal clans that fled to the area during the turbulent depredations of the mfecane (a chain of violent upheavals that occurred when the Zulu King Shaka subjugated vast territories in the early 19th century). The coastal clans’ cunning and their ability to survive in the inhospitable environment of the coastal savannah with its poor soils and pasturage have helped them to maintain their socio-political and economic independence from stronger marauding tribal affiliations.
More than 2% of the community in the immediate settlements (comprising approximately 1 500 people of the Mqobela and Mpukane clans) are permanently employed at the camps and, through a programme called Business Linkages in Tourism, community-based enterprise is being supported to provide a range of additional products and services.
The long-term success of this innovative project is dependent upon continued relationship building between the three parties. The latest joint venture between Safari & Adventure Co. and the community is Gugulesizwe, a replica of a typical Zulu homestead that offers an additional activity for guests at the Rocktail camps. Gugulesizwe offers catered overnight facilities in traditional bee-hive huts and activities such as quad-biking and horse riding.
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