Celebrating iSimangaliso’s Heritage
As the country reflects on its heritage on 24th September, iSimangaliso Wetland Park (South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site) marked this important event by opening a new tourist attraction on the Eastern Shores section of the Park, the Amazibu Pan Hide.
Ephraim Mfeka, Chairman of the Bhangazi Community Trust said “This paradise contains our memories; without its beauty our culture would be lost. Any development is subject to the strictest environmental controls so the land will not lose its power to revive us”.
Andrew Zaloumis, Park CEO reflected that “The new hide is part of the unfolding tourism route on the Eastern Shores of Lake St Lucia which incorporates and celebrates the culture of the Bhangazi people and their role in shaping iSimangaliso’s landscape and global value of superlative natural beauty” (one of the defining criteria for iSimangaliso’s World Heritage listing).
Board Chairman Mavuso Msimang said “iSimangaliso is proud of its heritage, both cultural and natural, and remains committed to developing world-class attractions while honouring age-old traditions in the Park.”
Amazibu Pan, which has cultural significance for the Bhangazi people and is the latest of the new visitor attractions on the Eastern Shores, was opened by Chairman of Bhangazi Community Trust - Ephraim Mfeka (left), iSimangaliso Board Chairman - Mavuso Msimang (centre), and iSimangaliso CEO - Andrew Zaloumis.
Amazibu Pan Hide overlooks a perennial pan, frequented by the abundant birds and wildlife species resident in the area. Named after the Zulu name for the beautiful lilac water lilies that grace the surface, the pan has a special significance for the Bhangazi people, the original inhabitants who own this section of the Park. This and the nearby Nkamfuya Pan were important sources of fresh water. On an annual basis during the winter, Bhangazi women who were 15 years or older would herd the cattle to pasture. They would visit each homestead where they would be given a chicken, and then move onto the Nkamfuya Pan where they would ritually bath to rid themselves of ‘kwenomshope’ (bad luck). They would undertake the entire ritual naked (and in the time-honoured nature of young men everywhere, they were occasionally spied upon). The ritual was believed to bring good luck and blessings to the community.
“This paradise contains our memories” – Ephraim Mfeka, Chairman of Bhangazi Community Trust.
While it is no longer advisable for people to bathe in a park now bursting with crocodiles, hippo, leopard, rhino and other big game, the pan continues to bring blessings for Park visitors keen on experiencing the natural beauty of iSimangaliso.
Amazibu Hide is one of many new visitor sites built as part of the R120-million infrastructure upgrades throughout iSimangaliso. Other improvements include a completely revamped Cape Vidal campsite; day visitor ablutions throughout the Eastern Shores and St Lucia beaches; viewing decks at Lake Bhangazi, Catalina Bay, Mission Rocks and Mount Tabor view; additional and expanded game drive roads to allow bus access in more areas; picnic sites and disabled access and ablution facilities at certain sites. On the Western Shores, uMkhuze and Sodwana Bay, numerous facilities have also been refurbished and developed. Current plans include the rebuilding of old tourist favourites, Charters Creek and Fani’s Island resorts, as well as a groundbreaking new Lokothwayo Cultural Heritage site near lake Bhangazi where the cultural roots of the community’s ancestors are celebrated.