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Explorer types in search of South Africa’s serene natural landscapes should take time out to visit Rocktail Bay. A must-see excursion, make sure to stop off at Rocktail Bay before or after a luxurious stay at the Oyster Box Hotel.

Situated within a region that was crowned South Africa’s first UNESCO World Natural Heritage site – encompassing iSimangaliso Wetland Park (the country’s third largest park), Lake St Lucia and the Maputaland Marine Reserves – Rocktail Bay provides easy access to South Africa’s goldmine of biodiversity, and in particular its population of endangered native turtles.

Jolene Bertoldi/Flickr

Rocktail Bay © Jolene Bertoldi/Flickr

Here are six reasons why you should see the turtles of Rocktail Bay:

1) The sheer variety of extraordinary beaches, coral reefs, dense forests and marshlands situated in and around iSimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly the Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park) offers the perfect secluded environment to observe native turtle species, as well as a rich variety of marine and land-based wildlife.

2) This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience if ever there was one. Get up close to the Loggerhead and Leatherback varieties that call South Africa home – these turtles grow to enormous sizes, on average weighing in at an eye-watering 250 – 750 kg, and measuring up to two metres long. We kid you not.

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Leatherback coming to shore © irin717/iStock/Thinkstock

3) It’s easy and safe to find a reputable turtle tour operator or local guide.Operators like Rocktail Beach Camp adhere to strict guidelines in order to run tours, and the local community goes to great lengths to protect its native wildlife. From October to March turtles head inland in their droves to lay their eggs. Under the cover of darkness bear witness to the incredible labour-intensive process, where female turtles dig nests up to a metre deep, and offload an astonishing haul of 80 – 110 eggs at a time.

4) From January to the end of March, you can observe lovable baby turtles hatch from their nests on the sand and take their very first steps into the sea.

© Irina Kozhemyakina/iStock/Thinkstock

Baby turtle makes it way to the sea for the first time © Irina Kozhemyakina/iStock/Thinkstock

5) Would you like to know your Loggerhead from your Leatherback?Become an expert in all things turtle related and learn how to spot the difference between the two. It’s easier than you think — the sheer size of the gigantic Leatherbacks is a dead giveaway, whilst the Loggerhead’s distinctive reddish-brown colouring and strong jawline sets them apart.

6) Ask any South African where the best stretch of coast is, and we guarantee they’ll say Rocktail Bay. Lap up the scenic views of the Indian Ocean and the lush forest backdrop of nearly 40km of unspoilt sandy white coast. Water babies should hit the sea for an out-of-this-world snorkelling or diving experience, where scores of surgeonfish, blacktip reef sharks and honeycomb moray eels will be waiting.

For more information on turtle tours visit: www.isimangaliso.com

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