Hippo and Crocodile Estuary Cruises. 100% guarantee on hippo sightings or you get all your money refunded!!!! The best way to explore the St Lucia Estuary is aboard the luxurious double decked passenger ferry, Advantage Cruiser, a legal concession holder within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The start of the St Lucia Estuary, the estuary mouth, is situated within the town of St Lucia at the Southern-most point of Lake St Lucia, within the province of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. This area was proclaimed a World Heritage Site in 1999, and recently (2007) the adjacent Wetland Park bordering St Lucia was renamed the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, meaning “Place of Wonder” or “Miracle”. Boat Based Whale & Dolphin Watching . Come and enjoy Whale Watching aboard Advantage Cruiser and get as close as 50 meters from these gentle ocean giants, the humpback whales. St Lucia Tours and Charters acquired our legal Boat Based Whale Watching Permit and have been operating ever since. We operate within the “Greater St Lucia Wetland Park” which is located on the southern-most tip of the Elephant Coast, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Deep Sea Game and Marlin Fishing. Deep Sea Game Fishing trips depart just after sunrise, the tour is about 6 -7 hours long, and the boat is equipped and rigged with all the necessary outriggers ( in case of Marlin fishing ) and a Fish Finder . We supply ALL the bait and tackle, drinks per person, and we clean; fillet and vacuum-seal your fish. All the fish you catch is yours to keep. Marlin Charters can be arranged for a rate of R8800-00 for the boat for the day, we will be equipping the boat with the fighting chair, marlin outriggers and marlin tackle *Advantage Tours St Lucia now offers Whale Watching trips from Richards Bay. Come and view whales from as close as 50 meters on our new custom built Whale Watching vessel.* Our South African coastline. The coastline of South Africa is one of the most productive and diverse marine systems in the world. More than 11,000 marine species have been recorded in local waters, more than 5% of all known global marine species. Amazingly, 31% of these species are endemic to the region (not found anywhere else). The cold and highly productive waters of the West coast are the engine room for the majority of South Africa’s commercial fisheries while the warmer and more diverse East coast is the focus for tourism. The East coast is also the home of some of our poorest rural communities that are directly reliant on the coast for their livelihoods. Overall, South Africa’s off-shore fish stocks remain in relatively good shape compared to stocks in the Northern hemisphere, however the present state of our inshore resources is of serious concern. Poor management and in some cases well organized international crime have had a devastating impact on these resources. Our marine program works to ensure that there is adequate protection of our marine resources and environments through facilitating the establishing of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as well as promoting Sustainable Fisheries. Fish Eagle Info – The African fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) Or – to distinguish it from the true fish eagles (Ichthyophaga), the African sea eagle – is a large species of eagle that is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa wherever large bodies of open water occur that have an abundant food supply. It is the national bird of Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Sudan. As a result of its large range, it is known in many languages. Examples of names include: Visarend in Afrikaans; Aigle Pêcheur in French; Hungwe in Shona, and Inkwazi in isiZulu. This species may resemble the bald eagle in appearance; though related, each species occurs on different continents, with the bald eagle being resident in North America. About the Hippo Hippo (Hippopotamus) Info. The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), or hippo, is a large, mostly herbivorous mammal in sub-Saharan Africa, and one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae (the other is the pygmy hippopotamus). The name comes from the ancient Greek for “river horse” (ἱπποπόταμος). After the elephant and rhinoceros, the hippopotamus is the third-largest type of land mammal and the heaviest extant artiodactyl. Despite their physical resemblance to pigs and other terrestrial even-toed ungulates, their closest living relatives are cetaceans (whales, porpoises, etc.) from which they diverged about 55 million years ago. The common ancestor of whales and hippos split from other even-toed ungulates around 60 million years ago. The earliest known hippopotamus fossils, belonging to the genus Kenyapotamus in Africa, date to around 16 million years ago. Hippos are recognizable by their barrel-shaped torsos, enormous mouths and teeth, nearly hairless bodies, stubby legs and great size, adults average 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) and 1,300 kg (2,900 lb) for males and females respectively. Despite its stocky shape and short legs it can easily outrun a human, being capable of reaching 30 km/h (19 mph) over short distances. The hippopotamus is one of the most aggressive and unpredictable creatures in the world and, as such, ranks among the most dangerous animals in Africa. Nevertheless, they are still threatened by habitat loss and poaching for their meat and ivory canine teeth. The hippopotamus is semiaquatic, inhabiting rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps, where territorial bulls preside over a stretch of river and groups of five to 30 females and young. During the day, they remain cool by staying in the water or mud; reproduction and childbirth both occur in water. They emerge at dusk to graze on grasses. While hippopotamuses rest near each other in the water, grazing is a solitary activity and hippos are not territorial on land. Whale Info – The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from 12–16 metres (39–52 ft) and weigh approximately 36,000 kilograms (79,000 lb). The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. An acrobatic animal known for breaching and slapping the water with its tail and pectorals, it is popular with whale watchers off the coasts of Australasia and the Americas. Males produce a complex song lasting 10 to 20 minutes, which they repeat for hours at a time. Its purpose is not clear, though it may have a role in mating. Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 kilometres (16,000 mi) each year. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or subtropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves. Their diet consists mostly of krill and small fish. Humpbacks have a diverse repertoire of feeding methods, including the bubble net feeding technique. Like other large whales, the humpback was and is a target for the whaling industry. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a moratorium was introduced in 1966. While stocks have since partially recovered, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution continue to impact the 80,000 humpbacks worldwide.Humpback Reproduction – Humpback whale breeding occurs mostly in the winter to early spring while near the surface and in warm, tropical waters. The gestation period is about 11-12 months and the calf is born tail first (this is normal for cetaceans) and near the surface in warm, shallow waters. The newborn instinctively swims to the surface within 10 seconds for its first breath; it is helped by its mother, using her flippers. Within 30 minutes of its birth the baby whale can swim. The newborn calf is about 14 feet long (4.3 m) and weighs about 2.5 tons (2.3 tonnes). Twins are extremely rare (about 1% of births); there is almost always one calf. The baby is nurtured with its mother’s milk and is weaned in about 11 months. The mother and calf may stay together for a year or longer. Calves drink 100 pounds of milk each day. Humpback whales reach puberty at 4-7 years old and maturity at 15 years. A calf is born to a female every 1-3 years.Kingfishers in St Lucia Giant Kingfisher ”Ladies have babies” (around the tummy area) ”Guys wear ties” (around the neck) THAT is an easy way to remember the difference between the female and male giant kingfisher – The female has the brown patch on her tummy area and The male giant kingfisher has the brown around his neck area. Malachite Kingfisher – Malachite kingfisher spotted and photographed by Riëtte Bennett, captain of the Advantage Cruiser, whilst cruising alongside the Mangrove swamps on the St Lucia Estuary. Mangrove Kingfisher – Mangrove kingfisher spotted and photographed by Riëtte Bennett, captain of the Advantage Cruiser, whilst cruising alongside the Mangrove swamps on the St Lucia Estuary. Pied Kingfisher – To distinguish the male from the female – the female looks as if she is “wearing a bikini top or bra”, the male has an extra black stripe below the ”bra” that the female doesn’t have. That is the only easy way to remember the male from the female. Mangrove Crabs – Mangrove forests are wonderful places full of strange creatures adapted to this wet and muddy environment. There are two species of crab that live in this habitat with different but equally fascinating life styles. Fiddler crabs feed by sifting through the soft mud for bits of decaying organic matter, spitting out the inedible components and swallowing the edible material. Male fiddler crabs are easily recognized by their one greatly enlarged claw, which is used both for displaying to attract females and in combat with other males. During times of peak mating, the forest is alive with gaiety as the little males beckon to females with this claw. Sometimes one male will run up to another and begin pounding him on the head, chasing him down into the safety of his burrow. Usually, females seem oblivious to all these frantic attempts to woo them, for most of the time they just wander around stuffing food into their mouths. If a male approaches too closely, she will even dart into her own burrow to hide. Found commonly along the African coast, a species of Sesarmid crab feeds on fallen leaves, and is especially sensitive to vibrations. They can detect a leaf falling on the mud while hidden within their burrows. These mangrove leaf crabs can sometimes be seen scurrying out to grab a newly fallen leaf within seconds of it hitting the ground, and then rushing back to their burrows with their nutritious prize. Indeed, great battles often ensue as these crabs fight each other for a scarce morsel. These crabs are easily recognized by their large size, and their equal-sized orange-red claws. Mudskippers – The first fish may have crawled onto land during Devonian times (350 million years ago) and probably did so, in response to drying swamps. This required that two problems must be overcome. How to move without the support of water and how to obtain oxygen from air rather than water. The mud skipper, another interesting denizen of the mangroves, has solved both these problems. Their generic name Periopthalmus (Latin=round eyes) was given because their eyes are perched on the top of the head and can be moved independently of each other. This gives the fish virtually 360 degree vision. Mudskippers can often be seen skittering over the mud searching for insects and small crustaceans to eat. Their front, upper (pectoral) fins are quite muscular and function rather like primitive legs, while their front lower (pelvic) fins are modified into a sucker disc. The sucker enables them to cling to the roots and trunks of the mangrove trees. This fish is able to survive out of water because its gills are housed within an enlarged cavity which contains both water and air. The tissue within the cavity can absorb oxygen from the air as long as it remains moist, so it functions like a kind of primitive lung. The mudskipper must return periodically to the sea, however, to replenish the water in its gill chamber. About – Advantage Tours and Charters was the first KZN tour operating company who, in 2010, applied for the FTTSA (Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa) standard. And we were the first to comply with all the requirements by National and Provincial Government to comply with all EPA and environmental standards: Vessels built under SAMSA survey, keeping in mind the comfort and safety of our clientele, Four (4)-stroke EPA friendly engines, Qualified guides who have undergone all the Passenger Endorsement practices and courses. Feel comfortable in the knowledge that your clients are on a boat that is a legal iSimangaliso Wetland Park concessionaire. Our average monthly concession fee to iSimangaliso is R29 000-00 p/month. These are fees which increase per annum and go towards the uplifting of the community; to upgrade Park furniture and infrastructure and employ and train people from the local disadvantaged community.