Kosi Bay Lakes Trail

The Kosi Bay Lakes hike is an escape into one of the most inaccessible and ecologically special parts of South Africa. It is a region of pristine diversity, consisting of four interconnected lakes and an estuary that opens out into the warm Indian Ocean. It forms part of the protected iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa's first World Heritage Site.

We have 4 core packages which can be tailored to suit the time, fitness and interests of the group. The average day ranges from 7-12km, winding your way from isolated beach to cool dune forest, through open savannah, and wetlands.

Each day brings a new natural or cultural fascination. From watching the local fisherman spear a mullet in their fish kraals, seeing the loggerhead turtles waddle ashore to lay their eggs (Nov – March), or snorkelling in a natural aquarium. It is a great hike option for families.

  • Trip Duration4/5 Nights / 3/4 Hike DaysShorter & customised routes also available
  • Daily DistancesDay 1: 13km / 6hrDay 2: 7,13,20 km hike options + 5km paddleDay 3: 7km hike / 4hr with boat trip
  • Trail Grading2-3 / 5 - Fitness. Generally short daily distances & little ascent, but soft sand can make it harder-going in places.1-2 / 5 - Technicality. No scrambling or sheer sections. Some estuary wading and optional steep dune ascent.
  • Trail TerrainCoastal Trail passing through diverse ecosystems – open savannah, wetlands, coastal dune & fern forests, shallow lake crossings.
  • AccommodationBeach & Lake Camps and more exclusive Kosi Forest Lodge. Ensuites & communal dining.
  • Logistic SupportFully-catered & guided hikes with inclusive luggage transfers and 3 Lakes boat-trip
  • Group SizeMin 2 persons and large groups can be accommodated
  • PricingFor a 4 night trail: from R8,300/pp based on 4-6 persons
At a Glance

On the Kosi Lakes hike, we have three standard offerings. The 3-Lakes trail goes from Kosi Mouth through to Kosi Bay Lodge on Third Lake, whilst the Four-lakes trail’s include the smallest freshwater lake four, with an overnight at Bhanga Lakeside or the delightful Kosi Forest Lodge.

The trail is led by local community guides who are happy to share their knowledge and heritage, so you leave not only 'refreshed' but enriched.

An inclusive boat excursion will take you through the reed channels, with an opportunity to snorkel and visit the Tonga fish traps. These palisade fish kraals consist of a guide fence that curves in towards a fish trap allowing the fish easy entry but no escape. Fish moving through the channel are guided into the traps where they are then caught and speared by the trap owner. Ownership of these kraals is handed down through the generations.

Other activities such as snorkelling and birding are very much part of the hike experience, whilst additional activities like turtle tours (in-season) or specialised fishing trips can be organised on request.

  1. Day 1 - 3 Lakes HikeArrival Day

    Self-drive to Kosi Bay (approx. 8hrs from JHB/ 4.5hrs from Durban)

    Overnight: Beach Camp (Dinner)

  2. Day 2Hike Day 1: Lake Zilonde Loop. (13km hike + snorkeling in mouth /approx. 6hr)

    The lake Zilonde loop takes you close to the Mozambican border, traversing mangal swamp and fern forest. You will climb a 65m high dune and hike over prehistoric coral dunes (interesting corals & plant communities to see) down to the ocean, where you continue along flat beach through to Kosi Mouth. With a palm-fringed beach of rippling sand curved around the mouth, end off your day with snorkeling in the virtual aquarium that is the Kosi Bay Mouth.

    Overnight: Beach Camp (breakfast, packed lunch & dinner)

  3. Day 3Hike Day 2: Beach Camp – Kosi Lodge with 3 Lakes Boat Charter (7km hike / 2.5 hr boat trip / 6hr)

    Hike to look-out point and down to the estuary (option for extra forest walking around Kalu inlet).

    Down at the estuary, it’s a wade across to eKuvekeni, where you’ll visit and learn about the Thonga fish traps from their custodians. From here you’ll hike up to 1st lake to embark upon the 3 Lakes Boat Cruise.

    Disembarking at 3rd lake (western shore), there is a cool sand forest walk (1km) up to Kosi Bay Lodge.

    Overnight: Kosi Bay Lodge (breakfast, packed lunch & dinner)

  4. Day 4Hike Day 3: 4th Lake Hike (10km) / Bhanga Nek (15-17km/ 4-7hr)

    Hike along the deep forest flank of 3rd lakes western shore up to the pontoon crossing between 3rd & 4th lake (10km).

    You can be collected by boat here OR (decided in advance) continue hiking along 3rd lake shoreline to Bhanga Nek (a further 5km) or Bhanga Nek beach (a further 7km).

    Enjoy some surf and sand, before returning to lakeside for an exhilarating boat transfer across 3rd lake to Kosi Bay Lodge for another night.

    Overnight: Kosi Bay Lodge (breakfast, packed lunch & dinner)

  5. Day 5Departure Day

    Breakfast. Transfer provided back to vehicles left at beach camp (approx. 30min)

A helping hand on the Zilonde Dune

Casual Beach & Lake Lodges & Safari Style Tented Camps

Ensuite bathrooms with hot water showers or baths

Communal dining area, bar and pool

Upgrade option to more Luxury 'Tusker Tents' at Beach Camp

Relaxing at the pool - Kosi Bay Lodge
Tusker Tent upgrade option at Beach Camp
  1. Do we carry our own backpacks?

    No. Vehicle luggage transfers are provided between the lodges. You need only hike with a daypack with your lunch, water and supplies for the day.

  2. What type of footwear is best?

    Trainers or strops are best suited to this trail. Strops allow sand to pass through and are great for the estuary crossings, but can cause chaffe when wet. With lightweight tekkies/trainers - just check that they have a solid liner under the upper mesh otherwise sand comes in from the top. Or wear lycra trail running gaiters to prevent sand from getting into the shoe.

  3. What is the best time of year for this trail?

    Kosi Bay has a warm to hot and humid subtropical climate. It has an average yearly rainfall of 980 mm with rain occurring primarily during summer from Oct to March, with the most rain from Feb to March. May through to November provides the most pleasant hiking temps, but if seeing the turtles is a high priority, then you should plan your hike for Nov - end of March.

    Availability is generally not a problem outside of the peak school holiday periods.

  4. What endemic fauna and flora exists?

    Kosi Bay is a sanctuary for many special and protected faunal & floral species. From the ancient Cycads to the most southerly grove of the giant Raffia Palm (whose fronds are the longest of any plant species in the world) on which the rare fruit-eating Palm-nut Vulture depends.

    The Kosi Lake system is especially important for migratory birds such as the Greater and Lesser Flamingos and Ospreys. The protected lakes provide an important nursery function and support some of the largest populations of 8 fish species that are listed in the Red Data book for threatened or vulnerable species.

  5. When do we get to see the turtles?

    The loggerhead and leatherback turtles start to come ashore by early November. Bhanga Nek has one of the highest concentrations of Loggerhead nesting sites per square area in the world. The hatchlings start from early Jan (after 55-65 days of incubation). Once hatched, the babies move up to the warm sun-heated sand and wait till night, at which they will run the gauntlet back to the ocean. Bhanga Nek Turtle trails are best organised from Bhanga Lakeside camp or Kosi Forest Lodge.

  6. Is malaria a problem here?

    The Kosi Bay area is still classified as an 'intermediate risk' area according to the Health Department but if you ask the lodges they will tell you this is very outdated. I would only take prophylactics if you are a high risk candidate (pregnant, elderly). Almost all of our hikers dont take, and we have never had a case of malaria reported.

  7. Can this hike be shortened or lengthened?

    Our standard trail offerings are 4 nights. We can reduce this to 3 nights / 2 hike days but I'd only do this if you have serious time constraints. Extra 'lay' days at any of the camps, can easily be arranged.

  8. What is the difference between the 3 Lakes and 4 Lakes trails?

    The 3-Lakes trail goes from Kosi Mouth through to Kosi Bay Lodge on Third Lake, whilst the Four-lakes trail’s include the smallest freshwater fourth lake. The 4 Lakes packages include an overnight at Kosi Forest Lodge or Bhanga lakeside camp.

Standard 3 Lakes Trail (4 Night/ 3 Hike Days)

Group SizePrice (PP) 
2 Persons
R9 200/pp
3 Persons
R8 700/pp
4-6 Persons
R8 300/pp
7-9 Persons
R8 100/pp
10 or more
R7 900/pp

4 Lakes - Raffia (4 Night/ 3 Hike Days)

Group SizePrice (PP) 
2 Persons
R11 700/pp
3 Persons
R11 300/pp
4-6 Persons
R10 900/pp
7-9 Persons
R10 700/pp
10 or more
R10 500/pp
Whats included in this tour
  • 3 Lakes Trail
  • 4 Nights Accom(sharing basis) - en-suite chalets – 2/3N Beach Camp, 2/1N Kosi Bay Lodge
  • All meals - from dinner on arrival night to breakfast on departure day
  • Hiking Guide - for all hike days
  • 3 Lakes Boat Excursion - through the 3 lakes and the channels
  • Guided Fishtrap Tour
  • Boat collection from 4th Lake or Bhanga Nek
  • Return Transfer to starting point
  • Luggage transfers between lodges
  • IsiMangiliso Reserve Permits & Hiking Trail Fees
  • Snorkelling in Kosi Mouth & the lake channels