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.

This is a flexible trail which can be tailored to suit the time, fitness and interests of the group. The average hike day ranges from 9-12km, 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 Nights / 3 Hike Days - with extension optionsShorter & customised routes also available
  • Daily DistancesDay 1: 13km / 6hrDay 2: 7km hike / 5hr with boat tripDay 3: 12 / 19km / 4-7hr
  • Trail Grading2-3 / 5 - Fitness. Generally short daily distances & little ascent, but soft sand makes it harder-going in places.1-2 / 5 - Technicality. No scrambling or sheer sections. Some estuary wading and optional dune ascent.
  • Trail TerrainCoastal Trail passing through diverse ecosystems – open savannah, wetlands, coastal dune & fern forests, shallow lake crossings.
  • AccommodationBeach Camp & Safari Style Tented Camps. Ensuite. Hot water showers & communal dining.
  • Logistic SupportA fully-catered & guided hike 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 R6,500/pp based on 5 or more persons
At a Glance

On the Kosi Lakes hike, we have two standard offerings. For those that like to unpack and not have to repack their bags until the end, we offer a 4 or 5 night trail based out of beach camp for all nights. For those that like to mix-up their accommodation experience, we offer a 4 or 5 night Lakes Trail with 3 nights spent at beach camp and 1 or 2 nights spent at Kosi Lodge on the western shore of third lake.

There is also an Exclusive Trail offering where 1 or 2 nights can be spent at IsiBindi's Kosi Forest Lodge on fourth lake.

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 1Arrival Day

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

    Overnight: Beach Camp (Dinner provided)

  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 snorkelling 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 down to Kosi estuary – cross over to eKovukeni, then hike south to first lake. Boat collection at first lake – 3 Lakes Boat Cruise – through the channels with an opportunity to snorkel – up to 2nd & then 3rd lake. Boat drop-off on inland (western shore) of 3rd lake. Hike up to Kosi Bay Lodge.

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

  4. Day 4Hike Day 3: 4th Lake Hike (12km) / Bhanga Nek (17km/ 4-7hr)

    Hike along western shore to 4th lake – Pontoon crossing between 3rd & 4th lake. Hike through to Bhanga Nek and enjoy some beach-time before walking back to the 3rd lake boat launch. Cross over 3rd lake by boat and hike up to Kosi Bay Lodge.

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

  5. Day 5Departure Day

    Breakfast. Transfer provided back to vehicles left at beach camp (approx. 35min)

A helping hand on the Zilonde Dune

Casual Beach 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 allows 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. 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.

  6. Can this hike be shortened or lengthened?

    Our standard trail offering is 4 nights and 3 hiking days. We can reduce this to 2 hike days if necessary. We also have 5 and 6 night options around the lakes, and extra 'lay' days at any of the camps, can easily be arranged.

Standard 4 Night/ 3 Hike Days

Group SizePrice (PP) 
2 Persons
3 Persons
4 Persons
5 or more

Standard 5 Night/ 4 Hike Days

Group SizePrice (PP) 
2 Persons
3 Persons
4 Persons
5 or more
Whats included in this tour
  • 4/5 Nights Accom (sharing basis) - en-suite chalets – 2/3N Beach Camp, 2N Kosi Bay Lodge
  • All meals - from dinner on arrival night to breakfast on departure day
  • Hiking Guide - for all hike days
  • IsiMangiliso Reserve Permits & Hiking Trail Fees
  • 3 Lakes Boat Tour - through the 3 lakes and the channels
  • Boat transfer from 4th Lake
  • Return Transfer to starting point
  • Luggage transfers between lodges
  • Snorkelling in Kosi Mouth & the lake channels