Turtle Tracks – Kosi to Mabibi

If you wish to combine the best of the Kosi lakes and Maputaland's finest beaches, then consider the Kosi to Mabibi 'Turtle Tracks' Trails. All options start out at Kosi Beach Camp, and thereafter, hikers can chose from a combination of accommodation options to best suite their pockets and distance aspirations.

At the high-end, we have connected the exclusive lodgings of Kosi Forest Lodge and Thonga to one another. Guests hike from lodge-to-lodge with a community guide, and enjoy experiences such as ocean safaris, snorkelling and kayaking.

For those wanting to walk this route on a tighter budget, one can change down on accom and remove the Thonga night to finish off with two nights spent at Gugs camp.

  • Trip Duration4 Nights / 3 Hike Days5 Nights/ 4 Hike DaysExtra hike or lay days avail
  • Daily DistancesDay 1: 17km / 8hrDay 2: 12 / 7 km / 3-5hrDay 3: 14 / 9km / 4-5hr
  • Trail Grading2-3 / 5 - Fitness. Soft sand or a beach camber can make it harder-going in places.1 / 5 - Technicality. No scrambling or sheer sections.
  • Trail TerrainCoastal Trail passing through diverse ecosystems – open savannah, wetlands, coastal dune and fern forests, shallow lake crossings, and golden miles of sandy beach
  • AccommodationSafari Style Tented Camps and Luxury Bush and Beach Camps.
  • Logistic SupportFully-catered & guided hike with luggage transfers, vehicle back-up, 3 Lakes boat-trip, snorkelling and end-point transfers all included.
  • Group SizeMin 2 persons and max 12 persons
  • PricingDependent on package choice & group size, but Opt A & B, based on a group of 6-8 persons: R8,200 - R12,500/pp/sharing
At a Glance

Starting out close to the Mozambican border, the route meanders along the top of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising 3280km2 of natural ecosystems. After snorkelling between colourful sealife in the crystalline aquarium of Kosi Mouth, hikers leave Kosi Bay to walk through coastal savannah with a view of the giant fish traps curling far below like an ancient tribal tattoo. The hills are a mixture of water berry trees, monkey apples with their bright green cricket ball sized fruits, and giant flat crown acacias.

After a boat trip across Third Lake, hikers are dropped at Bhanga Nek and from here it’s an adventurous walk along sandy pathways, dropping in and out of rural villages, pockets of indigenous bushveld, and small cultivated gardens before the landscape changes once again. The giant Raffia Palms that the area is famous for tower overhead, and views of the tannin coloured Fourth Lake (Amanzamnyama) are visible from the dense forest.

Day two and three of walking moves guests from the mysterious inland pathways of the lake systems to the beautiful wide open beaches further south. Beaches such as Black Rock and Lala Nek are picture-book wedges of white sand, edged by snorkeling paradise.

  1. Day 1 - 4N Opt A - Luxury Turtle TrailArrival Day: Self-drive to Coastal Cashews

    Self-drive to Coastal Cashews (4hr from King Shaka / 348km)

    Leave vehicles in secure parking here and transfer provided through to Utsh Beach Camp (+/- 1hr transfer)

    Overnight: Utshwayelo Beach Camp - Luxury Tusker Tents (Dinner)

  2. Day 2Hike Day 1: Kosi Mouth – Fourth lake + 3 Lakes Boat trip (17km hiking + 12 km boat-trip/ 8hrs)

    Hike down towards Kalu inlet, crossing over to eKovukennni peninsula (5km). Boat collection at 1st lake – Ekovukenni side. Enjoy 3 lakes boat trip – with opportunity to snorkel in the channels. Drop off at Bhanga nek – hike along 3rd lake shoreline & through some villages to Siyadla River – 4th Lake. Cross over by Raffia Pont & then hike through to Kosi forest Lodge

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

  3. Day 3Hike Day 2: Black Rock – Lala Nek (+/- 12km / 5-6hr total time)

    Early morning – guided canoe paddle on the Siyadla River into 4th lake.

    Breakfast. 4x4 collection – transfer to Black Rock (24km – 4x4 tracks). Guided Hike Black Rock – Lala Nek (12km).

    Enjoy snorkeling at Lala Nek (tide permitting) – then short transfer up to Gugs Camp.

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

  4. Day 4Hike Day 3: Lala Nek to Thonga Beach Lodge (14 / 9 km)

    Short transfer down to Lala Nek OR Rocktail.

    Guided Hike Lala Nek/ Rocktail – through to Thonga Beach Lodge.

    Sunset safari drive to Lake Sibaya

    Overnight: Thonga Beach Lodge – Forest View (breakfast, packed lunch & dinner)

  5. Day 5Departure Day

    Opportunity for morning snorkel, breakfast, and 10.30 transfer out to Coastal Cashews (40min).

    * Can request to stay on for lunch and get an afternoon transfer - extra R200/pp for transfer + lunch if did not receive on arrival day.

    ** Or stay an extra night

Raffia Pont Crossing

On the Siyadla river leading into fourth lake

View across the Estuary and First Lake

The patchwork of fish kraals resembling a tribal tattoo

Luxury Beach and Bush Camps - all ensuite

Exclusive Canvas, Thatch and Wood

Gourmet Catering

Snorkelling, boat trips, kayaking, turtle trails

Gugs Private Research Camp
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Can we do this hike without the luxury lodgings?

    This trail does entail more costly support logistics (more & longer transfers, guide support etc) but it is possible to use some more budget lodging alternatives, and finish at Gugs camp where 2 nights can be spent but the full trail can be hiked down to Mabibi - see Opt D Eco trail

  4. What special fauna and flora exists?

    Kosi Bay is a sanctuary for many special & protected faunal & floral species. From the ancient Cycads to the most southerly grove of the giant Raffia Palm (whose fronds /leaves 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 & Lesser Flamingos and Ospreys. The protected lakes provide an important nursery function & supports some of the largest populations of 8 fish species that are listed in the Red Data book for threatened or vulnerable species.

    From November the leatherback and loggerhead turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, and from about December, the young start to hatch and run the gauntlet down to the ocean.

  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?

    Yes, we cost from 4 nights / 3 hike days but can add-on as many extra hike or lay days as you request. We do recomend a minimum of 4 nights for these trips though.

Opt A - 4 Nights Luxury (Utshwayelo - Kosi Forest Lodge - Gugulisizwe - Thonga Beach Lodge)

Group SizePrice (PP) 
2 Persons
R14 700/pp
3 Persons
R13 500/pp
4-5 Persons
R13 000/pp
6-8 Persons
R12 500/pp
9-10 Persons
R12 000/pp

Opt B - 4 Nights Eco - Utshwayelo - Kosi Bay Lodge - Gugulisizwe x 2 Nights

Group SizePrice (PP) 
2 Persons
R11 000/pp
3 Persons
R9 800/pp
4-5 Persons
R9 100/pp
6-8 Persons
R8 200/pp
9-10 Persons
R7 800/pp
Whats included in this tour
  • Opt A - 4 Nights Accom (sharing basis): Utshwayelo Beach Camp, Kosi Forest Lodge, Gugulisizwe, Thonga Beach Lodge
  • Gourmet Meals: from dinner on arrival day to breakfast on departure day (4 Dinners, 4 Breakfasts, 3 Trail lunches)
  • 3 Privately Guided Hike Days
  • Daily Luggage Support/Transfers
  • Return & Group Transfers
  • 3 Lakes Boat Trip
  • Snorkelling at world-class shallow reefs: Kosi Bay Mouth, Lala Nek, Hully Point
  • Kayaking on Lake Sibaya
  • All Hiking & IsiMangiliso Reserve Permits
  • AE Tour Reservation & Customisation Service
  • In Season (Nov - Mar) Turtle Tours can also be arranged