Hike to Bat Cave in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park

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Bat Cave is a little-known secret spot within the famous iSimangaliso Wetland Park that can be accessed from Mission Rocks – a section of coastline characterised by a rocky platform that is full of rock pools at low tide. This flat and easy hike along the beach gives hikers a unique perspective of an enchanted stretch of coast that is well worth taking the time to explore – plus, there’s a cave with bats in it 🙂

Exploring Bat Cave near Mission Rocks
Exploring Bat Cave near Mission Rocks

Mission Rocks and Bat Cave

Mission Rocks is a popular stop along the Eastern Shores Section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The deep blue ocean and rugged coastline attracts hundreds of visitors to make the short detour to this section as part of their park itinerary. It’s a great place for taking pictures, exploring rock pools, or simply relaxing under an umbrella while you watch the waves crash against the shore.

Mission Rocks is also the start and end point of the hike to Bat Cave. As the name suggests, Bat Cave is a large recess in an exposed section of sandstone that is home to a colony of Egyptian Fruit bats. The bats utilise the cave as a roosting site during the day when they are not out feeding. When the tide is low visitors can walk the sandy stretch northwards from Mission Rocks to the cave, looking out for dolphins and turtles in the surf along the way.

We found the Bat Cave hike to be a very memorable excursion during our Ultimate South African Road Trip.

Mission Rocks
Mission Rocks in the evening.

Adventure Highlights

  • Explore pristine, deserted beaches.
  • Spot dolphins, turtles and whales in season.
  • Enjoy the peace of this unspoiled coastline.
  • Admire beautiful vegetated dunes that line the coastline.
  • Discover hidden Bat Cave and view the colony of Egyptian Fruit bats inside.

 

bevan and jill at mission rocks isimangaliso
Great spot for a long walk on the beach…

Description of the hike

Visitors can access the beach at Mission Rocks from within the Eastern Shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Simply enter the park via the Bhangazi Gate and follow the signs from the main road to Mission Rocks. There is a designated parking and picnic area with toilet facilities. From here, a short path leads down onto the beach. Once you have taken in the view and explored the rocky shoreline, walk north up the coastline with the sea to your right. The path scrambles over a rocky section and then leads down onto a wide bay. Take off your shoes and enjoy the feeling of the sand under your toes as you walk this section of unspoiled beach.

There is plenty to see along the way – dolphins and turtles are often spotted in the surf and humpback whales frequent this coastline from May to November. The vegetated dunes along this stretch of coastline are also a sight to behold and don’t forget to look out for birds perching in the trees.

Towards the end of the bay (approximately 2 km from Mission Rocks), the dunes give way to large rock formations. Keep your eyes peeled because Bat Cave is tucked away within this rocky section. The entrance to the cave is a fairly large opening that sits above some low-lying rocks. Visitors will need to climb up this section to get inside, but can also duck through a low gap on the sea side. Don’t forget to bring a torch as you will need this to spot the Egyptian Fruit bats that are hanging from the roof! These bats feed on fruit, buds, young leaves, pollen and nectar, which they locate with their sharp eyesight and sense of smell. They are nocturnal, which means that they are most active at night.

 

Map of the Route

 

Jill checking out the coastline near Mission Rocks
Jill checking out the coastline near Mission Rocks.

Caution

This beach is part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park’s game area. There are no fences between the bush and the beach. Although wild animals on the beach are unlikely, there is always a chance and any game sighting must be treated with caution. There are also no lifeguards or shark nets at Mission Rocks.

Your hike to Bat Cave must be timed to coincide with low tide as access to the cave is cut off during high tide. Be sure to consult a tide chart before leaving. There’s a pretty good one on Magic Seaweed.

Egyptian Fruit bats are suspected to host the Marburg virus that is potentially dangerous to humans. Take care not to touch any of the bats or their waste products that line the floor of the cave.

Bevan taking in the last moments on the beach before heading home.
Bevan taking in the last moments on the beach before heading home.

Important information

Please note there is a per person and per vehicle entry fee for the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and gate opening and closing times apply. Ensure you allow enough time after your walk to get back to the gate before it closes. A maximum of 25 cars is allowed at Mission Rocks at any time. Check out the iSimangaliso Website for more info.

Bhangazi Gate opening and closing times:
Summer times (November – March): 05:00 to 19:00
Winter times (April – October):06:00 to 18:00

Bhangazi Gate entrance fee:
Adults – R40
Children (under the age of 12) – R30
Vehicle entry charge:

  • R50 for 1-5 people
  • R75 for 6-12 people
  • R100 for 13-20 people
  • R170 for 21+ people

Accommodated visitors: R6 per person (excludes Rhino Gold card holders)
Community Levy: R5 per person

There is a picnic site and toilet facilities at Mission Rocks.

Entering Bat Cave
Entering Bat Cave.
Headlamps on to try and spot the bats.
Headlamps on to try and spot the bats.

What to Pack

  • Sun cream, hat and sunglasses.
  • Comfortable clothing.
  • Drinking water (there are no water points along the way).
  • Torch or headlamp to view the bats.
  • Camera.

 

When to go

Bat Cave is only accessible at low tide, so consult tide charts before you go. Ideally one should begin walking an hour or two before peak low tide to maximize time on the beach.

Walking is most enjoyable when the weather is fine, and not too hot. In KwaZulu-Natal, the winter months (April-July) are cooler, drier and generally less windy.

 

Getting there

Mission Rocks can only be accessed via the Eastern Shore’s Bhangazi Gate, in the St Lucia section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Mission Rocks is approximately 15 km away from the gate. On the main road to Cape Vidal, look out for the right turn to Mission Rocks, which is signposted.

 

Details to keep on hand

iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Tel: +27 (0)35 590 1633
Website: www.iSimangaliso.com

Mission Rocks and the Elephant Coast
Mission Rocks and the Elephant Coast.

4 thoughts on “Hike to Bat Cave in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park

  1. St Lucia is one of my favourite towns because of its diversity. I am still to do the Bat Caves at Mission Rocks. Thanks for the blog and reminder. This will be on my itinerary for my next visit.

  2. Wow! Thanks for sharing this treasure. ISmangaliso is our number 1 spot to holiday! Last visit on the way to mission rocks we had a leopard sighting! So amazing. We can’t wait to try the hike and see the bats

    1. That’s awesome! I believe that area is really good for leopard sightings. We haven’t seen any there ourselves, but we’ll keep our eyes open. Glad you liked the post – It’s such a beautiful and different experience to get out and hike through this stretch. Really stunning. Just gotta watch that tide though 🙂

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