Dating back 140 million years, rich fossil deposits of marine animals, including teeth of giant sharks some up to sixteen cm in length, indicate St Lucia Western Shores was a marine environment during the Cretaceous period. But these fossils are not to be found in Lake St Lucia, the Eastern Shores or the off-shore coral reefs.
All of these St Lucia areas have more recent origins. The formation of St Lucia as we know it was formed as a result of changing sea levels caused by various ice ages and wet and dry periods over the past two million years.
About 125 000 years ago the sea rose more than two meters above that of present level. False Bay was a clear-water tropical habitat directly connected to the sea. Again fossils tell us the story.
Sea levels changed over the years, and around 25 000 years ago sand carried by coastal currents started depositing on the shore to form a barrier on which the coastal dunes grew. This barrier enclosed a lagoon - which was to become Lake St Lucia.
Two of the rivers entering Lake St Lucia were powerful enough to force their way through this barrier to the sea - the Mkuze in the north of the Lake St Lucia area and the Umfolozi in the region of the existing St Lucia mouth. Later the Mkuze river mouth closed up, leaving only the submarine canyon off Leven Point as evidence of the old river course.
ST LUCIA CULTURAL HERITAGE
The first evidence of human occupation in the St Lucia area dates back to the Stone Age. People of Middle and Late Stone Age cultures may have inhabited the St Lucia area probably for as long as 110,000 years. Evidence of shell middens on the St Lucia coast testify to extensive use of black mussels (Perna perna) for food. The Maputaland plain which includes the area of St Lucia was settled by agriculturists in the early and late Iron Ages (250-1840 AD).
Due to the prevalence of malaria and the cattle disease trypanosomiasis, carried by the tsetse fly Glossina, the st Lucia area was mostly uninhabited but for small scattered settlements of the Sokhulu people present between Sodwana and the St Lucia estuary, evidenced by several traditional burial sites. These people smelted bog iron, felling trees to produce charcoal for their smelters (Taylor,1980).
Little is known about the nature of further human settlements until the early nineteenth century, when the St Lucia area was sparsley occupied by the Nguni-speaking people who subsequently came under Zulu domination (Wright & Hamilton,1989).
St Lucia was first named in 1554 - "Rio de la Medaos do Oura" (River of the dows of Gold) by the survivors of the wrecked Portuguese ship, the Saint Benedict. On the day of the Feast of Saint Lucy, 13 December 1575, the Portugeuse mariner Manuel Perestrello landed on the beaches and renamed the mouth area Santa Lucia.
The next naming phase took place in 1822 when the Royal Navy sent the ships Leven, Barracouta, and Cockburn to survey the coastline. The captain of the Barracouta was Lieutenant A.Vidal, after whom Cape Vidal was named, and Leven Point was named after the sloop HMS Leven.
Later Mission Rocks was named in 1888 when LO Feyling, a Norwegian Reverend, established a Catholic mission on the Eastern Shores, approximately 10 km north of the St Lucia mouth
The 19th century St Lucia and surrounds saw destruction of the wildlife with extensive hunting for ivory, rhino horn and hippo. Fortunately the ecological significance of the wildlife were recognized and protected by declaring the St Lucia and the lake area a Nature Reserve in 1897. The original St Lucia Game Reserve is considered the oldest permanentely declared reserve in Africa.