It is well known that tourism can bring problems for poor rural people in less developed countries. This paper describes a pilot study of five rural communities in the vicinity of or within a South African protected area, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Within the context of sustainable tourism development and the sustainable livelihoods approach, it explores whether access to information and to education and training has had impacts on the survival of these communities. The information provision role of governing authorities is also investigated regarding the preservation of the site and also for ownership and land claims. The results indicate that lack of access to relevant information can be a prime reason why rural communities cannot break out of the poverty cycle, and they suggest it is imperative to train and educate survivalist communities so that they can mobilise themselves economically, including through local tourism development. The demonstrated significance of lack of information provision, training and education represents a new contribution to the field. The study concludes that, where it is a matter of survival for rural communities, a sustainable livelihoods approach may be more appropriate and attainable than a sustainable tourism development approach.