Sodwana Bay lies on the northern coast of South Africa, is South Africa’s first World Heritage Site, and is home to the southernmost coral reefs in Africa. It is scuba diving Shangri-La.
The Indian Ocean is beautifully warm and the beach is covered with scuttling crabs. I visited over our summer Christmas holidays and it was mayhem. Incredibly entertaining mayhem, but bedlam nonetheless.
Divers thronged under beach shelters, kitting up and waiting for their boat to beach. Children splashed in the lagoon, locals walked the beaches selling little wooden boats and model Land Rovers while fisherman tried their best to get as far away from the masses as possible to land their catch without having their line interrupted by boats and children.
Coral Divers Resort was definitely the perfect option over this time of the year because it’s situated inside the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Accommodation is basic but comfortable, and the setting is vibey with a central lodge-cum-restaurant overlooking the pool area. It’s an established resort with a great reputation and doesn’t break the bank (click here for rates). If we had stayed outside the park, we would have needed to queue every morning to get inside the park and onto the beach – a really harrowing affair with reports of people getting their place in the line at two in the morning.
I was nervous as hell and as excited as a baby baboon on my first dive. A lot can go wrong under water and it took me a while to master how to clear my mask in the practice pool sessions so I was a little apprehensive about our venture into the deep blue. We piled into the boat and sped off to Two Mile Reef. My stomach lurched a little but it wasn’t long before we put palms over our masks, dipped backwards and plunged into the sea.
I’d call it breath-taking if it wasn’t for the air cylinder on my back. Scuba diving in Sodwana Bay is Finding Nemo in real life. Colourful coral reefs, slow peaceful turtles, dust-spraying stingrays and an incredible variety of tropical fish. Thanks to a supportive diving guide any nervous feeling dissolved with a safe descent.
I went straight from the pool in the morning to 10-metres underwater before midday. I went underwater twice, but it’s definitely not enough. I have every intention of returning and completing a PADI open water course.
Tips for diving in Sodwana Bay
Go out of season to avoid the crowds and queues. It can get overwhelming! Browse the market on the main beach, but venture to the back. If you look hard enough you’ll find some unusual things under all the other identical curios – I managed to find a quirky wooden owl for my sister after some digging. If you want a change of scenery or get away from the hoards, drive to Mseni Lodge and find the stairs descending to the beach – it’s much quieter on this end of the bay.