Discovering scuba diving in Sodwana Bay!

Discovering scuba diving in Sodwana Bay!

Diving in Sodwana Bay (KwaZulu Natal)

Quick facts

Sodwana Bay is a fantastic, year-round dive destination that lies within the boundaries of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located on the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal and stretches from Lake St Lucia to the Mozambique border. This stretch of coast provides the travelling diver with a vast array of unspoilt coral reefs populated with a huge diversity of Indo-Pacific fish species & invertebrates. Apart from the great diving & beautiful coral reefs, the area offers fun and excitement for the non-diver too. From quad bike riding, surfing, & kiteboarding, to day trips to surrounding African ‘Big 5’ game reserves, you’ll be sure to find something that appeals to you, your friends and/or family.
Sodwana Bay reefs have the most southern coral reef formations in Africa and they occur on the continental shelf, which is approximately 4km wide in this area.  The breathtakingly colourful hard and soft corals grow on a sandstone base structure that is unique to true coral reef structures. Due to the sandstone base structure, our reefs tend to be flat with low pinnacles, shallow drop offs, gullies and range in depth from 6m to 100m, and are relatively young at 4000 years old.
What makes Sodwana great, is that the reefs are home to 1200 species of fish, compared to 1800 in the Great Barrier Reef, yet less than 1-10th the area of the GBR!  You can see almost everything if you dive here often enough.  As well as fish, you will find all sorts of invertebrates, turtles, rays and sharks on any of the dive sites.  The opportunities are limitless.
The seasonal sightings of Whalesharks are Dec-Feb, Humpback Whales are June-Oct, Ragged-tooth Sharks from Dec-Feb, and nesting Leatherback and Loggerhead Turtles can be seen from Dec – Feb each year.
All the dives conducted at Sodwana Bay are drift dives. A predominant current that flows from north to south is noticeable, but sometimes a reverse current is prevalent. Depending on the strength of this current, more than one dive site may be covered. The Dive masters that lead the dives will choose the best dive sites according to the conditions to ensure a comfortable and safe dive.
The reef structure is divided in to a number of portions. 2 Mile Reef is the largest but closest section of reef and this is followed by 5,7, and 9 Mile Reefs. All named according to their distance from the launch site at Jesser Point.

Getaway Magazine

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.

scuba diving, sodwana, melanie
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.

beach, sunset, sodwana

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crab
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.

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fishing, fishing rod, sodwana
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.

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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.

reef

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underwater

moray eel

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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.

turtle

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.

Sodwana Bay Diving Melanie vZ-5

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Sodwana Bay Diving Melanie vZ-3

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