Sodwana Bay epitomises the attractions of diving off the African coast, unspoilt marine beauty…..
Sodwana Bay is probably not as well known in international diving circles as Aliwal Shoal (I may be wrong!) but it is at the least as attractive a proposition as Aliwal Shoal and to many scuba divers, it is a far better scuba dive vacation spot.
To get there it is a four hour drive from Durban, northwards.
The surroundings are very different and lie within the World heritage site of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park as well as being in close proximity to the Hluhluwe and Umfolozi Game parks.
The Sodwana bay scuba dive sites revolve around 14 main reefs which are covered with both soft and hard corals and a profusion of fish. The warm Agulhas current cultivates a diverse range of sea life – more than 25 species of shark, turtles (leatherback and loggerhead), several types of ray and there are numerous large species present – like Whales (Humpback, Minke and Southern right), Whale Shark as well as Dolphins being a common sight.
The fact that Sodwana bay has been part of a marine preserve for nearly forty years means this area has had the fish populations protected for many years.
These are also reputed to be the southernmost coral reefs in the world largely due to the warm Agulhas current.
Launches to reach the Sodwana bay reefs are by way of semi-rigid boats through surf that is anything between 0.5m to 3.0m waves.
Sodwana bay reef descriptions:
The reefs are generally named for the distance they are located from the Jesser point lighthouse
¼ Mile Reef
This being close in to shore is a vaguely uninteresting reef, although in season you will find upwards of 40 Ragged Tooth sharks during their gestation period. Also Rays and Guitar Sharks are found here.
Two Mile Reef
This is the largest, about 2km long, and most accessible reef – it is to some extent protected from bad weather so is almost always accessible.
The geography is of large rock outcrops, swim-throughs and cliffs.
It has a maximum depth of 14 m covered in both hard and soft corals with a lot of varied life there.
Five Mile Reef
The Coral formations, rocky outcrops caves and gullies make this an interesting dive, lots of moray eels, scorpion fish and beautiful anemones. There are paperfish and rays to be seen here – sometimes Manta rays.
Average depth is about 24m.
Seven Mile Reef
The reef is popular for the impressive mushroom rocks and the fact that sharks like Black tip are to be seen here apart from the prolific sea life.
Depth is an average of about 18m
Nine Mile Reef
There is a well known green coral tree here which supports a large quantity of fish. Lots of large boulder type rocks creating interesting topography – it is a large reef with depths of up to 23m
The sites I have mentioned above are only a few of the main sites, there are more dives to be done here than you will be able to do in weeks if not months!
There are about 1100 species of fish found at Sodwana bay most of which are to be found in significant numbers including
Fusiliers, Pufferfish, Lionfish, Scorpion fish, Coachmen, various types of Snappers, Goatfish, Kingfish, razor wrasse, ghost pipefish, various angels, some of the less common nudibranchs, the large species I mentioned earlier and many many more.
Some essential information:
June to August 19 – 22 degrees Celsius
September to May 22 – 29 degrees Celsius
5mm is probably best in winter with a hoodie.
For summer months 3mm is probably fine for most people.
Visibility varies depending on the time of the year from 8m to 40m.
There are no nearby rivers to muddy the waters and in winter plankton blooms don't cloud the water - so for vis - winter is the time.
Types of Diving:
Reef Dives, Drift Diving.
November to March – Ragged Tooth Sharks and Whales passing through in June through to November.
May is said to be the best time to scuba dive vacation at Sodwana bay.
It is warm all year round, winter averages about 21 degrees, whilst summer is humid and reaches the low 30’s.
In summary – Sodwana deserves its reputation for being one of the top dive vacation destinations, and is well worth being put at the top of your ‘list of places to dive before I die’…….
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