Probably the most diverse and exciting place for diving in the whole of Africa, Sodwana Bay is located in South Africa's first world heritage area of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park. This 50km long reef system is full of fantastic sites for you to discover and an abundance of varied marine species for you to see.
The dive centres are located in diving lodges, where you can get accommodation and all your diving needs in one place. There are sites for all levels with depth ranging from 5 to 30 metres, most of the sites are an average of 18 metres deep. Visibility ranges from 10-40 metres, depending on the time of year. The best time to dive is from Apr-Sept. Water temperature can get as low as 21 degrees but usually sits between 24-28 degrees.
The marine species to be found include 95 different types of corals, sponges and invertebrates, there are around 1200 species of fish and you might see some of the big stuff such as dolphins, sharks, whales, whale sharks and turtles. It's mostly reef diving with pinnacles, caves and blow holes dotted around the place.
The dive sites are strategically named after the distance from the departure spot at Jesser Point. Starting with Quarter Mile Reef, which is a great site to encounter the Raggy Tooth Shark in season from Dec-Feb is almost a certainty. Next up is 2 Mile Reef, the most common area for diving in Sodwana Bay, with many tropical reef fish, big schools of fish, large Potato Bass and maybe a Marble Ray.
Keep heading out and you'll hit 5 Mile Reef with impressive drop offs and coral formations, then 7 Mile Reef with mushroom shaped rocks and lovely walls, turtles and rays can often be seen here and this reef is rated the best in the area and in the top 15 reefs in Africa. 9 Mile Reef is great for its swim throughs, caves and overhangs, which makes for interesting exploration.
So there's some fantastic diving to be had at Sodwana Bay. It'll keep you busy for a good couple of weeks so plan to stay for at least a week to really appreciate the beauty the area has to offer. Happy diving!
(by Kelly Luckman)
Nestled on the coast between St Lucia and Lake Sibhayi, Sodwana Bay was declared a national park in the 1950's and has been a world class diving and fishing spot for many years. Sodwana means 'little one on its own' in the Zulu language, with a rich history of ivory hunters and gun runners taking refuge here, this narrow strip of sand dunes on the KwaSulu Natal coast is a popular tourist destination for the nature lover.
Getting there is an adventure. International flights arrive at Durban or Johannesburg then you can hire a car and drive the 350km from Durban or 600km from Jo'Berg, there is also a domestic flight to Richard's Bay with Com Air and driving from here will take you two and a half hours. There is a coach but it's a lot of travelling, from Richard's Bay to Mbazwana then minivan from there to Sodwana. It's best to hire a car so you can really appreciate the area.
There are many accommodation options available in the area, depending on what activities you're planning on doing. If you're there for diving then best to stay in one the diving lodges who will cater to your diving needs, you can find a room for under $20 a night. For a cheap option to can opt for camping where you can immerse yourself in nature and the wildlife for under $10. Choose from boutique hotels to self catering bungalow or cottages or for a special experience, stay in a cabin at the private game reserve, depending on your accommodation choice, prices for these range from $50-$150.
Sodwana Bay is renowned for it's spectacular natural wonders. Over 35,000 people a year come here to dive and snorkel. Fishing is also extremely popular here with big game fish such as Marlin being the sought after catch. Other water sports include kite surfing, surfing, spear fishing and sunset cruises.
Land based activities are also a plenty with quad biking through the state forest, bird watching tours with over 250 species to be discovered including forest, sea and water species. Nature walks are everywhere in gorgeous surroundings or view the area by air in a micro-lite. Visiting the local game park is a truly exhilarating experience to see South Africa's big five.
One of the most special things to witness in Sodwana Bay are the turtles nesting and hatching, which occurs from Nov until end of Feb. This special night tour should be book with a registered guide who are properly training to interact with the turtle without disturbing them. This can usually be booked through where you're staying.
There is so much to discover in this remote part of the world, with natural beauty everywhere you turn and fun activities to enjoy, Sodwana Bay is waiting for you to explore.
(By Kelly Luckman)