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Sodwana Bay Diving

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16km from Mbazwana

-27.5402, 32.6785

Dives to Suit all levels of Experience

+27 33 345 6531 www.coraldivers.co.za

About

On a good day, Sodwana Bay offers some of the best diving in the world. The mecca of South African divers, it is part of South Africa’s first Unesco World Heritage Site, the iSimangaliso (formerly Greater St Lucia) Wetland Park.

The warm waters brought down by the Mozambique current favour coral development and extensive tropical reefs lie parallel to, and about 500 metres off, the shore - unimaginatively named for their distance from the sheltered launch site at Jesser Point – Quarter-Mile, Two-Mile, Five-Mile, Seven-Mile, Eight-Mile and Nine-Mile. 

This is where most local divers do their first open water dives, so there are a multitude of resident dive schools, while Johannes-burg and Durban operators bring clients down at weekends.

If you’ve never dived the KwaZulu-Natal coast, expect a fairly hair-raising first boat trip. After you’ve pushed the rigid inflatable boat into the shallows, it’s all aboard, life jackets on and feet in the straps ready for an exciting ride through the surf. When you return, the process is similar as the boat is ridden up onto the sand as you hang on for dear life.

The reefs at Sodwana are the most southerly coral reefs in the world, with nearly 100 species of hard and soft corals and more than 1 200 fish species on the reefs. The good news is that despite the number of novices that learn their skills on the shallower sites of the closer reefs, the coral is in incredibly good shape.

Sodwana has something for everyone. You can spend hours checking out the little critters on Stringer, Bikini or Roonies, the beautiful table corals and shoals of flame goatfish at Coral Gardens, the wonderful rock and coral topography of Arches or the dense shoals of fish on Anton’s.

An added attraction of diving Quarter-Mile is that pregnant ragged-tooth sharks often descend between May and December, so you can literally sit on the sand and watch these magnificent creatures cruise overhead.

On the whole, the coral gets even better the further out you go, but unless the sea is flat, it’s a choppy ride to the distant sites of Seven-, Eight- and Nine-Mile Reef – and you’ll be charged a premium to cover the extra fuel costs. But they are worth it not just for the incredible topography, pristine corals, abundant fish life and good chance of seeing dolphins surfing the backline, but also for the exclusivity of being the only boat on the site.

Coral Divers has earned the expected PADI five-star rating, but comes with the added benefit of being both a Gold Palm IDC Centre and National Geographic Dive Centre.

Diving is best during the warm summer months from November to May, when water temperatures are about 24C° to 28°C; in winter they can drop to 19°C. Whale sharks are regularly spotted between October and February and coelacanths are known to inhabit the depths off Sodwana. Technical divers have seen several at just over 100m in Jesser Canyon so if you’re qualified this is one of your best chances of seeing Old Four Legs.

Elephant Coast

KwaZulu Natal

About

On the eastern seaboard of South Africa, the wild country of the Elephant Coast presses up against the Indian Ocean in the east, Mozambique in the north and Zululand to the south and west. Here, the bright lights of the city are nowhere to be seen, replaced by night skies as unpolluted as nature created them.

The area was named for the elephants that once roamed here in great numbers, hunted for their tusks until they had all but disappeared. Luckily this has been turned around and elephants can once again be seen in many of the region’s game reserves, along with the rest of the Big 5.

Made up of extensive commercial farms, private game farms and government game reserves, the Elephant Coast is still relatively untouched by modernity. It incorporates vast expanses of wilderness, including an internationally renowned World Heritage Site, the 328000ha Isimangaliso Wetland Park. It is also home to Africa’s oldest game reserve, the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, founded in 1895.

The area is a must-visit for ecologically minded tourists; there is far more to see than just the two flagship reserves. Fortunate tourists can see the Big 5, scuba dive with whale sharks or manta rays, watch turtles laying their eggs, fish for tigerfish, and ride horses on the beach or through the bush. It’s a region that is rich in diversity.

Ndumo Game Reserve and Tembe Elephant Reserve are both on the border with Mozambique and offer unique experiences for twitchers and pachyderm fans.

Tembe now boasts herds of elephants that are noted for their impressive tusks, and it’s one of the better places in South Africa to get good sightings and photographs of these animals.

Ndumo is best known for its birding. Species such as the narina trogon, palm-nut vulture and green twinspot can be seen in the forests of figs and other beautiful trees. Healthy populations of hippo and crocodile lurk in the pans and rivers.

KosiBay, a reserve protecting a series of shallow coastal lakes and all that lives in and around them, offers excellent fishing. There are also fascinating cultural and wildlife walks and birding opportunities. In season, one can watch turtles as they lay eggs or hatch from them.

Also on the coast is Sodwana Bay, yet another conservation area run by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. It’s a mecca for scuba divers and snorkelers from all over the world.

Sodwana holds beneath its waters coral reefs that are home to an estimated 1 200 fish species. These include the prehistoric coelacanth, as well as sharks and other fish.

Lake Sibaya is another attraction, although one that has failed to attain the popularity it deserves. The largest fresh-water lake in South Africa, Sibaya is home to thousands of waterbirds. Game is plentiful along its shores and crocodiles stalk its clear water.

The Jozini, or Pongolapoort, Dam offers a wonderful blend of sport fishing with game viewing. The river itself is also home to healthy populations of tigerfish.

Look out for

Isimangaliso Wetland Park – this World Heritage Site is amazingly diverse and deserves at least a few days of your time. Go for a boat cruise on the estuary, a game drive through the bush, and a hike along the shores of Lake St Lucia.

Sodwana Bay – take advantage of one of the world’s top scuba diving spots. Beginners can go on courses or snorkel; while more experienced divers have a number of reefs to choose from.

Birdwatching – the entire Elephant Coast is home to bountiful birdlife, although there are a few hot spots. The pans of Mkhuze Game Reserve play host to pelicans and all sorts of other birdlife. Over 420 bird species have been recorded in the riverine forest, woodland and savannahs of the park. Ndumo Game Reserve has an even better record, with more than 430 species recorded, the most for anywhere in South Africa. Beautiful, fever tree-lined pans are home to specials such as Pel’s fishing owl, broadbill and black egret.

Fishing – the Elephant Coast’s Jozini Dam is one of the few places in South Africa where anglers can try their luck at landing the tigerfish, one of the most ferocious, toothy fish in the world. If salt-water fishing is preferred, Kosi Bay is a popular and exceptional fishery, while deep-sea charters also operate from St Lucia.

Turtle tours – St Lucia is probably the best place in the country to go on an organised turtle watching tour. While sightings can’t be guaranteed, you have a good chance of seeing leatherback and loggerhead turtles laying eggs or hatching. Community guides at Kosi Bay also offer turtle watching tours that are very worthwhile.

Game view – the Elephant Coast is still home to a healthy population of big tuskers, especially in Tembe Elephant Park. A good sighting of these animals will stay with you for the rest of your life. The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve is internationally famous for saving the white rhino from extinction, and it remains one of the best places in the world to view this docile behemoth. The rest of the Big 5 can also be seen here, along with many other interesting animals.

Hike – while some areas require a guide (especially the Big 5 parks), there are some exceptional walking trails on the Elephant Coast. Almost all game reserves will offer day trails, while a trail with a difference can be enjoyed at Kosi bay. Here you can wander around the Kosi Mouth estuary, inspecting the primitive fish traps and watching locals at work spearing their catch. 

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