Diving Sodwana Bay

Location  Sodwana Bay, Kwazulu Natal – Just south of Mozambique border 
Dive Centres and Accomodation Recommendations 

 

 

Coral Divers – Friendly, young and sociable atmosphere. Well organised dive charters. Enthusiastic dive staff, many in-training. Thorough briefings. 6 boats. PADI courses available up to Divemaster level. Large camp in park grounds with accomodation ranging from tents to basic en-suite huts. Costs: 5 day dive package incl. tented accom for R450. Daily Kwazulu Natal conservation fees approx. R33 per person. 

 

Triton Dive Charters – For deeper or mixed gas diving instruction or to visit less frequented dive sites. Peter Timm is qualified CMAS /IANTD Trimix instructor, (who, incidentally, has been to the bottom of Chinhoyi Caves, Zimbabwe at 146metres!) Remote, secure, s/c Afrikaans Bush Camp & bar. Hardy divers welcome. Club atmosphere. 13km outside park. 3 nights 5 dive package-from R620. Daily Sodwana Bay entrance fee – R90pp No email or website but you can contact Roleen on Mobile. 082 494 8761 or Fax. 035-571-0024. 

Sodwana Bay Lodge: For the more affluent divers. Luxury accommodation in stilted huts. Visitors welcome to the restaurant and bar. Dive centre and retail shop on site. Check website for details. 

Dive Facilities  Sodwana Bay is well equipped for divers with a permanent medical station on the beach. Facilities for gear washing available on site and for payment local boys will carry and wash your equipment. The crime rate has reduced drastically and is now a problem of the past. Just keep obvious temptation out of reach and don’t leave easy pickings lying around. 
Diving Seasons  South African winter – April to September. May is the best month for diving. Avoid Easter weekend. 
Water Temp  Between 21°C mid-winter and sometimes as high as 30°C mid-summer Need 5mm 2 piece wet suit with hood if you feel the cold. 
Visibility  Variable. Average 15m. Up to 25m 
Recommended Dive Sites  Antons, Stringer (2 mile reef), Mushroom Rocks, Amphitheatre (7 mile reef), Green Tree (9 mile reef), quarter mile reef. 
Extra dive sites visited only by Peter Timm at Triton Dive Charters for experienced divers only and highly recommended.  Deep air dive – Diep Gat.
Adrenalin dive – Breaking waters at 9 mile. 
Diving Extras:  Usually a surcharge of R10 – 25 is added to cost of dives if visiting further reefs. 
Common Marine Encounters:  Turtles, reef sharks, ribbontail and giant stingrays along with a huge variety of hard and soft corals in excellent condition considering the high number of divers that visit. The usual colourful tropical reef fish are here including shoals of many types of snapper, batfish, spadefish, fusiliers, coachmen (bannerfish), gold anthinae. Large honeycomb morays frequently seen free-swimming. Dolphins are regularly spotted on the way back from dive sites and occasionally Whalesharks too. If they hang around, most boats will allow you to snorkel with them. Our camera batteries worked a dream until the moment we needed them most. Missed both the Whaleshark and the dolphins. 
The Dive Sites:
 
2 mile reef is the most visited due to its proximity to shore. Despite the thousands of divers who visit this reef each year, the coral is looking surprisingly healthy and the fish life overflowing, particularly on Antons and Stringer reefs which house resident hanging shoals of humpbacked and many lined snapperbaardmen and bannerfish (locally known as coachmen). 

A photographer’s dream is Breaking Waters (9 mile): – At low tide you can spend 50 minutes at 3 meters wide-eyed, just watching and hearing the thunderous waves roll towards and then crash overhead. Presently only dived by Triton Dive Charters. 

Mushroom Rocks and Amphitheatre at 7mile are popular sites with interesting topography varying in depth to max 25m. Look closely for little life at 5 mile where the flat reef holds many surprises for the curious. Deep Sponge off 2mile is a gently descending seabed from 23m. Like cacti of the desert, the seafloor is sparsely populated with purples, reds and oranges of small cup and branching sponges. White and black tip reef sharks regularly seen cruising around these flat reefs and during the slow ascent from 30m, the diver has time to lookout for passing eagle rays and shark traffic. 

Green Tree at 9 mile gets its name from the branching coral tree alive with juvenile snappers, anthinae and damselfish – a focal point on this dive. 9 mile reef itself is a wonderfully craggy reef riddled with caves and swim throughs. Large groupers found hiding in the holes and teeming fish life covers the top reefs. Highly recommended dive site. 

Diep Gat is a rarely dived site, only visited by Peter Timm at Triton Dive Charters. At 54 meters the sea floor is stepped with large flat boulders where fish seem a lot more inquisitive and unbothered by divers. There is a larger version of the Green Tree which plays host to bustling communities of snappers, lionfish, whitebarred sweetlips, soldierfish, pufferfish. At 51 meters breathing air, using CMAS dive tables, we were given 11 minutes bottom time and our decompression stops were 6 meters for 2 minutes and 3 meters for 5 mins. Safety precautions taken on this dive. Two divers carried twin sets in case of out of air emergency at depth. Peter uses this site for his Trimix courses. Excellent dive. 

Quarter mile reef can be dived as a shore entry but is easier by boat. During March April, May, it is not uncommon to see Ragged Tooth Sharks residing on the sand here. They are not as predictable as at Aliwal Shoal but they do tend to choose quarter mile as a resting place when they are around Sodwana Bay. The reef must be dived in calm conditions after a few days of settled weather as the site is shallow (10m) and is near the shorebreak. In good visibility, this is a wonderful site with plenty of action amongst the rocks. On our dive, we spotted a honeycomb moray eel dislodge a cozy blue-spotted lagoon ray from his cave. The ray, slightly disorientated and still unaware of what had nudged him, tried to nestle back inside the cave. He realized too late and shot out again with a bite sized chunk missing from his wing. 

 

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