On the north east coastline of South Africa lies Sodwana Bay, the undisputed jewel of the Maputaland Marine Reserve & Elephant Coast, and the protected iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Sodwana Bay is renowned internationally for its big game deep sea fishing and enthralling sport scuba diving. Classified as one of the top dive sites in the world, this 50 km reef complex boasts around 95 species of hard and soft coral, sponges, other invertebrates and around 1200 fish species. Vast 700m deep valleys and submarine canyons, are strewn over a distance of 2 km, and it was in one of these that on 27 November 2000, the Coelacanth was rediscovered.
The bay is famous for visits by endangered marine megafauna including Whale Sharks, Great White, Hammerhead and Blacktip sharks, Manta Rays, orange-spotted Groupers, Potato Bass (cods), the critically endangered leatherback turtles and loggerhead turtles. Bottlenose dolphins also live here and have been observed regularly swimming with whale sharks. In addition, Humpback whales migrate here during the Winter to Spring seasons. Of course all the reefs accommodate a multitude of tropical fish species – individuals, couples, families and enormous schools. The superb variety of underwater life is the reason that Sodwana Bay is the annual host of the largest underwater photographic competition off the Southern African coast.
Accommodation options are many, from the basics of self-camping, to dive camps, to the more comfortable and fully equipped private houses within a lodge estate, to the very comfortable Sodwana Bay Lodge itself, featuring a fantastic restaurant, pub, boma and swimming pool.
Self-catering and catered options are available, and there are a few restaurants that serve up some local and international cuisine – nothing fancy, just filling and tasty.
All accommodation offerings are set back from the beach, 1 or 2 kilometres inland. Return beach transfers are available through your scuba diving hosts, and the road is very accessible for those who are self-driving in a sedan vehicle. Entry fees are paid daily at the Reserve’s gate, situated a few hundred meters from the beach and parking area. Overlooking the beach is a small wooden restaurant hut, run by the Reserve’s staff. Nothing fancy, but enough choices to satisfy a hungry diver. No alcohol is allowed on the beach.
The sport diving is excellent for all levels of scuba divers, and the reef system is so large, you could stay for a month and still not dive on every site.
Two-mile Reef - the most popular reef at Sodwana Bay with dives ranging from 9 metres to over 30 metres on the outer edge.
Five Mile - 8km from the launch site of Jesser Point. This deeper reef has a predominance of branching, table and plate corals.
Seven Mile - 11km north of Jesser Point and has beautiful corals and overhangs, drop-offs and mushroom rocks.
Nine Mile - the northern-most reef of the Sodwana complex and ranges from 6 metres to 21 metres.
Our first choice for accommodation is the Sodwana Bay Lodge, with on-site Scuba Centre. The lodge units are very comfortable double or twin sleepers, all en-suite, equipped with air-conditioning, ceiling fans, satellite TV, bar fridges and tea/coffee station. Also featured is the family restaurant, bar and swimming pool area. There are also numerous upmarket wooden houses next to the lodge, perfectly suitable for groups and families looking for a comfortable self-catered getaway.