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Diving in Sodwana Bay (KwaZulu Natal)

With 83% of the world’s marine fish families, an alluring mix of shipwrecks, reefs and pelagic species, and one of the top five dive sites in the world, KwaZulu-Natal is a diver’s paradise.

Diving in Sodwana Bay (KwaZulu Natal)

Quick facts

Sodwana Bay is a fantastic, year-round dive destination that lies within the boundaries of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located on the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal and stretches from Lake St Lucia to the Mozambique border. This stretch of coast provides the travelling diver with a vast array of unspoilt coral reefs populated with a huge diversity of Indo-Pacific fish species & invertebrates. Apart from the great diving & beautiful coral reefs, the area offers fun and excitement for the non-diver too. From quad bike riding, surfing, & kiteboarding, to day trips to surrounding African 'Big 5' game reserves, you'll be sure to find something that appeals to you, your friends and/or family.

Sodwana Bay reefs have the most southern coral reef formations in Africa and they occur on the continental shelf, which is approximately 4km wide in this area.  The breathtakingly colourful hard and soft corals grow on a sandstone base structure that is unique to true coral reef structures. Due to the sandstone base structure, our reefs tend to be flat with low pinnacles, shallow drop offs, gullies and range in depth from 6m to 100m, and are relatively young at 4000 years old.

What makes Sodwana great, is that the reefs are home to 1200 species of fish, compared to 1800 in the Great Barrier Reef, yet less than 1-10th the area of the GBR!  You can see almost everything if you dive here often enough.  As well as fish, you will find all sorts of invertebrates, turtles, rays and sharks on any of the dive sites.  The opportunities are limitless.

The seasonal sightings of Whalesharks are Dec-Feb, Humpback Whales are June-Oct, Ragged-tooth Sharks from Dec-Feb, and nesting Leatherback and Loggerhead Turtles can be seen from Dec - Feb each year.

All the dives conducted at Sodwana Bay are drift dives. A predominant current that flows from north to south is noticeable, but sometimes a reverse current is prevalent. Depending on the strength of this current, more than one dive site may be covered. The Dive masters that lead the dives will choose the best dive sites according to the conditions to ensure a comfortable and safe dive.

The reef structure is divided in to a number of portions. 2 Mile Reef is the largest but closest section of reef and this is followed by 5,7, and 9 Mile Reefs. All named according to their distance from the launch site at Jesser Point.

When to go

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USD 326Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers

2 Mile Reef top sites - Caves & Overhangs

Ave: 10m, Max: 16m

"Caves and Overhangs" offers incredible coral formations consisting mostly of plate and staghorn hard corals, which together with the rocky substrate form numerous small caves and swim-throughs. The fish life is abundant, and almost anything can be seen which makes this site a very dynamic and colourful dive.


Ave: 13m, Max: 16m

"Anton's" substantially larger profile makes it popular with divers. Nutrients are carried and pushed onto the reef by a predominantly north-south current, where large schools of fish hang. Slingers, Christies and Humpback Snappers enjoy the feast and are always found in large schools. Don't miss the Slender Baardman on the northern sand patch. Larger marine animals like turtles and many ray species are also found feeding around this dive site.

Big Stringer & Small Stringer

Ave: 11m, Max: 13m

It consists of two close rocky outcrops, surrounded by sand. Large game fish frequent this area, which doubles as a nursery for juvenile fish. You are likely to come across large and small critters such as Frogfish, Anemonefish, Ghost Pipefish, many rays, moray eels and all three types of sea turtles. Look closely for Paperfish and juvenile Emperor Angelfish. Manta Rays often pass by.


Ave: 18m, Max: 22m

Bikini is a macro photographer's playground. Try spotting the Ghost and Scribbled Pipefish, Garden Eels, or juvenile Boxfish. This delicate reef is an important cleaning station, packed with Durban Dancers, Banded Boxer Shrimps, and other cleaner shrimps. This attracts many adult and juvenile moray eels. Don't miss one of the bigger visitors such as sharks, turtles, and even Manta Rays.

5 Mile Reef top sites:


Ave: 25m, Max: 32m

This ledge provides a great patrol area for big game fish in search of prey. Various crustaceans can be found along the bottom. See what is using the Black Tree coral as shelter. Lionfish, Sharks, Potato bass, and various Rays (e.g. Eagle rays, Manta rays) may accompany you on your dive.


Ave: 9m, Max: 14m

The 4m diameter pothole contains a variety of interesting marine life. Carefully enter to explore the 3m ledge, and low overhangs surrounding you. You may spot the Bar-tail moray and crustaceans. While waiting your turn, look round the outside edge of the pothole, keeping your eyes open for Sharks, and Rays.


Ave: 16m, Max: 19m

It consists of two small reef systems similar to Stringer, and attributes its name to the uncommon Ribbon eel found here. A special feature is the red coloured Magnificent Anemone. Lionfish and large Scorpionfish are sighted regularly. Large predator fish such as Barracuda, Kingfish and a variety of Sharks make an appearance.


Ave: 40m, Max: 42m

Aptly named after Gotham City (Batman's Turf), due to the schooling Batfish which often hang above the reef. Visitors to this reef require a Deep Speciality certification. Lots can be seen on Gotham, making a great dive for those who enjoy deeper waters!

7 Mile Reef top sites - Northern Wall to Mushroom Rocks

Ave: 16m, Max: 22m

With the number of fish species, spectacular drop offs and coral formations, 7 Mile is not to be missed, and should be listed as one of the world's top dive sites. What makes this reef so popular is its variety, including Blacktip Reef Sharks, schools of pelagic fish, huge moray eels and plenty of turtles. Even Black Marlin have been known to visit this beautiful reef. The ride out is often interspersed with sightings of Bottlenose and Spinner Dolphins, Whalesharks and Humpback Whales, depending on the season.

What to see

Because of the diversity of habitats found in KwaZulu-Natal’s dive sites, there is a huge variety of marine life found here. On the bigger side of things, divers can expect to see whales and dolphins while cruising around the area, including Southern Right whales and Humpback whales. Furthermore, the area is known for its shark encounters. You have a chance of seeing ragged tooth sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks, whale sharks, black tip sharks and hammerhead sharks. Gamefish patrol the waters, especially along the southern coast. These include King Fish, Yellow Fin Tuna and Spanish Mackerel. A variety of rays round out the big species to look for. Your log book will thank you for all the species you are sure to see in KwaZulu-Natal.


For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

Most likely sightingsPossible sightings


KwaZulu-Natal is one of the most popular provinces in South Africa for wildlife safaris. Here visitors will find the Royal Natal National Park, the Valley of 1000 Hills and the Drakensberg mountains. Located in the far northeastern corner of South Africa, this province touches the Indian Ocean to the east, Mozambique and Swaziland to the north, and Lesotho and three other provinces to the west. It’s capital is Pietermaritzburg while the largest city of the province is Durban.

KwaZulu-Natal’s history dates to the Bushman hunters. Later, they were ejected by the Bantu who formed the Nguni tribe. This tribe quite liked the region and settled in, forming a collection of many tribes which were later united by Shaka Zulu under the name of the Zulu clan. This clan formed the most impressive military force seen in Africa and were fairly wealthy in terms of land and livestock. Both Afrikaners and the British arrived in the early 1800s. At that time there was little conflict as the Europeans imported Indian workers rather than use the local Zulu tribes. However, in 1879, the British insisted that the Zulu clan give up their military style of government which resulted in the first major war in KwaZulu-Natal. This war was won by the British after the Zulus suffered severe losses. Twenty years later, the Second Boer War broke out between the British and Afrikaner populations. The British won again. Many years later, KwaZulu-Natal became a part of the Union of South Africa which later manifested itself into the country we now know.

Other attractions

KwaZulu-Natal offers visitors a wide range of activities for keeping busy during surface intervals. Holidaymakers might be interested in seeing the second highest waterfall in the world, which is located in Royal Natal National Park. For history lovers, the museums and battlefields in Ladysmith, Spioenkop, and Frere are extremely educational about the Anglo-Boers Wars. Exploring Zulu culture in the Valley of 1000 Hills will also delight those interested in local events, and hiking in the Drakensberg mountains and exploring the many national and wildlife parks are the perfect diversions for nature lovers. Finally, the beaches along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal are some of the best in South Africa. You sure won’t be bored on your trip to this wonderful and wild province.

Getting there

King Shaka International Airport in Durban welcomes South African domestic flights and a few international flights from Dubai, Mauritius and Maputo. It is also possible to reach KwaZulu-Natal and Sodwana Bay by road from Johannesburg and Pretoria or by train from Johannesburg and Cape Town. If you have your own transportation, the N2 and N3 highways connect this province with others in South Africa.


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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