Dive Sites of Sodwana Bay
DIVE SIITES OF SODWANA
Sodwana Bay is part of Isimangaliso Wetland Park which is a world heritage site. The area has been a protected reserve for many years (since December 1950), ensuring large fish populations as well as pristine corals. These reefs are of the most southerly coral reefs in the world and are fed by warm water carried southward by the Agulhas Current. The fact that no silt-bearing rivers are close to the area ensures that the corals are pristine and the visibility good.
Sodwana Bay is rated by international divers as one of the top 10 dive destinations in the world. The maximum summer water temperature is 28Â°C with an average of 26Â°C while the minimum winter water temperature is 17Â°C with an average of 22Â°C. Visibility ranges from 8m to 40m (depending on the time of the year) with an average of 12m. Visibility is reduced in winter due to the increased plankton in the water. This however leads to increased sightings of Whale sharks and Manta rays. Humpback whales are a common sighting during their annual migration from June to November. Sodwana is also one of the preferred aggregation sites of the pregnant ragged-tooth shark from November to March.
This rocky ledge shelters Sodwana Bay from the relentless action of the waves. At low tide large pools open up, becoming safe enough for non-divers to swim and snorkel. The rock pools provide shelter to various marine creatures, especially for juveniles. Convict surgeonfish, Moray eels, Rays, Lionfish, and a host of other interesting critters can be found.
2 MILE REEF
The excellent light penetration and shallow depth have created a beautiful underwater garden with a magnificent range of coral and invertebrate life. Anton's Reef is a favourite site with dense schools of tropical fish and coral heads and overhangs forming interesting topography. This is the largest reef complex in Sodwana, over 1.8km long and 900m wide. There are many options for divers of different abilities. It has amazing topography allowing dives to flow from one site to another.
NORTHERN 2 MILE REEF
Aslightly deeper dive, and relatively flat, this site can be ideal for a drift dive or rougher conditions. Suffice to say, a large variety of soft coral can be found, with amazing colour on this dive. Look out for the turtle cave, where one is often found sleeping.
Keep a lookout for the shy Royal angelfish hiding in the small gullies and under overhangs. If the current and surge allow there is a swim through about 5m long, where Whitetip reef sharks are known to rest. This reef has large colonies of anemones, and Racoon butterflyfish often school here. The hard and soft corals make it colourful and varied.
Named for a group of pinnacles which are fun to swim through, you will find an array of fish like the Zebra seabream. Paperfish have been seen on the edges of the small sand patches dotted along this route. A feature on this route is known as the Old Woman Pinnacle, which rises up to 5m.
All around the sand patch you will find groups of fish hiding under overhangs and in swim-throughs. Pass under the big overhang to a cleaning station and a Honeycomb moray eel. Carry on through gullies with 3m ledges. Small crevices, windows, and overhangs play home to nocturnal fish such as Soldierfish, Squirrelfish, and Porcupinefish. On the sand you can look for the juvenile Rockmover wrasse and Bluespotted ribbontail ray.
Game fish are commonly seen coming through from the seaward side. The diversity of hard and soft coral provides shelter for small fish like Chocolate Dips, Sea Goldies and juvenile Butterflyfish to name just a few.
Just off Jesser Point, Quarter Mile offers a colourful shallow dive. Stingrays, Turtles, and Giant guitarfish are common sightings here. Its exposed nature also presents opportunities to spot Mantas and Whalesharks passing by. In summer (December – February), the female Ragged-tooth sharks congregate here to gestate. This gives divers an exciting experience with these docile animals.
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, Rays, Moray eels and all three types of Sea turtles. Look closely for Paperfish and the juvenile Emperor angelfish. Mantas often pass by and can be resident for several weeks. This is a truly world class dive on days when a strong current is not present.
5 MILE REEF
Five Mile Reef is an extremely delicate, large flat reef hosting an astounding variety of fine coral, which is remarkably intact. The multitudes of colourful tropical fish that swarm over the reef and around divers create the sensation of diving in an endless aquarium.
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, also look round the outside edge of the pothole, keeping your eyes open for Sharks, and Marbled electric rays. Continuing south from the big pothole, follow a route which takes you amongst a series of ridges which are surrounded with life.
Discovered by spear fishermen looking for game fish which lurk in the deep waters, it consists of a ledge which 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 are sometimes spotted on the small pinnacle just off the ledge. Sharks, Potato bass, and various Rays (e.g. Eagle rays, Manta rays) may accompany you on your dive.
It consists of two small reef systems similar to Stringer, and attributes its name to the uncommon Ribbon Eel found around its edges. A special feature is the red coloured tentacles of one Magnificent anemone. Devil firefish and large Scorpionfish are sighted regularly. Large, diverse groups of fish are abundant and because of this, large predator fish such as Barracuda, Kingfish and a variety of Sharks make a appearance. This is a very interesting dive offering great opportunities for photographers.
This newly discovered reef is named after the large amount of Snappers schooling there. Blue Banded, Dory, Humpback Snappers are but a few found amongst the big shoals. Diving along a small ledge, look out for: Paperfish, Moray eels, Cleaner shrimp and juvenile Boxfish. Numerous Black corals are dotted along the ledge with a large 2m Whip coral, makeing this dive site unique.
7 Mile Reef
This wonderful little reef is popular because of its great diversity of tropical marine life, the drop-offs and mushroom shaped pinnacles. The larger specimens found here include turtles and rays, and there are regular sightings of bottle-nosed dolphins. The coral formations are delicate and in good condition. This is the most popular of the further reefs and is listed as one of the world’s top dive sites. Most dives will be lead at a depth no deeper than 20m to ensure a longer bottom time. What makes this reef so popular is its ability to produce the biggest variety of fish species including Blacktip reef sharks, schools of pelagic fish, huge Moray eels and plenty of Turtles. With the number of fish species, spectacular drop offs and coral formations, abundant soft coral life, and the chance to sight some incredibly large fish, 7 mile is not to be missed.
This pristine reef is named after Dr. Ramsey who conducted research regarding coral growth on the Maputaland reef complex. It’s a great opportunity for open water qualified divers to explore a reef further than 2 mile. Ramseys is home to lots of juvenile fish – the juvenile Emperor angelfish is a great example of the differences between its adult form. One dive route is the ledge that runs inshore varying from 1-4 m high. Numerous Devil firefish, a variety of Moray eels (e.g. Starry Moray), Tube anemones, and Pipefish make this a fantastic and unique dive. Otherwise, whilst diving over the reef you will find stunning topography similar to Caves and Overhangs, with enjoyable swim-throughs. It is another reef that offers great photo opportunities.
9 MILE REEF
The dramatic scenery of Nine Mile Reef offers drop-offs, pinnacles and big coral trees. Due to the distance from the launch site, this reef is not dived as often as the more accessible ones and is in excellent condition. The marine life is diverse and includes most of the tropical fauna typical of the region as well as big schools of passing game fish. As one of the furthest sites in the Sodwana reef complex, the highlight is the huge Green Tree coral. It stands about two and a half metres high, and is surrounded by hundreds of Goldies. It forms a unique feature amongst all the reefs in Sodwana Bay. This is a great multilevel dive, with a spectacular system of swim-throughs, overhangs, and caves. The crevices play home to Moray eels, and Tube anemones. Potato bass and Brindle bass are often found relaxing under overhangs. Keep your eyes open for Sharks and the hidden surprises such as Frogfish, Scorpionfish, and colourful Nudibranches.