Sodwana is one of the better known and more popular dive destinations in South Africa. It is in the far north east of the country and is in a tropical bioregion with reef corals and typical Indo-Pacific marine life
It is a fantastic, year-round dive destination that lies within the boundaries of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The Sodwana reefs are home to 1200 species of fish – you can see almost everything if you dive here often enough. As well as fish, you will find turtles, rays and sharks on any of the dive sites
These reefs have the most southern coral reef formations in Africa. The breathtaking hard and soft corals grow on a sandstone base structure that is unique to true coral reef structures. Due to the sandstone base structure reefs tend to be flat with low pinnacles, shallow drop-offs, gullies and range in depth from 6m to 100m.
Diving in Sodwana Bay is fantastic year-round. The seasonal sightings of whale sharks 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. The sea temperature ranges from around 20 degrees in winter to close to 30 degrees in mid summer.
With dive sites in Sodwana ranging from twelve to over forty meters there are sites and sights for divers of all qualifications and experience levels. Whether you are completing your entry level course with us or are a Master Instructor who has taught all over the world Sodwana is an impressive place to dive.
The majority of the reefs are named after their distance from the launch area. In terms of proximity these reefs are:
Quarter Mile Reef
Fourteen meters, very close inshore and only dived in calm conditions. In the summer time Quarter Mile Reef is home to gestating Ragged Tooth/Grey Nurse/Sand Tiger sharks which will approach within centimetres of the divers.
These sharks, completely harmless (you can see the algae on their teeth as they don’t feed whilst pregnant) provide a thrilling experience and a wonderful photographic opportunity.
When the Raggies move off the reef is a rocky, rubbly area with many large rays, juvenile morays and a common area for turtle sightings. There are several resident schools of Kingfish/Jacks/Trevallies as well as passing Barracuda.
When the sharks are resident this is an advanced dive.
Many clients favourite reef, only slightly further than Quarter Mile another shallow reef (max depth fourteen meters). One small island of reef surrounded by sand ripples and a short cross over to Big Stringer where the dive shallows up to about nine metres. Home to schools of Snapper and Goatfish, Potato Bass (both young and the old white Potato Bass) Longnosed Emperors, cleaner shrimp, Variegated Paperfish, Durban Dancing Shrimps who will clean your fingernails given half a chance and most impressive a Ray cleaning station.
Expect to see massive rays moving slowly in circles through clouds of Goldies and Dominos.
In summer watch the Sergeant Majors aggressively protecting their eggs from thieving Wrasse .
Stringer is a dive site perfect for divers of all levels.
The Bikini Reef System
Interconnecting three reefs, Hopscotch, Bikini and Mellow Yellow, The Bikini Reef system ranges from twenty four to eighteen meters in depth. These dive sites are home to some of Sodwana’s best macro life; Frogfish, Paperfish, Scorpionfish, many varieties of cleaner, partner and anemone shrimp, Garden Eels, Starry Morays, Dragon Morays, Ghost Pipefish. If it’s macro and worth a photo, you’ll find it on The Bikini Reef System. But on the other hand, before you rush to fit your macro lenses, remember The Bikini Reef System is the best area to sight Mantas….
Long, thin and adjacent to sand this whole system is a photographers’ dream and is the site most commonly requested as “can we dive there again it was awesome….”
Some parts of The Bikini Reef System are considered as an advanced dive and are perfect for nitrox.
Two Mile Reef
It’s hard to describe Two Mile Reef. It’s difficult to get across the size, variation and wonder of this site.
If the other reefs we are villages, Two Mile Reef is London. About two kilometres long and one kilometre wide, there are more than thirty dive sites on Two Mile Reef. Each dive site has a number of routes and each of your dive guides will have his own variation of these routes. You could dive Two Mile Reef twice a day for a month and never see the same spot twice.
Ranging in depth from twelve to thirty metres Two Mile Reef can show you everything that Sodwana has to offer. The Anton’s massif, the gullies at Wayne’s World (filled with Raggies in summer), the shark caves on Whitetip, sharks teeth littering the sand at Caves and Overhangs, Trumpetfish hiding amongst Snappers waiting for the unwary by Four Buoy, a Seahorse on Roonies, the Old Woman Angelfish that twists and turns through your bubbles during your ascent and follows you all the way to your safety stop.
But don’t dive too quickly, don’t be taken in by the topography and schooling fish.
The slower you dive and the more you start to look the more you notice that Life. Is. Everywhere
Beneath the splendour of the fish life teeming over the reef each nook and cranny holds something amazing. Tomato Scorpionfish and Coral Crabs living side by side, Crayfish only noticeable from their antennae. Motionless Rockcod, mouths agape being cleaned by Wrasse and shrimp. The Manta Ray that only you see, the sound of nearby whales, the pod of dolphins that played above you for the whole dive that only the boat skipper saw.
Two Mile Reef is Life.
The Five Mile Reef System
Made up of four individual reefs, the Five Mile Reef System varies in depth from forty to sixteen metres. Each site on The Five Mile reef System is considered an advanced dive.
Ribbon Five Mile
Ribbon is an elongate reef split into two parts, joined by rubbly stepping stones, varying in depth from eighteen to twenty one metres. Surrounded by sand, Ribbon is home to many Rays and provides enough shelter for many juvenile species of Moray, elusive Harlequin Shrimp, Garden Eels and cleaner stations. One of two places in Sodwana to find both male and female Ribbon Eels, hence the name. Ribbon is suitable for either macro or wide angle photography.
Pothole Five Mile
Whilst home to a similar variety of life as Ribbon, Pothole is entirely reef, with very little sand. For this reason it is an excellent place to dive in periods of surge as there is so little sand to degrade visibility.
The centrepiece of this dive is the Pothole itself. A three metre deep hole in the reef, wide enough for two divers to enter, home to Squat Shrimp, Pineapple fish, Pipefish, Crayfish, Boxer Shrimp, Tropical Flounder and massive Honeycomb Morays.
Zombie Five Mile
A recent discovery, a tenuous extension of Pothole, discovered by Local Divemasters during a fun dive, the name is a corruption of the Zulu word for terraced or stepped. Zombie ranges from twenty two to sixteen metres in depth, has four large resident schools of various snapper and goatfish and displays some fantastic topography, like an ancient ziggurat the reef steps down to deeper levels. The structure is riven by crevasse like gullies, each one a pleasure to explore. Each dive we make here we discover more and more.
Gotham Five Mile
At forty metres deep and further out to sea than the rest of the Five Mile Reef System, this site is restricted to divers with the appropriate qualification.
With such a short bottom time this dive can be a gamble. Nothing is guaranteed but everything is possible.
Six Mile Reef
A steady twenty five metres deep, Six Mile Reef is a drawn out reef. The inshore edge, with sand on one side it make a perfect stable position for wide angle photography of the incredible schools of Snapper, Goatfish, Fusiliers interspersed with groups of hunting Kingfish. Reef life is excellent, potato bass, various other groupers and a regular site for Manta encounters.
This reef is an advanced dive and is perfect for Nitrox.
Seven Mile Reef
Regularly featuring in top ten site lists in diving magazines Seven Mile Reef is a microcosm of Sodwana; stunning topography, amazing schooling fish, delectable macro life. Seven Mile Northern Wall, Amphitheatre and Mushroom Rocks will leave an indelible impression on any diver. Ranging from twenty four to sixteen metres Seven Mile is the only wall dive in Sodwana. This is a photographers dream, the clusters of fish around the outcrops on Northern Wall cry out for wide angle.
Seven Mile is normally considered an advanced dive.
Eight Mile Reef
At the deepest twenty meters, at the shallowest fourteen metres, Eight Mile Reef is like all the best bits of Two Mile Reef condensed into one dive. Schooling fish, gullies, overhangs, cleaning stations, one of the few places to see Crocodile fish (Longhead Flathead) in Sodwana. Another reef that is very seldom dived, you’re nearly guaranteed to be the only group there. (Advanced)
Nine Mile Reef
The furthest reef, seldom dived, weather conditions need to be good, but in every way worth the effort of getting there. Twenty to twelve metres, boulders, swim-throughs, caves, drop-offs, Frogfish, Stonefish, Nudis, Pelagics, Giant Kingfish, Reefsharks, King Mackerel, Wahoo. (Advanced)
As with all of the further reefs, the longer boat journeys increase your chance of seeing surface action, dolphins, sometimes hunting, sometimes playful and inquisitive, mantas, turtles and the iconic whaleshark.