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Dive Review of Coral Divers/same in
Africa/Sodwana Bay

Coral Divers/same: "amazing scenery", Feb, 2019,

by Michael Joest, Kehl, DE (Top Contributor Top Contributor 39 reports with 26 Helpful votes). Report 10861 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments On the commando “3 2 1 go” we all dropped in and with negative entry met in around 5 m. Right beneath us a huge school of Bluebanded Snapper, which gracefully parted for a moment to let us through and down only to close ranks again shortly thereafter like a theater curtain. I estimated there must have been more than 250 animals, a wouh begin for our first dive here.
Sodwana Bay consists of a narrow coastal line of forest covered sand dunes, it was turned into a National Park and is situated in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the Maputaland Marine Reserve. Due to the Agulhas current running there water temperature ranges between 18 and 26 degrees so it´s ideal for soft and hard coral which cover the reef in abundance. Scientists counted more than 1200 species here, compared to Australian Great Barrier Reef where it´s 1800 but is much larger. The reef is believed to be about 4000 years old and the profile is mostly flat with low pinnacles, shallow drop offs, swim throughs, gullies, canyons which reach 30 m and more.
It was a 4 h drive up north from Durban to reach S B. A couple of years ago part of the street was still mud road so in the rainy season you would have no chance to reach the place without a 4 wheel drive car. In a park like area bungalows and tents are evenly spread out. Monkeys were shouting from the trees, a mungo family was assembled around my little home. It was the last bungalow in a row (D 9) in a remote corner on a slight rise next to a huge old tree, secluded cosy ideal for me. A huge bed, some drawers and cupboards to put your stuff in, a partly open air bathroom was a nice surprise. Would the monkeys come and take a shower with me? I had a full meal plan but there are kitchen facilities and even cooler so you are allowed to bring your own food and prepare it to your liking. A small snack bar serves all kind of burges, wraps, pizza and combos, I loved the fish and prawn basket with chips and their mussel soup. Normally there is a buffet but it seems there only were a few guests with full meal plan. So they allowed me to order a la carte with a lunch limit of 120 and dinner 200 Rand limit. 1 $ was about 13 Rand.
At 6:45 p.m everybody meets at the bar area where the next day dive plan is introduced. They run 7 Zodiacs, normally do 3 dives a day, you can chose your boat skipper guide and dive site depending on your certification level. There are 4 main areas, 2 mile for regular costs, 5, 7 and 9 miles with additional charges and more tempting scenery. All offer different dive sites at various depth so it´s for you to decide what you want. All however depends on the weather, the sites further out are off when too strong surf and wind is blowing. This happened on my second dive day already, where we only did the first and all others were cancelled due to heavy sea. On the first dive we already met surge reaching down to 15 m and sand and silt were lifted and spoiled the vis.
It starts early here, for the first dive you had to assemble at the meeting point near the pool at a quarter to 7 - 3 quarters of an hour before launch time. There is a two steps platform with open air hangers, 3 showers, 2 tubs and plenty of space for your own box with dive gear. However there is also sand everywhere, so it´s almost art to get into your wet suit without any. They should at least try to get this area rid of any sand which can´t be that much of a problem or effort. A broom each day keeps the sand away. A tractor with trailer for around 20 divers plus gear boxes takes you on a 10 min ride all the way down to the beach. My first impression on arrival: “Jesus this is a dive circus” I counted 11 tractors, lots of trailers and Zodiacs, 3 bigger camps from dive centres. The whole thing looks chaotic on first sight, but with great logistic and good plan Coral Divers run a smooth and fantastic operation here, all boats depart and arrive on time. Today schedule hangs on a van, there is a teaching program for young divers, so a lot of youngsters in their blue shirts run around. If you need any help, more than 3 pairs of hands will stretch out to be of service. I was confused first but you see and learn fast which way things go. Coral Divers have a large L shaped roof covered stall with some green mash mats on the floor, where you deposit all your gear, take your tank, put BC and reg on it and put it in a wooden square frame with the name of your boat in. The mats can´t keep away the sand so you have to be careful to get rid of it for your gear. It´s a bit basic but works well for the many divers and all guides and instructors. Locals offer their help and put your gear onto a trailer and later on and off the boat for a small tip. Once all is on board the dive master calls a briefing and together we walked down to the Zodiac. It sits on the sandy beach waiting to be held upright for the tractor with pole pushing it into the shallow water. Once there guest take over and push it farther out until the signal from the skipper says: “ladies on board”. He then starts the strong twin engines, we push the boat a bit deeper and jump on. Life vests are passed to all, feet must be secured in straps on the bottom and off we go. A big surf is hitting the beach so the skipper has to find the right moment to navigate through. Often they circle once or twice to check fuel lines and then full throttle and hit the oncoming waves. This is definitely nothing for anxious souls or guys with severe motion sickness. Once through this cauldron you are allowed to take of your life vest. But most times it´s still a rather bumpy ride to the dive site.
Our first spot was seven miles so we raced along the long sandy beach and got a nice view of the surrounding dunes. A lovely reef welcomed us. We met bigger and smaller rays nearly everywhere, a Honeycomb moray was swimming outside it´s hole, Royal Angelfish, Coachman, Butterfly Fish, Black Beauty Snapper, Moorish Idol, Goatfish, Goldies, Rockcod, Rubberlip and Clown Trigger I this time recognized as I had taken one of these fish identity cards with me for help. Vis is around 15 m temperature lovely 26 – 27 degrees. Getting back into the boat sometimes proves tricky in a choppy sea. The way back to shore is really breath taking. Again it´s life vests and feet in straps, the skipper looks for a gap, circles around close to the breaking waves and all of sudden accelerates and goes straight for the beach. The boat actually hits the beach and depending on where the heavy guys sit the boat will tilt to that side once on shore. For surface interval there is a snack bar on a slope with nice view, showers and toilets are up a small tree lined dune. The beaches are magnificent and stretch down both sides up to the horizon, it´s amazing what wind, sea and nature created here. Hiking along there you will be one of a few tourists who enjoy that, often I was all alone. There is bushland behind so no worries that any danger might come from there.
Our second dive went to Roonies which soon turned into my favourite one. Again we dropped in negative and because of a current hurried down to 30 m. A lovely scenery greeted us, gullies, an open cavern with a Potato Bass hovering inside. There was something around each corner and one dive was not sufficient to find or cover all worthy spots there. I was with a group of Netherland guys, divers who knew their stuff and do a lot of diving in their cold home waters. When we surfaced, they congratulated me, so far one of the older guys of the group was the best with air consumption. This time I surpassed him, Jesse our guide promised a trophy for me which I got in the form of a green lollypop. On my second dive on Roonies we spotted one humongous grouper under cruising under some overhang. I would say this guy had nearly half a ton and the size of 3 big man put together. This guy seemed to know how much he´s worth, he went hiding, turned up again and showed us his front and sides for great photo opportunity, woouuh amazing this animal. I forgot to ask if he already has a nickname here. These big “potato cods” we saw several times and you could get great close ups as these guys are not shy at all, they sometimes love bubbles to caress their belly. Jesse always gave us a thorough and excellent briefing. He not only mentioned all necessary safety measures but told us of interesting marine life which we might encounter. A good advice from him was not to chase the fish for pictures but wait for the creature to approach you. Jeff our Skipper most days knows how to expertly steer the Zodiac through big surf and guarantees a safe beach landing always driving full speed. I called him the James Bond among the skippers.
Two times Jesse gave me a less experienced buddy. One had a Hero on stick with him and all the time poked into every hole he could find. He not once looked into my direction, so I had to follow him like guarding a 3 year old kid. The other had only 140 dives so far but not done any in the last year. I noticed his frequent and heavy breathing and checked his gauges after 15 min in 30 m – he was down to 70 bar. Jesse noticed that and I got a different buddy for dive 2, this guy however had no computer so it was back to square 1. These things are a damn nuisance but do happen often everywhere. I feel the best solution to this would be BYOB = bring your own buddy.
Once we went to 9 miles where they only take at least AOWD guys because of the depth and topography of the place. It´s a longer ride all along the awesome beach and dune landscape. On sandy bottom stands a spectacular large example of Green Tree Coral, Goldies cruising all around it. Again buddies and guide pointed out nudis and some well camouflaged fish, sometimes close together. I always swim past these with my short sighted eyes and even when someone calls my attention to it I have to hover a while until I recognize the creature he or she is showing me. After your dives you can already check in for the next day with the supervisor at the dive desk. The place looks crowded on first sight but boats always go to different places, so there will never be a crowd in one single place. Only once did we meet a group of divers from some other dive centre. The coral reef here is beautiful and hopefully will survive the pressure from too many divers. It seems they once planned to sink a wreck here to give fish new hiding places and distribute the pressure equally. Officials, authorities from the marine park and environmentalists did not agree with that and refused a permit. Well let´s hope this area will stay like it is and not turn into some hurly burly tourist spot with huge luxury hotels. I guess it won´t because it´s too far of the beaten path for most. It´s a real shame actually that only few European and US diver seem to know of this place. South Africa is an amazing country and has so much to offer. With a weak Rand now is the time to fulfill your dreams. Capetown is fabulous, the table mountain an absolute must. I had the chance to see it the first time without clouds on top.
Websites Coral Divers   same

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving worldwide more than 100 destinations, mostly South Pacific and Asia, Africa and Caribbean
Closest Airport Durban Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, cloudy Seas choppy, surge, currents
Water Temp 26-27°C / 79-81°F Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 12-15 M / 39-49 Ft

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions no deco
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available?

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics 3 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]
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Report currently has 1 Helpful vote

Subscriber's Comments

By peter bernstein in FL, US at Feb 27, 2019 07:25 EST  
Excellent report- fun to read
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