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Sodwana Bay Reefs

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Sodwana Bay Reefs 2017-05-31T13:34:35+00:00

Sodwana Bay is considered to be among the premier dive sites of the world, it is home to the southern most tropical coral reefs on the planet, which are further south than the Great Barrier Reef. The reef has an incredibly dense coral cover and wide diversity of fish, crustaceans and more with over 1200 species having been recorded in the area. Conditions range from idyllic to challenging depending on the wind and the current. The sites vary in depth between 10 meters and depths only suited to technical deep divers. The shallowest siting of a coelacanth took place in Sodwana at a depth of just over 100m.

The reefs at Sodwana Bay are named by the distance they are from the Jesser Point launch site. The major reef’s are split up into Quarter Mile, 2 Mile Reef, 5 Mile Reef, 7 Mile Reef and 9 Mile Reef. And each of these reefs have their own dive sites. There are also a few isolate reefs fringing the main reefs, some of these are Stringer and Bikini.

The biodiversity in the area is phenomenal from the big to small. Seasonal visitors include Humpback Whales and Manta Rays, others such as Dolphins, Turtles and Whales Sharks appear year round. Some of the small treasures on offer include Paperfish, Pipefish, Seahorses, Nudibranchs, Frogfish and a host of many others.

Wayne’s World

Ave: 14m, Max: 16m

A slightly 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 color on this dive. Look out for the turtle cave, where one is often found sleeping.

Simon’s Cave

Ave: 13m, Max: 18m

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.

Pinnacles

Ave: 10m, Max: 12m

Named for a group of pinnacles that 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.

4 Buoy

Ave: 9m, Max: 12m

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.

Arches

Ave: 9m, Max: 13m

This site consists of ledges with boulders that form arches in a variety of shapes and sizes. One arch in particular, at the beginning, is large and quite spectacular. While going through you will see a large school of Pencilled surgeonfish. Between the large overhangs schools of Bluebanded snappers, Trumpetfish and the occasional Black beauty snapper are spotted.

Coral Gardens

Ave: 10m, Max: 13m

Coral Gardens is known for the variety of hard and soft corals that carpet the reef. Its flat topography makes it ideal for drift diving in a strong current. Combine it with Grand Central for a beautiful dive. Brightly coloured nudibranchs are plentiful and sighted easily by observant divers.

Deep Sponge

Ave: 28m, Max: 32m

Deep Sponge lies parallel with 2 Mile but 500m further out to sea. A lovely deep dive that offers divers massive vase shaped sponges and interesting marine life. Game fish

Caves & Overhangs

Ave: 10m, Max: 16m

Caves and Overhangs offer incredible coral formations consisting mostly of Plate and Staghorn 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.

Antons

Ave: 13m, Max: 16m

Antons’ large 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. Don’t miss the Slender baardman on the northern sand patch. Large organisms like Turtles and Manta rays are also found feeding around the reef.

Chain

Ave: 15m, Max: 17m

This reef attributes its name to a ships anchor chain that lies across it. The chain has become part of the reef and is now difficult to spot. This reef has beautiful topography and is not dived often; therefore the corals are still in very good condition. Chain has a vast number of Carpet anemones, while the elusive Razor wrasse and Ribbon eels have been spotted on occasions.

Stringer

Ave: 11m, Max: 13m

Located within 3 minutes of the launch site and almost part of the bay, Stringer is one of the most popular reefs to dive in Sodwana.  Known as the juvenile reef of Sodwana, you will find various juvenile fish of many species here.  One of the almost guaranteed finds will be the juvenile Emperor Angelfish.  This reef holds many more interesting creatures like Paperfish, Harlequin Shrimp, Nudibranchs to die for, Stingrays out on the sand and the occasional Potato Bass.  Schooling Blue banded Snapper greet you on your decent and if you don’t or cannot find a Moray Eel on this dive, you are not diving on Stringer.  Due to the surrounding sand around the reef, this reef is avoided in big swell.

Bikini

This is a very popular reef lying just outside of 2 Mile reef and separated from the actual 2 Mile reef by approximately 70 meters of sand.  The reef is divided into 3 sections with Hop Scotch on the deeper side with maximum depth of 25 meters, Bikini ledge on the Northern part in 22 meters of water and then Mellow Yellow being the southern half of the reef with maximum depth of 18 meters.  The Bikini ledge and Hop Scotch side of the reef is very popular for Manta Rays as this part of the reef is a big cleaning station.

On Bikini ledge there are hundreds of cleaner shrimp in every nook and cranny and you will always find a fish or moray eel, lying with its mouth open getting seen to by the shrimps.  This area of the reef almost always deliver a surprise of some sort, either being nudibranhs, pipefish, paperfish or some other beauty.  Definitely a macro photographer’s dream playground.

Roonies

Ave: 27m, Max: 32m

This is purely an Advanced dive site with a maximum depth of 34 meters.  This is a small reef surrounded by sand.  What makes this a prime deep diving spot are the finds on the reef.  We have been fortunate to have had seahorses (Hippocampus histrix) on this dive, the most ever counted on a single dive being 8!  Banded pipefish, paperfish, potato bass, cleaner shrimps and nudibranchs are also spotted.

Quarter Mile

Ave: 9m, Max: 14m

Renowned for the congregation of the female Ragged Tooth Sharks, this reef is dived primarily during the period of November to March.  This is a regulated reef and well monitored by the Oceanic Research Institution (ORI) and Isimangaliso.  If and when the female sharks are on the reef, they are in a very advanced stage of pregnancy also known as gestation period.  They breed further down the coast as and come leisure in the warm Sodwana waters for the shark pups to develop.  If they researchers find the female sharks in a good frame of mind and relaxed, the reef is “opened” for diving.  Limitations are maximum of 11 divers on the reef in hourly slots.  Out of Raggie season, the reef is very popular for diving with a variety of marine life, turtles, guitar sharks, lots of pelagic game fish like kingfish, schooling fish like rubberlips and the very rarely spotted Marbled Hawkfish to name but a few.  An Advanced dive site even though the depth is only 12 meters, especially during Raggie season.

Hotspot

Ave: 25m, Max: 32m

The shark tank of Sodwana!  This reef lie just North of 2 Mile reef with a maximum depth of 30 meters.  The structure of the reef is of such nature that it makes a natural ledge coming up from 30 to 25 meters.  This causes an upwelling of nutrient rich waters and big schools of Fusiliers frequent this area.  With them in the water you will also find your pelagic game fish visiting the area and where there is hunting happening, you are bound to find sharks!  Grey reef sharks, Bull sharks, Hammerhead sharks and even Tiger sharks have been spotted here.  There has also been a photographed sighting of a black marlin on this dive.

Ribbon

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. Devil Firefish and large Scorpionfish are sighted regularly. Large predator fish such as Barracuda, Kingfish and a variety of Sharks make an appearance.

Snapper’s College

Ave: 22m, Max: 25m

Snapper College is one of the newest discovered reefs in Sodwana Bay.  This is the only East-West lying reef in Sodwana which makes it ideal for any conditions, be it a normal North-South current of vice versa.  Schooling Blue banded Snappers are in abundance on this reef, hence the name.  With the placement of the reef, it causes upwelling of nutrient rich waters where the Snappers feed.  Also joining them are Fusiliers and Slingers, all schooling fish.  With these numbers of fish in mid water, pelagic game fish are always around making for some awesome hunting action on the reef.  Sightings in the past included Scorpionfish, Crocodile fish, Paperfish, the odd turtle and grey reef shark.  There were also 3 female ragged tooth sharks on the reef during last years’ Raggie season.

7 Mile

Ave: 16m, Max: 22m

This reef is regarded as the best dive site in Sodwana  and has also been internationally rated as a top 10 dive site.  The Northern wall, where the dive starts, have beautiful overhangs and hiding places for fish and you often find schooling snapper and fusilier here.  Moving south towards mushroom rocks, the reef just keeps on giving amazing profile and fish life.  This is an ideal multi-level dive site for Advanced-qualified divers.  An interesting phenomena on 7 mile reef is the number of trumpetfish spotted, nowhere else in Sodwana Bay will you get the numbers.

Ramsey’s

Ave: 14m, Max: 18m

8 mile is a stunning reef in Sodwana Bay, it is a longer boat ride than many of the other reefs but totally worth it.  The reef constantly changes depth due to incredible pinnacles, caves and ledges.  It  is the only “far out” reef that is Open Water friendly whereas the further out reefs are only suitable for Advanced divers being deeper than 18 meters.  You will see a multitude of fish and marine life on Ramsey’s, from bigger turtles, potato bass and sharks to small pipefish, shrimps and even sea spiders.  8 Mile will surprise you with beautiful big swim throughs and stunning colourful corals.  When diving 8 mile, always remember to pack a snorkel because there is a good chance of seeing and snorkelling with dolphins along the way.

9 Mile

Ave: 18m, Max: 22m

This is the furthest reef from launch in Sodwana and even on a day with flat seas, the journey can take up to 25 minutes.  It is totally worth the sit though!  The possibility of spotting and maybe snorkelling with dolphins on the way to 9 mile is not ruled out.  The green coral tree is the main attraction on 9 mile reef and it is really something to behold.  Standing almost 2 meters high it is always surrounded by a variety of fish.  Goldies seek refuge amongst the branches whilst Rubberlips and Coral rockcods circle the tree.  Moving away from the tree and onto the reef itself, this is the reef with the most spectacular swim throughs in Sodwana.  The reef extends from 22 meters on the sand up to 16 meters on top and if the current and conditions allow, ending your dive on Breaking waters in 6 meters of water is the ultimate diving experience.  Potato bass frequent the reef and sightings of reef sharks are not uncommon.  There has been Great White Shark sightings on 9 mile.