Sodwana's Luxury Dive Retreat
Siso Dwana Lodge
Sodwana Bay: The Quick Guide
Often described as one of the world’s top scuba diving destinations, Sodwana Bay is home to a plethora of rewarding dive sites. Reefs are named for their distance from the launch site and include Quarter Mile, Two Mile, Four Mile, Five Mile, Six Mile, Seven Mile, Eight Mile, and Nine Mile. Each one is a kaleidoscope of colour, adorned with healthy hard and soft corals and veiled by shoals of tropical fish. In total, Sodwana Bay is home to more than 1,200 species of marine life including five kinds of sea turtle, three species of dolphin, and numerous rays and eels. Seasonal visitors include whale sharks, manta rays, and ragged-tooth sharks in summer and southern right and humpback whales in winter.
You don’t have to be scuba-certified to meet Sodwana’s aquatic wildlife. Most dive operators also offer ocean safaris for non-divers, giving you the opportunity to snorkel the local reefs or enjoy the coastal scenery from the boat. Keep an eye out for turtles, sunfish, whale sharks, and dolphins on the surface, and consider timing your visit to coincide with the annual whale migration. Every year from June to November, humpback and southern right whales travel past the Sodwana coast on their journey between the nutrient-rich waters of the Southern Ocean and their tropical calving grounds off East Africa. Humpbacks in particular are prone to acrobatic displays that sometimes include them breaching clear of the water. iSimangaliso Wetland Park is also Africa’s only major nesting site for leatherback and loggerhead turtles.
On non-diving days, consider taking a trip out to Lake Sibaya. Another of iSimangaliso’s jewels, it is the largest natural freshwater lake in South Africa. Once connected to the ocean by an ancient river, the lake is now cut off from the sea completely by forested sand dunes. Its rain-fed waters are crystal clear, and its shores are ringed with white sand beaches. Despite its tempting appearance, it’s not a place for a refreshing swim: Lake Sibaya is home to the province’s second-largest population of hippos and crocodiles. However, it is a gorgeous destination for a picnic, and a great spot for birders. As a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance, 279 avian species have been recorded here, many of them local rarities.
Two of KwaZulu-Natal’s best public game reserves are located within a 90-minute drive of Sodwana Bay. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is Africa’s oldest nature reserve, earning a reputation in the mid-20th century as the driving force behind South Africa’s fight to save the white rhino from extinction. Today, this Big Five reserve remains one of the best places on the continent to see both white and black rhinos in the wild. For those that want a more off-the-beaten-track safari experience, uMkhuze Game Reserve offers Big Five sightings as well. It’s also one of the country’s most rewarding birding destinations with more than 450 recorded species. Nsumo Pan, with its high number of resident and migrant birds, is a particular highlight in summer.
Sodwana Bay is a captivating destination no matter when you travel, though there are pros and cons to every season. Winter (June to August) is cooler, with average temperatures of around 65 degrees. It’s also the driest time of year, with the best underwater visibility for divers. Late spring to late fall is the only time to travel if you want to see Sodwana’s migrating whales, while the dry season is considered the best time for game-viewing in uMkhuze and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi. Summers are hot, with average temperatures of 80 degrees and plenty of rainfall. February is the wettest month, though it’s worth noting that downpours are interspersed with long periods of bright sunshine. The water is warmest at this time of year, bringing many seasonal migrants including whale sharks, ragged-tooth sharks, manta rays, and nesting turtles. Birding at Lake Sibaya and in the national parks is best at this time of year as numbers are swelled by migrant species.
Getting to Sodwana Bay is relatively straightforward. Whether you’re traveling from the north or south, follow the N2 highway until you reach Hluhluwe. Then, turn off onto the R22 towards the coast and when you reach Mbazwana, take the A1108 all the way to Sodwana Bay. The town is located approximately three miles from the beach. Visitors to the beach have to pass through a boom gate and pay the iSimangaliso Wetland Park entrance fee, which is 23 rand per adult, 19 rand per child, and 31 rand per standard-sized vehicle.
Amazing staying at Siso Dwana Lodge. The place has new owners, a sweet couple that was very welcoming and attentive. We extended our stay because we really loved it. Peaceful location ideal for a relaxing time. Diving with them was our best choice. Very professional crew and knowledgeable about the reefs and biodiversity of the area. Lovely rooms that get cleaned every day with a fridge, kettle, coffee and tea bags, brand new air conditioning. We had so much fun playing pool every evening before the delicious dinner was served. I highly recommend this place and we will be back very soon!
Sue, Andrew, Tata, Mike and Tersia and the rest of the incredible staff at Siso Dwana made us feel so at home. The best part is even though they had not catered for vegans before, they quickly improvised the most delicious vegan meals every night and every morning for us. Our car broke down while we were up there, and everyone came to our rescue as if we were family. We Highly recommend this place, the staff are all so cheerful and kind, and sincere. The food was delicious, the rooms are clean and comfortable, and it has great facilities. They also run a dive school and have their own pool for training in, and its a close drive to the park.
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Siso Dwana Lodge, A1103 Road,
Hillside Qongwana Reserve,