Sodwana Bay falls within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s first World Heritage Site. With Sodwana’s reefs having enjoyed formal protection for more than 40 years, it boasts pristine corals and large fish populations. The southern locality and cooler waters of Sodwana have protected the reefs from the mass coral bleaching phenomena experienced by more tropical locations.
The fish diversity on Sodwana’s reefs is exceptional, with over 1 200 species positively identified. The beautiful coral reefs at Sodwana Bay have colonised submerged fossil dunes and rocky platforms in a series of reefs from Cape Vidal into southern Mozambique.
These reefs are of the most southerly coral reefs on the eastern seaboard of Africa, and are fed by warm, clear water carried southward by the Agulhas current. The fact that no silt- bearing rivers are close to the area ensures that the visibility is good all year round.
Sodwana Bay is a summer rainfall area, averaging 1 100mm annual rainfall. It has a sub-tropical climate with hot, humid summers and mild winters. The maximum summer temperature is 30°C with an average of 26°C while the minimum winter temperature is 18°C with an average minimum of 21°C.
The maximum summer water temperature is 28°C with an average of 26°C while the minimum winter water temperature is 17°C with an average of 22°C. Visibility ranges from 8m to 40m (depending on the time of the year) with an average of 15m.
Sodwana Bay is an all year round diving destination with sightings such as huge potato bass, marbled leopard groupers, harlequin shrimps, seahorses and a fantastic diversity of nudibranchs. The following provides a glimpse of what each season has to offer:
SPRING (August – October)
Whale sharks and manta rays are seen on a regular basis.
Humpback whales are migrating southwards, including whales that have recently mated as well as mothers with their newborn calves.
Many spawning dances and rituals are beginning to be seen – fish swimming around each other in rhythmic patterns and darting up and down from the reef. If you listen carefully, you can hear the distinctive sound made by the domino fish.
SUMMER (November – January)
Loggerhead and leatherback turtles start leaving the sea at night to lay their eggs. Each female will lay 80-120 eggs between five and nine times during the season. The turtles hatch 60 days later and make their way to the sea.
Pregnant ragged-tooth sharks start arriving and aggregate on Quarter Mile Reef. About four months are spent here while their pups are growing.
This is also a time when many fish can be seen guarding their eggs. This includes the triggerfish and the aggressive titan. Damselfish chase off predators while cardinalfish males incubate their eggs in their mouths.
AUTUMN (February – April)
Heavily pregnant ragged-tooth sharks start moving out to sea to start their long journey back to the Eastern Cape where they will give birth to two 1m-long pups.
Small juveniles of many species of fish can be found on the reefs. These are the survivors that have made it through the initial phases of life and include butterflyfish, angelfish, triggerfish, surgeonfish, parrotfish, wrasses and many others.Whale sharks and manta rays start making their appearance.
WINTER (May – July)
Visibility is slightly 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 northern migration.
Both mating and birthing takes place to the north of South Africa in warm tropical coastal waters. Gestation is approximately 11 months and peak birthing occurs in August.
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