View of a beach in the bay with a humpback whale in the foreground
|Ocean/sea sources||Indian Ocean|
|Basin countries||South Africa|
Sodwana Bay is a bay in South Africa on the KwaZulu Natal north coast, between St. Lucia and Lake Sibhayi. It is in the Sodwana Bay National Park, and the Maputaland Marine Reserve, and is a popular recreational diving destination. The term is commonly used to refer to both the marine reserve and the terrestrial park, as well as the geographical bay.
Sodwana Bay National Park is a narrow strip of forested sand dunes located along the east coast. Proclaimed a national park in the 1950s, it is frequented by anglers and divers. Sodwana is situated in the Maputaland Marine Protected Area and is the only recreational scuba diving area along the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park (now renamed to iSimangaliso) coastline. Classified as one of the top dive sites in the world, the park is visited by some 35 000 scuba divers per year. The bay is near the southern end of the tropical western Indo-Pacific marine ecoregion, and reef-building corals are present. The 50 km reef complex is the habitat of a wide diversity of resident and migratory species. Several submarine canyons cut into the edge of the continental shelf, which is very close to the shoreline. It was in one of these that on 27 November 2000 that a resident population of coelacanths was discovered.
Sailfish, king mackerel, kingfish and other pelagic species of game fish migrate south down the east coast of Africa and since the activities of sea pirates off the coast of north east Africa healthy populations of pelagic game fish again reach all the way south off the coast of South Africa which has re-established Sodwana as a sport fishing destination for pelagic species. The marine protected area is known for endangered marine megafauna including whale sharks, great white sharks, zambezi sharks, hammerhead sharks, blacktip sharks, manta rays, orange-spotted groupers, potato cod, critically endangered leatherback turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, and coelacanths. The discovery of Coelacanths made the region world-famous. In the March 2011 issue of National Geographic, a short article titled Ancient Swimmers appeared, discussing the discovery of coelacanths in the depths of Sodwana Bay and the surrounding area. A small section of the written article explains that:
"Since this chance sighting, Latimeria chalumnae have been found in several pockets in and around the Indian Ocean. No one knows how many there are - maybe as few as 1,000 or as many as 10, 000. Because of the depth of their habitat, they have mainly been photographed by submersibles and remotely operated vehicles. Divers first documented the fish [in Sodwana Bay] in 2000; in January and February 2010, a specially trained team dived to take pictures of [another] small colony in Sodwana Bay, South Africa."
Whale watching targeting migratory or resident cetaceans is a local tourist industry. Bottlenose dolphins live in the vicinity and have been observed to swim with whale sharks. Humpback whales migrate through the bay during winter to spring seasons while southern right whales and other species are less common. Orcas may also visit the bay waters.
The local economy is based on tourism.
Tourism in this area is based on recreational scuba diving, gamefishing and game park tours
Game park tourism
- Water Based Activities at Sodwana Bay National Park
- Siyabona Africa Travel. Sodwana Bay National Park, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Retrieved on December 18. 2014
- Venter P.. Timm P.. Gunn G.. Roux L.E.. Serfontein C.. SmithP.. Smith E.. Bensch m.. Harding D.. Heemstra P.. 1992. Discovery of a viable population of Coelacanths (Latimeria Chalumnae Smith, 1939) at Sodwana Bay, South Africa Archived 2014-12-18 at the Wayback Machine. The Science in Africa. Retrieved on December 18. 2014
- Sodwana Bay Lodge. Whale watching Archived 2014-12-18 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on December 18. 2014