The long weekend end April was certainly one for diving, with festivals in Sodwana Bay and in Cape Town delivering great conditions and epic diving. Due to some welcome enticements from family we were lucky enough to find ourselves in Sodwana Bay for a few days, enjoying some late summer and warm water. Leading up to our arrival the wind predictions and previous days’ dive conditions were not much in our favour, but sometimes having little expectations is just what you need. Nonetheless, we proceeded as usual with two early morning dives every day combined with some beach and relax time in the afternoons.
The first day is always a bit of “get accustomed to the norms” again and therefore we headed to Bikini and Anton’s. Our first dive was at the semi-deep reef of Bikini, but unfortunate we slightly miss-dropped and with a strong bottom current we never made it to our desired destination – the amphitheaters. If you love macro life and underwater photography, this is certainly the place to go. Your can spend your entire dive just observing the Garden eels, various nudibranchs and Harlequin, Mantis, Boxer and Cleaner shrimp in action. As an added bonus this reef is also a Manta ray cleaning station, but this was not our lucky dive and we didn’t see much of the above. Our second dive to Anton’s was long and very relaxed, mostly enjoying the warm water and abundance of fish life. Luck was a little more on our side this dive as we spotted a big female Ragged-tooth shark and some turtles on the move. All-in-all not a bad way to start our mini-holiday.
If some days are made for diving, this was the one! In the early morning light the sea looked flat and not a breath of wind could be felt. It was certainly the time to head to 7 Mile. The boat ride out could not have been smoother and spotting some dolphins playing in the waves and turtles on the surface weren’t a hard task on a day like this. Dropping down on 7 Mile seeing this astonishing reef already from the surface can only fulfill you with excitement. Being able to be in the ocean on a day like this, having 30 meter viz and seeing the marine life booming in front of your eyes makes you feel enormously grateful and humble at the same time. If this was not a dive for special memory books already, the cherry on the cake was yet to come. Out of nowhere two giant Manta ray’s appeared over the reef and passed us a few times in their graceful manner before moving on. But if we thought the manta madness would end there, we were wrong. Giving Bikini another try on our second dive, we got accompanied by a big Remora on our safety stop. We kept our eyes wide open, cause this must be a sign. Then at the end of our safety stop , the suckerfish ducked down and that’s when we say it: another massive Manta dooming up from the deep! Thankfully just finished our stop, we had enough bottom time to dive back down and have a closer look. This Manta wasn’t shy and came right over our heads, showing his majestic features up close. It was certainly a day for diving and this was our lucky day!
If the previous day was made for diving, this one not so much. The sky was gloomy, the wind blowing and the swell had picked up. However, that does not keep us out of the ocean despite the all but ideal conditions. We missioned to 7 Mile again – due to the conditions the scheduled 9 Mile was cancelled – hoping the sea conditions would not have changed much over night. After a challenging boat ride, we dropped on 7 Mile only to realise the conditions had changed and we missed the reef. As diving sometimes goes – it took our whole dive trying to find the actual reef only after 50 minutes to conclude it had become a mission impossible. Not feeling too discouraged, we jumped on the next boat off to Mellow Yellow. While this was a pleasant enough dive with lots of marine life to observe, it wasn’t one for the books this time.
This being our last dive day in Sodwana this trip, we wanted to head out to one of our other favourite reefs: Ribbon. This reef is also known for its macro life, but named after the presence of the rarely seen Ribbon eel. Unfortunately the Ribbon eel had not been spotted on the reef recently, but that did not make this dive less enjoyable. With perfect conditions at 22 meter and easy top-to-bottom viz, we were in our happy space spending a good hour exploring this lively small reef. When you are being surrounded by hundreds of schooling fish, come up close with a huge curious Potato bass, seeing a Mantis shrimp in action and find some rare nudibranch, you must come back to the surface as a happy diver. Last but not least, we finally made it to Bikini and got some time to explore the fascinating amphitheaters. Toward the end of the dive a massive Eagle ray appeared over the sand and slowly glided past the reef ending this dive on another high note.
All-in-all, this was a Sodwana Bay trip we will not forget anytime soon!