Easy Snorkeling Spots in South AfricaLouise van Heerden
Yes, it is that time of the year again, everyone is looking forward to a well deserved break.
One of my favorite things to do is snorkeling, nothing more relaxing than to just float in the water and watch the underwater wonder world…
We lived in Cape Town when we just got married and not knowing anyone, we explored all the lovely tidal pools in and around the area such as Windmill Beach and Boulders. Tsitsikamma and De Hoop also comes to mind, but the most beautiful snorkeling spots, in my opinion, you’ll find up the north coast in Kwazulu-Natal where the water is warm enough for snorkeling all year round.
uShaka Marine World
If you are looking for an easy snorkel spot, nothing comes close to the uShaka Marine World Snorkel Lagoon in Durban. Here one can come up close and personal with a multitude of fish species—and dive through the bowels of a wrecked ship. The first time I visited uShaka, I was pleasantly surprised to see sharks swimming in a nearby tank with only a glass separation wall, creating the illusion of snorkeling with them. I had a good splutter on my second visit as a shark passed under me, almost brushing up against me. Back then they had just introduced a few hound sharks into the snorkeling pool, harmless but still quite a rush.
Another great and easy snorkeling spot is Shaka’s Rock about 40 km north from Durban situated between Salt Rock and Ballito on the Dolphin Coast. It might not be the snorkeling paradise you’ll find up north at Cape Vidal, Sodwana, Mabibi, Rocktail Bay or Kosi Bay, but there’s a wide variety of fish, corals and other sea life to make for a pleasant afternoon. Just be careful as this pond has a lot of sea urchins.
Sodwana Jesser Point
If you are looking for a Coelacanth, thought to be extinct for 70 million years, Jesser point (Jessers Point), in the middle of a 150 km stretch of marine conservation area, is a sheltered northeast-facing bay at Sodwana. In case you haven’t heard of Sodwana Bay before, it is widely recognized as one of the top 10 scuba destinations in the world. Due to a south-flowing current from the equator, Sodwana is the home of the southern-most coral reefs in Africa, starting at Jesser Point beach and stretching up to form Quarter Mile Reef, Two Mile Reef, Five Mile Reef, Seven Mile Reef, Nine Mile Reef, all named after their distances from Jesser Point. It is also here that the few permitted dive operators launch their boats from.
Several tidal pools sit right next to the beach, allowing for an easy shore entry and aquarium-like snorkeling conditions.
For a bigger thrill, get out of the tidal pools and snorkel a little to the north — in the bay a bit closer to the boat launching point (but not too close), right next to the reef. Water here is still flat due to the direction the bay faces. The sheer number of fish here is astounding. It is possible to snorkel from here right over the reef until you reach quarter-mile, 400m away, but visible surface buoys (to warn boats) are needed and official permission will have to be obtained as there are gravid raggies present in summer months.
For an even bigger thrill, catch a ride out with one of the licensed operators (if they have space available in the boat not taken up by a scuba diver) and get a chance to snorkel with a whale shark over one of the reefs.
My all time favorite snorkeling spot is Cape Vidal, this tidal pool was our daughter’s introduction to snorkeling when she was only 3, she would just dip her head into the water with her little mask and snorkel and got very excited each time she saw a fish in the little rock pool. Needless to say we had our hands full to keep her out of the water and today, ten years later, she also loves snorkeling.
At low tide the tidal pool is perfect and you can snorkel along the mast of the Dorothea. Parts of the wreck of the Dorothea lie strewn for kilometers in the waters around Cape Vidal, where it sank on 31 January 1898. Rumor has it that it took on too much water due to the tons of Boer Republic gold sealed under concrete on the boat. Apparently some gold was recovered from the wreck by an expedition in the early 80’s.
All that glitters might not be just fish.
Personally I prefer using a full face snorkeling mask, because it is free breathing and a proper mask do not fog up, my mask also has a action camera mount which leaves my hands free while I record all the underwater wanders in the sea.
Safety tips when using a full face mask:
- Make sure that the mask you use seals properly around your face.
- A full face mask must have a dual airflow system with a one way ventilation valve to ensure there is no CO2 build up in the mask or snorkel.
- A snorkel mask is designed for recreational use only, just floating on the surface and comfortably looking down
- Never use it for extensive open water swimming, free diving or swim practice.
Snorkeling conditions can be unpredictable due to a change in the weather, wind or ocean conditions. Be alert and do your homework before venturing into the water.