Sodwana Bay is located on the east coast of South Africa, between St. Lucia and Lake Sibhaya.
Coordinates: Sodwana Bay National Park is a narrow strip of forested sand dunes located along the KwaZulu Natal coast. Proclaimed a national park in the 1950s, it is frequently visited by anglers and Scuba Divers.
Sodwana is situated in the Maputaland Marine Reserve and the only 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 this 50 km reef complex boasts around 95 species of hard and soft coral, sponges, other invertebrates and around 1200 fish species. It attracts 35 000 scuba divers every year. Vast 700m deep valleys, submarine canyons, are strewn over a distance of 2 km. It was in one of these that on 27 November 2000 that the coelacanth was rediscovered.
Although it is believed that in recent years fish species have declined significantly in this area of the South African coast line, nothing could be further from the truth. Sailfish, king mackerel and all other pelagic species of game fish especially fish such as the kingfish 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 again properly re-established Sodwana as a favored and popular sport fishing destination. Sailfish are again in abundance and present in large numbers since it seems that the sea pirates off Somalia have driven away the foreign illegal Far Eastern commercial fishing trawlers.
The bay is famous for visits by endangered marine megafauna including whale sharks, great white sharks, hammerhead sharks, blacktip sharks, manta rays, orange-spotted groupers, potato cods, critically endangered leatherback turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, and even coelacanths, the ‘living fossil’ appears here. The discovery of the Coelacanths has made this region a world-famous site.
Whale watching targeting migratory or resident cetaceans is growing. Bottlenose dolphins live here and have been observed to swim with whale sharks rather regularly.Humpback whales migrate here during winter to spring seasons while southern right whales and other species are less common due to respective recovery statuses that were severely damaged by illegal hunts by Soviet Union and Japan in 1960s to 70s. Orcas are also present in the bay waters.
In the March 2011 issue of National Geographic, a short article titled Ancient Swimmers appeared, discussing the groundbreaking discovery of the elusive coelacanth in the depths of Sodwana Bay and surrounding areas. 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.”
As a part of the continent of Africa, the land areas along the coasts are rich in terrestrial animals. iSimangaliso Wetland Park has a variety of wildlife species such as lions, giraffes, elephants, hippos, rhinos that are known to live here.