Thursday, December 2, 2010

SCUBA Diving Sodwana Bay, S. Africa

Thought I would write a quick update about the thousands of kilometers between Kruger Park and J-Bay where I am surfing my heart out right now. The first stop was Swaziland, a small country still run totally my a king and which is completely surrounded by South Africa. We entered the tiny monarchy way up in the mountains, really having to push our little Hyundai. The roads did get better as we got closer to the capital. We stopped a fun wildlife reserve called Mlilwane, and were treated with Nyala, bee eaters, bleesbok, roan antelope, and lots of baby warthogs. It took the better part of the day but by 3pm we had crossed the country and the border back into South Africa.
The next destination was Sodwana Bay. Its a beautiful area of protected coast and tropical reef almost where South Africa touches Mozambique. We wanted to go diving in Mozambique but just didn't have the time. But Sodwana turned out magnificent. I went with Coral Divers and the trip started out by pushing the hard bottomed zodiac off the beach into the surf. Then we timed it and gunned out between crashing waves. On the way to our dive site, 9 mile reef, the captain stopped and said, "whale shark". Then we saw it, about 18ft and swimming right at us. It swam right under then boat, close enough to touch, before disappearing into the depths before we could get our snorkel stuff on. Incredible!
The reef wasnt that much farther. We did a negative entry, which is when you empty all the air out your bcd and back flip into the water and start sinking and continue on to the bottom. We dropped right on top of the 'green tree'. Which is a fabulous coral formation that is dark green and surrounded by fish. The current was ripping and I saw 3 small black tip reef shark easily swimming off into the current. Other big potato bass (grouper) were also swimming upstream in the current looking for food. We came across one in a swim thru that was bigger than me!
The water was clear and warm, and we drifted with the current looking for small animals and fish in the corals and occasionally glances off into the blue for big pelagics. I found all kinds of nudibranchs, colorful sea slugs. If only I had a camera for this! A big moray eel was making is home there as well. After 50minutes we were signaled to start ascending. I just couldn't take my eyes off the beautiful reef. But the fun wasn't over yet.
On the way back we stopped for dolphins and this time we did get to jump in. The swam right up and past me. I could have reached out and touched them. They were the calmest dolphins I have ever swam with. Then heading back to the beach our captain gave us life jackets before gunning it full blast onto the beach! Pretty fun but man thats gotta be rough on the boats.

After a few nights here we drove the entire length of the coast, past Durban to a small sea side village called Uzumbwe. After making a delicious breakfast the next morning we drove nearly a thousand kilometers to Port Elizabeth on the 'sunshine coast'. I was pumped for surfing but they didnt have any waves. Heidi and I did paddle around the cold water for a while searching for some Southern Right Whales we saw from breakfast overlooking the bay.
Then we spent an afternoon and evening at Addo National Park. We saw hardebeest, eland, blue cranes, jackals, bat eared fox, and spring hares for the first time since Heidi has arrived. Then we stayed for a really fun night drive where the guide has a huge spotlight and we drive around the bush looking for eye reflections. We saw a nocturnal porcupine and were almost charge by a black rhino running thru the night.

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