Is Sodwana still the chosen dive destination in SA?

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The last time I set fin in Sodwana was when all the world's computers were going to crumble into an abyss because Charles Babbage did not consider that his invention would last past the change of the millennium.  It was a time I also refer to, with reverence, as BC – before children.  These were times when, at a whim, you could grab your wallet and have an unencumbered New Year's party till the third of January without considering anybody else.  Now, we sit on the stoep of our ground floor flat (no stairs for the safety of the children) without a sea view arching our necks skyward so we can at least hear the fire crackers and the laughter we used to create.

In retrospect, Sodwana was not the best place for a young man to be at the turn of the century. Sodwana, rather, is the quintessential family holiday destination.  The beach is endless and unspoilt. The waves are mildly frothy at worst and the sand stays nice and flat so even a thalassophobiac can think of it as a farm dam.  For six years I have been carting along boogie boards in the hope that one of the children will take to the waves. In Sodwana it finally happened.  The girls took to the waves with gusto and even snorkelled in the gentle waves.  They were able to bob about in the beautifully protected rock pools on Jesser Point looking at angel fish and cute little flute fish and octopuses and even a moray eel.  

It's also one of the only beaches in South Africa where you can still drive to your desired spot on the vast sand and unpack right there where you park.  No carrying gazebos, cooler boxes, towels, chairs, boogie board, fins and masks of everyone else.  You simply push this beach paraphernalia from the 4x4 without toil.  We braved the dunes with our little wannabe 4x4 X-Trail and surprisingly did not get stuck but it was a tall order. So we used the parking area and fraternised with the sedans, walking the short route to the beach.  

The car guards are notoriously ruthless as they swamp you like a bunch of bachelors would swamp a pole dancer.  The only difference is that the money flows towards the swamper in the car park and towards the swampee in the strip club.  They watch your car whether you like it or not and thou shalt be scolded like a swearing five-year-old in a nursery school if thou don’t pay them something.   You can save some money though by having your passengers walk through the entrance gate and only paying for the driver.  Pedestrians don’t pay, but you didn’t hear it from me.

We stayed at Sodwana Bay Lodge in a quaint but spacious cottage with a 3G signal stronger than the MTN headquarters.  The kids rode on their bicycles, which was another burden we slogged along every year to every holiday destination to no avail.  

The diving is Sodwana is still world class.  At the pinnacle of beauty is Seven-mile Reef with its gorgeous schools of fish and forlorn reefs.  Lovely too is the fascinating Lettuce Reef that looks like a Spur Greek Salad with the tomatoes picked out.  Two-mile Reef is Bass Lake by the sea. The fish are sparse and reminded me of township dogs – pop-eyed and emaciated.  In Two-mile Reef’s defence, we did see a white-tip reef shark and a humungous turtle, so I guess it isn’t that bad.  

There are many diving companies and they all seemed pretty much similar.  Some of them offer deep-see fishing charters for people who prefer to eat the fish rather than look at them.  

The road from Joburg to Sordies is resurfaced and tolled, but not as expensive as the N3.  Even the strip past Swaziland is lovely.  We chose to drive through Jozini to show the children the dam and felt a little further removed because we braved the dirt road.

So, if you have children or you like diving or deep-sea fishing, Sodwana is still the undefeated champion in the coastal boxing ring.