Sodwana Bay News

South Africa’s coral reefs stretch for approximately 150 km along the northern KZN coast from north of Cape Vidal to the Mozambique border. The reefs are separated into 3 groups termed the northern, central and southern complex and are situated in the Maputaland Marine Reserve and St Lucia Marine Reserve. Combined these two marine parks form part of the iSimangoliso Wetland Park, which was proclaimed a World Heritage Site in 1999. Although all of the coral reefs lie within marine protected areas (MPA) they do not have the same levels of protection i.e certain reefs are located within sanctuaries while others are designated multiple-use zones.
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KwaZulu Natals iSimgangaliso Wetland Park has been called a small Eden and its not hard to see why.  Beach and bush lay side by side and you can find both turtle tracks and leopard spoor on the magnificent shoreline.
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In recent years an increasing emphasis has been placed on the importance of understanding the dynamics of the marine sector through the implementation of minimally destructive scientific research. Scientific research is invaluable in an area such as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park as it allows for the implementation of Long Term Monitoring Programs (LTMPs), an understanding of anthropogenic (human) impacts, and educated management.  In short, scientific research will provide the baseline information required to ensure the area remains pristine while still allowing responsible and sustainable fishing and SCUBA diving.
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The iSimangaliso Wetland Park was inscribed as a world heritage site in 1999 in recognition of its natural beauty, global value, and the unique biodiversity the area has to offer. The marine sector, warmed by the tropical equatorial waters of the Agulhas Current, is in fact so special that it is renowned worldwide for being home to a healthy population of coelacanths, a biodiversity hotspot, and an area of great ecological significance. Each year thousands of visitors head to Sodwana Bay to get away from the rat race while taking advantage of the pristine nature the area offers, particularly in terms of fishing and SCUBA diving.
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The few seaweeds that most divers will notice on the reefs of Sodwana are the ten to twenty relatively large, showy species. They are unusual in two respects: they are a small minority of the species present, and they escape grazing by fish and invertebrates, either by producing nasty chemicals or hard carbonate walls, or by growing fast or in places where grazers can’t reach them. 
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Scuba divers at Sodwana Bay have consistently been spoilt with the most awesome diving conditions you could dream of for the last few months.  The winter water temperature has constantly been around 22 – 23 degrees and the vis has rarely been below 30 metres.  Highlight encounters and sightings include, Grey reef sharks mating on 5 mile, the “biggest” ever manta ray on bikini, a tiger shark hunting a turtle who then sought refuge between a group of startled divers and had the shark buzzing the turtle between them, a great white shark photographed on pinnacles and ribbon and then a whale shark with a very unusual growth on its head. 
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New Dive Site: We went for a dive on Skipper's Reef The divers descended on a shoal of 27 racoon butterflyfish - such a big aggregation is an unusual sight, surely related to the fact that there was no camera amongst the group. 18 species of butterflyfish were seen on this dive each with its distinctive colour pattern in black, yellow and white. butterflyfish feed on a variety of reef creatures including seaweed, coral polyps, small invertebrates and fish eggs.
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Diving Permits will be enforced from 1st September Permits can be obtained from the Post Office for R85.00 for a year, monthly permits are also available.  You can also get the permits at the KZNW office inside the parksboard at Sodwana Bay.  The maximum fine for not having a permit is R10, 000.00!
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