We stayed at Coral Divers over Easter as part of a trip to South Africa to visit friends. As keen divers we decided to make the (really long) trip from Jo'burg to Sodwana Bay to sample our first African diving. We chose Coral Divers based on reviews on this site and recommendations.
The welcome was lovely and we were immediately booked onto a refresher course as we had not dived for 12 months. I had enquired as to whether we could complete a refresher in the UK in order to maximise our holiday time but Coral Divers insisted we do it with them. Well, Ashley was our instructor and he put us through our paces with the most comprehensive refresher session that I have ever experienced. We actually found it too comprehensive at 3-4 hours in the pool but, to be fair to Ashley, he was completing his instructor course and therefore made sure that absolutely everything was covered. Nevertheless we couldn't wait to get in the ocean.
We carried out the pool session at the hotel complex and were then ferried down to the beach on a tractor / trailer. The bay itself is stunning. A huge wide sweeping white sandy beach and a choppy seascape. There are a number of dive centres who operate off the beach and all have their own area to kit up etc. There are some chaps at the beach who will set up your kit for you and make sure it is on the RIB. Terribly lazy but marvellous for a nominal fee.
To get out to the dive sites is certainly an experience. The transport is via RIB which the divers and DMs push out through the breakers and then jump on at an opportune moment. I seriously struggled with this as I have no upper-body strength, however there was always a wiry young man or 2 to lend a well-placed hand! (This is the same when you are getting back into the boat post-dive, no ladders + wetsuits = absolutely no glamour). Once in the RIB on the way to the site you are treated to a fabulously hairy speed through the breakers. Although pretty rough at times the boat captains were fabulous and obviously know the water like the back of their hands - we never felt unsafe.
The diving at Sodwana Bay is wonderful - far better than we expected. Having dived in some of the best places in the world I didn't think I would be as impressed as I was. At the very end of our first dive we were incredibly lucky as were visited by a pod of huge dolphins. It was probably the best dive of my life. Other dives were also spectacular and the amount of turtles (some very very large) was wonderful. We dived 9 mile reef (often rated in the top 10 dive sites of the world) and it was beautiful.
I recall that this is supposed to be a hotel review so I will get back to the accommodation. We booked the most expensive accommodation which is a self-contained, en-suite cabin. It was lovely. These cabins are set around a lovely shaded, grassy area and are traditional, raised thatched huts. The rooms were not spacious but had a lovely comfy double bed, mossie net, fans (no ac) and a wardrobe / shelving unit. The en suite was an open bathroom at the back of the cabin with a shower, loo and sink. The bathroom was a bit old and tired, not really the high class outside bathrooms we have experienced at some of the 5 star lodges in the game reserves. However, it did the job and was clean. There was plenty of space to hang wetsuits too which was very helpful. The room was cleaned daily which was a good job as our bathroom was visited by the local monkeys on more than one occasion!
The main building housed the reception, bar, restaurant and dive planning area and was built around a small pool. It is pretty basic but nice and airy. We elected to stay on a DBB basis however I would not recommend this. The dinner provided as part of the plan was invariably a typical south african buffet, with meat and veg and salad. It was good quality and nicely cooked but became a bit 'samey' and the bar menu offered more variety. Also, we rarely made it to breakfast as were diving at 7am and by the time we got back breakfast had finished. Due to the weather (the wind really picks up in the afternoon) most dives were complete by 11am which left the afternoons free to go out and explore the local area or (much more likely) sit at the bar and drink beer. It was certainly a comfy place to relax, even though we were blighted by lots and lots of rain.
Each evening there is a dive planning session which allows you to pick your dives for the following day. Coral Divers is predominantly staffed by unpaid young South Africans who are working towards a variety of PADI qualifications. They are very knowledgeable and keen and you seem to have a couple that are assigned to you to make sure you get the dives that you want.
We left Coral Divers on Easter Saturday and were pleased that we were not starting our stay that weekend. It became very very very busy on Good Friday and the bay was absolutely jam-packed with KZN holiday makers in their big trucks. This is obviously a very popular spot and I would seriously recommend going outside of the school holidays. Although the bay is beautiful, it can be hard to appreciate it when it is covered with trucks as far as the eye can see - I am pleased we saw it earlier on in the week when it was quiet. The hotel also became very busy and the dive planning session on the last evening was pretty chaotic.
We loved Coral Divers and very much look forward to returning. The staff were superb, the food was great, the rooms were lovely and the diving was fantastic.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Coral Divers is a PADI 5 star Gold Palm IDC/CDC Centre situated in Sodwana Bay, South Africa. We are proud to be able to provide all levels of PADI scuba instruction from Bubble Maker to Instructor Development Courses as well as accommodation and dive charters. Lying within the boundaries of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, Sodwana Bay provides the travelling diver with a vast array of unspoilt coral reefs populated with a huge diversity of Indo-Pacific fish & invertebrates. Apart from the great diving & beautiful coral reefs, the area offers fun and excitement for the non-diver too. From quad bike riding, kiteboarding and paintballing to day trips to Makhasa Game Reserve for Rhino or Buffalo tracking on foot, you're sure to find something that appeals to you, your friends and/or family. Coral Divers offers you a very comfortable diving holiday experience while retaining the rustic appeal of an out-of-the-way bush camp. The area is covered with dense coastal forest offering exquisite scenery, bird watching, and a number of small mammals including Bush Babies, Genets, Duiker and Striped Mongoose. Sodwana is accessible by car, however we can arrange transfers from Hluhluwe - Bushlands (The BazBus drop off point) should you not have your own vehicle. Petrol & Diesel are available from the petrol station in the National Park, and there is a small supermarket which can provide you with essentials such as food, drink and sun block. There are a couple of restaurants both within and outside of the Park, as well as our local night club, 'Maak 'n Jol', where you can dance the night away. Sodwana is also within driving distance of a number of amazing game reserves including Makhasa Game Reserve, Mkhuze Game Reserve, Phinda Game Reserve & the Hluhluwe Mfolozi Park. We invite you to take a look through our site to find out a little more about Coral Divers - Sodwana Bay and the diving. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Coral Divers Sodwana, Africa