From the warm Indian Ocean of the east coast to the cold Atlantic Ocean on the west, snorkellers are guaranteed hours of enjoyment as they discover the colourful and fascinating marine life endemic to the country's coastline.

Did you know?

It's advisable, in the interests of safety, to never snorkel alone. Always go with a reliable 'snorkel buddy' so you have someone to assist you should either of you get into trouble.

Where you choose to snorkel in South Africa is dependent on your fondness for warm water, fear of predatory sharks and what you’re hoping to see.

The activity is cheap, requiring nothing more than a mask, snorkel and fins, all sold inexpensively at sports outlets and general dealers.

Bathed by the warm Agulhas current, the tropical waters of KwaZulu-Natal offer an abundance of shallow reefs – the most southerly coral reefs on the planet – shipwrecks, manta rays, dolphins and a colourful variety of invertebrates. The best snorkelling sites are located north off Sodwana Bay, where excellent visibility and well over 1 000 fish species are the main attraction.

The sponge and coral-coated Aliwal Shoal off Umkomaas is a 40-minute drive south of Durban and home to tiger sharks, ragged-tooth sharks, turtles, many fish and interesting reef structure. Several kilometers off Shelly Beach, south of Port Shepstone, lie the Protea Banks, home to hammerhead, ragged-tooth and tiger sharks and many shallow reefs.

In the Eastern Cape, the pretty Garden Route beckons snorkellers to the Knysna lagoon to see its rare endemic seahorses, and to Mossel Bay, Storms River and Plettenberg Bay, where scattered reefs and shipwrecks attract interesting marine life.

If cold water is no deterrent, Cape Town's wafting kelp beds are home to some interesting and ancient fish species. Add the attraction of shipwrecks, seals, penguins, sharks and whales to get an idea of what you’re likely to experience in Atlantic waters.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Local tourism authorities in the coastal provinces will be able to advise you on the places best suited to snorkelling. Visit their websites for contact details.

Best time to visit

Temperatures are warmer during summer, but water clarity is best in winter.

Tours to do

Once the snorkelling bug has bitten you might discover an urge to go shark-cage diving or scuba diving. Diving courses are offered at larger coastal towns and cities, particularly in Durban and Cape Town.

What to pack

A UV-resistant rash vest for sun protection and a wetsuit in colder waters is advisable.

Where to stay

The more popular coastal cities like Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London and Cape Town are geared up for tourists, with plenty of holiday accommodation available, from back packers hostels to top-flight hotels.

Related articles