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WWhere 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 relatively inexpensive, requiring nothing more than a mask, snorkel and fins, all sold 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 of Sodwana Bay, where excellent visibility and well over 1 000 fish species are the main attraction.
TThe sponge and coral-coated Aliwal Shoal off Umkomaas a 40-minute drive south of Durban, is rated one of the top 10 dive spots in the world. The Shoal is home to tiger sharks, ragged-tooth sharks, turtles, pelagic and coral fish and interesting reef structures. Several kilometers off Shelly Beach, south of Port Shepstone, lies the Protea Banks, home to hammerhead, ragged-tooth and tiger sharks as well as 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.
TTravel 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.
Around the area
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.