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Exploring Sodwana, KZN, in a VW Campervan
Author: Greta

Sandy sheltered campsites amongst nature filled forested sand dunes of Sodwana Bay National Park

Sodwana Bay can be found on the KwaZulu-Natal north east coast of South Africa, otherwise known as The Elephant Coast. Just 2.5 hours drive out of Durban airport one finds themselves in a tropical oasis of lush forested dunes and mangroves. The new road into Sodwana from Hluhluwe has recently been completed and is the best route into Sodwana after turning off the N2 from Durban. Set within the iSimagaliso Wetland Park, the Sodwana Bay National Park is THE place to sleep in your VW Lekker Camper campervan. If camping isn't your cup of tea, then check out the lovely wooden chalets inside the National Park or the well recommended Sodwana Bay Lodge further up the road. The Sodwana Bay Lodge is not located in the reserve so expect a short car trip every day to get to the beach - the lodge is highly rated for its reasonably priced diving packages. Self arranged diving, snorkeling and turtle viewing packages are also easy to organize beforehand or once you are there with one of the local dive operators. Coral Divers and Mseni Lodge are good starting points - the latter also has a pub and restaurant near the beach.


Camping at the Sodwana Bay National Park is an absolute joy. There are in excess of 400 sheltered sites, but don't be put off by the size. The campsite is huge, but split into 10 sections (A through to J) the sites are spread far apart and well partitioned by the coastal forest. Ablutions are basic with hot and cold water, baths, showers, flushing toilets and daily servicing. You can braai at all campsites and some have electrical points and cold water taps too. We camped in early March and were the only campers. When sleeping we locked the doors and activated the alarm inside the campervan just to be on the safe side. Peak season of Christmas and Easter tells a different story when the South Africans from Gauteng and Durban descend on the area in 4x4 droves - if crowds are not for you then give it a skip during these times! We opted for a non powered small site which is spacious enough for a 2-berth Lekker Camper campervan and 3 metre awning plus plenty of open star gazing space. The solar panel system on the Classic model campervan provided 24 hour lighting and electricity keeping the beers, meat and veggies ice cold and also charging our laptops, cameras and cell phones. The site was cheap at R70 per adult, so a mere R140 for the 2 of us and our campervan. Electricity is an additional R10 per person and only available on minimum 4 person sites. There is a newer campsite in the park called Gwalagwala (previously section A) - the facilities here are a bit more up to date, but it is very similar to the rest of the campsite. We stayed on campsite number 19, section B - some of the sites are deep sand so make sure you walk and check the site before driving in (if you want to get out again!). Sites get progressively sandier the further into the campsite - Section F camp is the most sandy. None of the sites have a sea view, but you can hear the sea best from B camp side.

Image Courtesy of KZN National Parks

2015 Campsite Rates
Gwalagwala - min charge R440 (4 pax), R110 per additional adult, R55 per additional child
Powered campsites - R80 per adult, R40 per child (min 4 pax)
Non powered campsites - R70 per adult, R35 per child
During our 4 night stay we had plenty of visitors to our campsite. The yellow mongoose family who were resident under the bathrooms did a great job of cleaning up any crumbs that had been left from our previous nights braai. In the early mornings peaking out of the curtains whilst enjoying the luxury of our campervan bed it was great fun secretly watching the mongoose busily chattering away whilst cleaning up. The monkeys were hanging about in the trees, but didn't bother us at the actual site. There are 420 species of birds here including the black headed guinea fowl and Pelicans on the nearby Lake Mgobozeleni. Small and large bucks also roam freely around the camp forest. 

Private and secluded campsites are sprawled across a large area in the Sodwana Bay National Park

As if this blast of nature whilst camping isn't enough then at night time the surrounding forest lights up alive with fireflies and the sky shows off with the Milky Way and clear star constellations. After the evenings nature entertainment and relaxing by the camp fire we were blissfully sent to sleep by the soothing background sounds of the sea and freshly awoken in the morning by bird song and mongoose nattering.

Of course the popular reason that one ones head on up to Sodwana is the world renowned scuba diving, snorkeling and fishing opportunities. From the campsite it is an easy 5-10 minute walk over the dunes to an undeveloped naturally beautiful beach. To get there follow the side path behind the lighthouse or go via the main gate. The protected bay is home to Africa's most southern coral reefs and over 1200 species of fish. The Coelacanth was discovered here in 2000 at the offshore deep Jesser Canyon. 

This is a malaria area so precautions are necessary.

Time to Go
* November - March for leatherback and loggerhead turtle watching
* April - September for diving
* June - November for whale watching

Anytime is a good time in Sodwana Bay!

Little rock pools reveal a myriad of underwater splendor

Expect crystal clear warm waters full of tropical fish - it really is like sticking your head in a giant fish pond, but it is also so much more. The wonderland of underwater seascapes can be compared to the Drakensberg mountain ranges, amphitheaters abound. Stunning corals, mushroom rocks, flora and fauna, sea caves and more combine to form a majestic marine wonderland. Snorkeling is easy at one of the many rock pools off the main beach. We grabbed our snorkels and mask to sight many stunning fish of all colours, shapes and sizes, moray eels and blue spotted stingrays. Just ask at the dive shop for the low tide times and where best to wade in.

When you have found Nemo then take long leisurely strolls on the endless miles of golden sand beach, surf, jet ski, paddle, sunbathe, picnic, relax with a good book, grab a Lekker cold beer or toastie from the beach cafe, take afternoon naps and listen to the calls of the birds and monkeys. There's also plenty of hiking opportunities including the 5km self guided Mngobeselen Trail. There is a well stocked and reasonably priced Spar shop, called Silver Sands, at the entrance to the nature reserve selling meat, fresh veggies, milk, bread, wine and the kitchen sink. Fuel is also available. Alternatively its a short drive 18kms up the road to the closest main town of Mbazwane or 80kms to the larger town of Hluhluwe. If you are horizontally Lekker relaxed in Sodwana Bay like we were then why not just stay a day or two extra? The heritage site correctly says, "ISimangaliso represents many things for many people. For some it's an adrenaline rush. For others a soul escape. For everyone, it is a miracle of nature." Enjoy.

Entrance Fees
Vehicle entrance: R47 (1-5 people)

Community levy: R5 pp (once off)

Entrance fee: R33 adult, R27 children under 12yrs

Accommodated Visitors: R5 pp (daily)

4x4 Beach permits: R300 plus R200 deposit (pay at reception). 200 permits issued per day on first come, first served basis

"One great big fishpond"

Karl Stein, German traveller



The sandy beach at Sodwana Bay National Park stretches for miles allowing for long and peaceful summer walks with only the resident crabs for company


National Park Office hours
08:00-16:30 (Monday-Thursday)
07:00-16:30 (Friday, Saturday, Public hols)
07:00-15:00 (Sunday)
Entrance gates open 24 hours

Activity local operators
Coral Dive:
Mseni Lodge:
Sodwana Bay Lodge:


Online bookings:
Tel:+27 (0)33 845 1000 (central reservations)
Tel: +27 (0)35 571 0051 (Sodwana Bay resort)

Campervan bookings
Tel: + 27(0)76 592 3989


Posted by Greta 19/03/2015

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