uMdloti, about 20Km’s north of Durban is one of KwaZulu-Natal’s very popular coastal towns and holiday destinations and a great snorkeling spot. uMdloti literally bursts at the seams during South African School Holidays and it is easy to see why, this pretty little town has some great beaches and snorkeling opportunities.
Large parts of the uMdloti coast are also protected from fishing and collecting, the benefits of which are clearly visible when you put your head under water. Snorkeling in uMdloti is one of those spots where almost anything is possible, people have seen Nurse Sharks, Guitarfish, three species of rays, it's a very cool spot.
uMdloti is easily accessible off the M4 of N2 heading north from Durban (Almost half way between uMhlanga and the King Shaka Airport) - from the N2 or M4, heading north take the uMdlodi offramp and turn right. Once you reach the village there is a major T-Junction / circle on the beach, veer left and follow this road up for about a kilometer to the main beach area where you will notice a very big tidal pool area and lifeguard tower.
Where to snorkel
Looking out towards the ocean, the main swimming beach / bay is very well protected by a combination of large offshore rocky reef and artificial tidal pool set up. Starting at the northern point of this bay are some smaller tidal rock pools which have and interesting variety of smaller fish and moving south there are two large inlet areas where water flows in and then some more rocky tidal pool areas on the southern most point of the swimming area. The vast majority of this bay is waist deep, so safe to snorkel, but there are some deeper holes closer to the wall that go down to 3 or 4 meters. There is a bit of surge at higher tides, so be carful of being pulled onto rocks.
The entire face of the reef is excellent snorkeling in the right conditions with undulating sandy banks and deeper “holes” around rocky outcrops. The deeper area where water tends to flow into the bay certainly has the most variety of fish and interesting underwater structure to snorkel around.
Spend time snorkeling around these inlet areas, especially where there are big rocky outcrops and the old man made concrete pillars. This area is where most the fish variety can be found. It is also here that the benefits of no fishing becomes very evident when compared to other snorkeling spots around Durban, the size of the fish in general are a lot larger than one generally sees snorkeling in other areas around Durban. The Blacktails, Convict Surgeons, Spot Damsels are all at least 2-3 times bigger than we usually see elsewhere and nice big shoals of them too. The area is also very good for big shoals of Flagtails and Strepies (Fusiliers). Around the deeper rocky outcrops look out for Giant Moray Eels and some more unusual species such as Penciled Surgeons (generally juveniles), Semi-Circle Angelfish Brown Surgeons.
Heading down towards the southern point, you find some more protected and “quiet” intertidal pools ranging in depth from a few feet to less than 30cm, these areas are great for things like Vagabond and Raccoon Butterflyfish as well as invertebrates such as the Spanish Dancer Nudibranch and several flatworm species. These little pools are well worthwhile exploring for more unusual marine life.
The entire area also has some interesting coral growth and extremely beautiful underwater features, colourful sponges, anemones and as well as a lot of small caves and gullies between the rocks covered in growth of all sorts of marine organisms.
Our general impression of the visibility whilst snorkeling at uMdloti has been average, with lots of water flowing into the bay, the visibility cab be a bit washed out (less than 3-55 meters) – we definitely recommend trying to snorkel uMdloti on a low tide when the swell is less than it’s average 3-4 foot. Swell size, in our opinion is the main contributor to a good snorkel at uMdloti rather than tide.
Spring low tides also mean that a lot of the bay is very shallow, but this does allow you to get right into the gullies and feature along the edge of the main reef.
As we mentioned, like many snorkeling spots in KwaZulu-Natal, uMdloti can get very busy over weekends and holiday periods, so either get there early (to find parking and avoid the crowds) or visit mid week / out of season. We are not exaggerating, it is almost impossible to find parking in peak season and we are also quite certain that you would not want to snorkel with large crowds in the water.
uMdloti is a fantastic spot and nice open, interesting snorkeling spot with plenty to explore. We just recommend that you try to experience it at it’s best, out of season.