Cape Vidal, KwaZulu-Natal is about 40 km's north of the Town of St Lucia in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and possibly one of the most popular spots for snorkeling in South Africa, in good conditions!
Snorkeling at Cape Vidal can be epic. just take your snorkel gear, head down to the Cape Vidal beach and you're in for one of Kwazulu Natal's gems, if you're a keen snorkeler, you don't want to miss out on this spot!
To get to cape Vidal, simply head north from St Lucia town (about 3 hours north of Durban, head up the N2 and turn off at Mtubatuba, when you reach St Lucia town, turn left towards the croc farm and you will come to the entrance gate for the road north to Cape Vidal)
You can easily self drive to Cape Vidal, but we do recommend a local operator to ensure you get best conditions, safe and great guides to help you find the variety of amazing marine life in this area. For snorkeling trips / snorkel tours to Cape Vidal which include snorkel gear, lunch, transport etc... we recommend Safari & Surf, check out their website and Facebook page for updates from the recent trips. The drive does go through the eastern shores area of the iSimangaliso wetland park and adds a great wildlife experience to your trip to Cape Vidal, including regular sightings of White Rhino, Buffalo and even Leopard. There is a daily limit for cars entering the Cape Vidal area, so if you plan on a day snorkeling at Cape Vidal, be sure to get to the gate early, especially in the busier holiday periods and over weekends.
When to snorkel at Cape Vidal, Kwazulu Natal
Snorkelling at Cape Vidal is best in the winter months, when the water is cleaner and the wind is not as heavy as in summer (the north east winds can howl in the summer months, making Cape Vidal's snorkeling conditions slightly green and choppy) however, we have had wonderful snorkeling trips to Cape Vidal throughout the year and this does rate as one of the best spots to go snorkeling in South Africa.
You want to also plan your Cape Vidal snorkeling trip (most snorkeling spots in Kwazulu Natal for that matter) around a very low tide, low tides close to a full moon or new moon are perfect tides for snorkeling the Cape Vidal area. Any tide below 0,5m should allow for good snorkeling conditions at Cape Vidal.
There is pretty much just one main snorkeling spot at Cape Vidal along a long rocky peninsular that juts out to sea, just south of the main beach access area (where boats launch)
At a good low tide the snorkeling conditions are calm and gentle but beware, strong currents can run through this area and have washed unwary snorkelers out to sea on the past, because of this, we always recommend making certain take fins along as part of your snorkel gear, they will help if conditions are rough.
Along the rocky reef you have an excellent chance to snorkel with Honeycomb Moray Eels, huge shoals of Flagtails and Rounded Moonies. Needlefish, Flutemouths and views of Blue spotted Ribbontail Ray are another treat when snorkeling in cape Vidal. Snorkeling over the sandy areas around Cape Vidal is also surprisingly good with huge shoals of fish around you as well as Flounder, Rockcod and large Kingfish on occasion. Other common sightings include Diamond and Marbled Electric Rays, Tropical Halfbeaks, the endemic Zulu Wrasse, Spottail Coris, massive shoals of Rounded Moonies, Ladder and Surge Wrasse, Kingfish and a range of surgeons and damsels.
The smaller intertidal pools south of the main beach area also hold a treasure trove of interesting marine life for the avid snorkeling enthusiast, including colourful bubble shells, nudibranchs and smaller / young fish. When snorkeling at Cape Vidal also try get a snorkel in at the rocky areas north of the main peninsular, the snorkeling at these rocks is best at a very low tide and includes some excellent reef and habitat for a variety of fish and invertebrates.
An important note, please remember this is a world heritage site, so the removal of any shells or other marine organisms is strictly prohibited unless you have a permit.
The entire wildlife experience, great variety of fish, relatively protected conditions (at good low tides when there is no wind and swell) certainly make Cape Vidal a runner for one of the best snorkeling spots in South Africa, we love to snorkel there and sure you will too.
There is also a campsite at Cape Vidal as well as chalets, snorkeling in peak holiday seasons can be very busy, so book early if you intend on staying overnight. Let us know about any of your exciting snorkeling experiences from Cape Vidal or interesting sightings along the reef, we are always keen to hear what folks see.
What to take when snorkeling in Cape Vidal
Snorkel gear of course and include a rash vest in your snorkeling gear on summer, you get burned fast out there
Binoculars, sitting around before or after your snorkel, you have a great chance of seeing dolphins and whales (especially in winter months)
Sunscreen, lots of sunscreen
Umbrella if you intend spending the day on the beach, it can also protect you a bit from being exposed to the north east wind if it's blowing
You will need a permit which can be purchased at the entrance gate to the eastern shores, do not loose this permit, you will need it to leave the reserve area after your snorkeling trip
Food and drinks, catering is very limited for day visitors going snorkeling at Cape Vidal