Maputaland, in the north-eastern corner of KwaZulu Natal, is an unspoiled, authentic South African wilderness stretching from the borders of Swaziland and Mozambique in the north to Lake St Lucia in the south. The area is flanked by the Indian Ocean, and is blessed with coral reefs, pristine estuaries, lake systems and over 200 kilometres of untouched sandy beach (recently designated a World Heritage coastline). Behind lies a rich variety of unique habitats, including wetland and sand forest.
Among the highlights of Maputaland are its nature reserves, including Pongola, Ithala, Mkuze, Tembe, Ndumo; lakes, including Sibaya and St Lucia; and marine reserves at Kosi Bay and Sodwana. Each reserve has its distinctive attractions.
A new road and airstrips have now opened this isolated region to holiday makers. Sustainable tourism will play a vital part in the preservation of this extraordinary landscape in the 21st century.
The reefs in northern Maputaland have been dived for less than five years and are glorious. The best-known reefs are Illusive and M’bibi reefs. The Old Women Angelfish section of the M’bibi reef system is named for the shoals of fish that follow divers. This section is characterised by large pinnacles and collapse features, and abundant reef fish. Ragged-tooth sharks are sometimes encountered. Regal Reef is 15m deep, with huge swim-throughs, pinnacles, fantastic plate corals and one of the best concentrations of butterfly- and angelfish in Maputaland. To dive here, an open-water certificate is required. Minimum age: 12. Special shark, whale and dolphin diving courses are on offer.
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