TRAVEL DIARIES: Recharging in Sodwana Bay – Woman and Home Magazine

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Nestled behind South Africa’s sand dunes and lush greenery, sits Sodwana Bay – a not-so-hidden gem that stuck with Jade McGee long after she visited the coastal destination.

Instagram | @msenibeachlodge

As Christmas came to an end in 2023, I began packing for a simple SCUBA holiday with the family. Despite having been to Sodwana 10 years earlier, I felt the anticipation of an unseasoned traveller growing in my stomach. I was 14 the last time I had visited there, with one thing on my mind – getting a good tan.

But now that I was older, I could experience the tranquillity of Sodwana for the first time, with fresh eyes, a renewed sense of purpose, and an urgency to get back into the ocean wearing a wetsuit, fins, a mask, and a cylinder.

From Joburg, the drive went on for about 8 hours. It probably could have gone a little faster, but the N2 is a little treacherous and riddled with potholes. The lack of usable road prepared us and the BMW for the trip ahead, as Sodwana doesn’t exactly have tarred roads. You won’t need a fully equipped 4×4 to enjoy your time there, but just keep in mind that sand is everywhere.

If you (as a passenger) can stay awake for the drive, you’ll be treated to some of SA’s most beautiful sights and older towns. Especially once you enter northern KZN – where you’ll get a peak of some incredible mountains, and hectares upon hectares of pineapple farms. Believe it or not – far more interesting than corn fields (I said what I said).

Once you hit Hluhluwe, you might spot a wild animal or two – although we weren’t so lucky this time around.

When we arrived in Sodwana, and let our tyres down, it was late. But I couldn’t help but admire the lack of industrialism, the lack of cell service, and the realisation that I could finally recharge after a long year.

The quaint town has one sandy road stretching through it, which becomes tarred as you drive towards the reserve, and along that road sits a few choice accommodation options, several restaurants (trust me – you won’t go hungry here), diving and fishing charters, and curio shops. That’s it. And it’s wonderful.

I felt transported to a different country once we drove into Sodwana Bay, secluded from the noisiness of city life. Having lived at the coast and in Gauteng for some time, I treasured the calm, and simplicity that Sodwana offers. As I sit here, reminiscing about my December holiday, I crave the peace and the sand on my feet….

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While Sodwana is known for its incredible diving (which still awes divers from all over the world with over 100 dives under the belts) and fishing experiences, it’s a spot for everyone to enjoy.

I took this little family holiday as an opportunity to share what first-timers could expect – and it’s simple: good food and a recharged body and soul.

Instagram | @msenibeachlodge

We ate out every night of our holiday, and each meal blew us away. I’ve travelled to Rome, Florence, and Amsterdam, and in some cases, the food tasted better than some of the renowned international restaurants I’ve eaten in. EAT had the best chicken alfredo I’ve ever tucked into, and The Lighthouse had the most scrumptious toasted sandwiches, ever.

For a bit of a splurge, we went to Mseni Beach Lodge for a late lunch halfway through our trip. The restaurant sits inside the reserve, overlooking the bay. Your 360-degree view is made up of a striking blue ocean and kilometres of lush forestry. And the food? Impeccable.

Instagram | @msenibeachlodge

The beach in Sodwana is clean, long, and wide. Avoiding the dive charters is easy enough that you won’t feel like you’re in the middle of a launch site – even though you are. Those not wanting to try SCUBA diving (although you should, it’s an experience worth grabbing) can book game drives, try snorkelling, hiking, or simply relax on the beach.


As a ‘first timer’ Sodwana can be a shock to the system. Those who haven’t travelled to Mozambique or are used to holidaying in KZN and Cape Town might be surprised at the rustiness of the town. But, once you wash the makeup off and throw on a cozzie, you’ll relish in the tranquillity.

Sodwana is a destination that everyone knows about – either through SCUBA Divers or fishermen they know, or because they’ve holidayed in Hluhluwe or Kosi Bay. But seldom do people add it to their South African travel bucket lists.

You won’t believe what an incredible (and affordable) experience Sodwana really is until you visit. You don’t need to be a SCUBA diver or fisherman to enjoy this trip, R&R is enough of a reason to make the journey. So why not add it to your list?


Escape to Stanley Island on the Garden Route

Featured Image: Siyabona Africa

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