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The Dolphin Coast (or “North Coast”) refers to a section of scenic coastline just north of Durban, in KwaZulu Natal. It boasts dozens of beautiful “tidal pools”, small rocky pools at the coast that are filled with seawater. In these shallow areas, sheltered from the waves and currents, snorkelers can observe corals, excellent fish variety and loads of nudibranchs and other sea slugs. Tidal pools are excellent spots for children and beginners.
The Dolphin Coast is located 45 minutes (60km) north of Durban. It includes the coastal resorts of Ballito, Shaka’s Rock and Salt Rock. To reach the Dolphin Coast from Durban, take the N2 (or the M4) north, and turn off at (from south to north) Ballito, Shaka’s Rock or Salt Rock exit. M4 road runs along the coast, and there are many points to access the rocky shoreline between Ballito and Salt Rock. The main tidal pool is located in Thompson’s Bay (see map above).
You can enter the water anywhere along the pools.
In the pools, sheltered from waves and currents, the water level ranges from less than 2ft to 7ft /0.5 to 2m. The sea bed is made up of rocky overhangs, open sandy areas and scattered coral. Although the pools are artificial, shallow and there is little coral, you can still see a wide range of underwater life.
During your exploration, you may come across 150 species of fish including blue-spotted stingray, elegant pipefish, floral morays, giant morays, geometric moray, vagabond butterflyfish, threadfin butterflyfish, semicircle angelfish and ember parrotfish. At least 120 species of nudibranchs and many other invertebrates also find a home there.
This spot is particularly well adapted to children and beginners, who can snorkel in excellent safety conditions.
Many sea urchins and scorpionfish (Mozambique scorpionfish, yellow-spotted scorpionfish) inhabit the seabed, but they are not dangerous as long as you don’t put your foot on the seabed, as is the usual practice.
There are sometimes a lot of visitors to the spot, so watch out for swimmers, other snorkelers and for people who have fun jumping into the water from the rocks above the pool.
The Dolphin Coast is one of the main seaside resorts in South Africa. There is a wide range of accommodation and restaurants near the different tidal pools.
These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.
This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
Tidal pools with fish and invertebrates
Marine reserve with a vibrant reef drop off and many sea turtles
Reef drop off and sea turtles
Sand bank edged by a coral reef
Small islets fringed by a vibrant coral reef
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