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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.

Kids snorkeling in a Tidal Pool, South Africa
The tidal pools offer good snorkeling conditions to children.

How to get to Dolphin Coast Tidal Pools snorkeling area?

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).

Dolphin Coast tidal pools snorkeling map, South Africa

Water entrance for snorkeling the Dolphin Coast Tidal Pools

Each pool has a rock or ladder access.

Dolphin Coast Tidal Pools snorkeling exploration

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.

Octopus in a Tidal Pool, South Africa
A pair of octopus.

While snorkeling the pools, 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 well suited to children and beginners, who can snorkel in excellent safety conditions.

Parrotfish in a Tidal Pool, South Africa
The Ember parrotfish is a common sight in the Dolphin Coast shore waters.

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 around the pool.

Restaurants and accommodation near Dolphin Coast Tidal Pools

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.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth2-7ft/0.5-2m in the pools
  • Water entranceEasy, from the shore
  • Potential DangersSea urchins, scorpionfish. Waves can be dangerous at very high tides.
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyYes

MAP Spot

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.