Wilderness Rocktail Bay Lodge

Maputaland Reserve

Natal Coast

South Africa

Leatherback turtle

South Africa | Southern Africa Safaris | Indian Ocean Islands | Home Wilderness Camps

Rocktail Bay Lodge is situated in northern Natal, within the Maputaland Coastal Forest Reserve and adjoining the Maputaland Marine Reserve. This lodge lies within a proclaimed World Heritage Site, and has been widely acclaimed, including the following awards: British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow award 1999, and "Top 10 beaches of the World"- Outside Magazine.

This is an excellent addition to a safari in Mpumalanga or at the nearby Phinda.

The secluded lodge is metres from the warming currents of the Indian Ocean in a coastal forest, just behind the first row of forested dunes. It offers perhaps the most private beach experience in South Africa on 40 kilometres of unspoilt, undeveloped and pristine coastline.  This lodge consists of 10 chalets tucked  raised up on stilts into the forest canopy, each with en suite shower and toilet facilities and an outdoor shower. There is a lounge/pub and dining area where meals are served under thatch or under the giant Natal Mahogany trees. A boardwalk winds from the lodge through the dune forest and down to the beach. There is a swimming pool and sun deck for those who want to relax around the lodge. 

The highlight here is the miles and miles of pristine and undeveloped coastline. A variety of guided activities are available. The Indian Ocean is ideal for snorkeling in search of tropical fish (flippers and snorkels may be borrowed at the lodge), while surf and fly fishing is among the best on the east coast. Nature walks through the coastal forest and grasslands, or drives in open 4x4 vehicles to Black Rock and other localities will enthrall naturalists and photographers. In summer, nocturnal walks and drives along the beach in search of egg~laying sea turtles are a highlight. Scuba diving is available off shore (at extra cost). Also popular are birding trips to Vuzi Pan, about 30 minutes drive away. The marsh is a mini-Okavango, with special birds such as Lesser Jacana, Lesser Moorhen and Pink throated Longclaw occurring. This is a great trip when diving is not possible.

Although not "Big Game" wildlife includes: Leatherback Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Palmnut Vulture, Buitons Skink and Zululand Cycad. Two interesting antelope occur ~ Common Reedbuck in marshes and grasslands and Red Duiker in forest patches ~ and Hippo are found in freshwater lakes. Whales and Dolphins are seen off shore. Birding is good and a number of rare coastal species occur ~ Green Twinspot, Green Coucal, Grey Waxbill, Purplecrested and Livingstone's Louries, Natal Robin and jewel-like Emerald Cuckoo in forests, and Pinkthroated Longclaw and Rufousbellied Heron in marshy areas. 

Diving at Rocktail Bay

Wilderness Safaris has just begun to introduce diving on the reefs off Island Rock / Rocktail Bay, which  have never before been commercially dived. There are numerous pristine reefs. Two sections on the M'bibi reef system have been identified as of particular interest.   The launch site is exclusive to Wilderness Safaris' own boat, Mokarran. A top class diving center (the first fully accredited Mares Dive Resort in southern Africa) has been built at Manzengwenya. 

The first, named after shoals of Old Women Angelfish which follow divers all over the reef - Gogo's - is spectacular. Large pinnacles and collapse features makes the microtopography on this reef really impressive, and an abundance of reef fish is also to be found. Ragged tooth sharks are also sometimes encountered. The second,  Regal reef (named after the regal angelfish seen on this dive) is shallower, but in terms of topography even more spectacular. Huge swim-throughs, pinnacles and stunning plate corals are found, and the concentration of various species of butterfly- and angelfish is of the best in Maputaland. Other superb dive spots include: God's finger, Illusive reef, Coral alleys, Solitude and Deep Island Rock Pinnacle

Please note that the launch site Island Rock is a relatively inaccessible and wild part of South Africa's coastline. Sea and weather conditions may vary tremendously and, should either the divemaster or skipper decide that diving or launching is unsafe, they will cancel the days' diving, at their discretion. Dives are limited by beach access, so diving will be limited 2.5 hours on either side of the low water mark. A maximum of two dives  will be completed in a day. We endeavor to complete the dives in the morning, as the wind  tends to pick up in the afternoon. Guests will therefore sometimes be able to take part in the  scheduled afternoon lodge activities.

A qualified divemaster / instructor will lead all dives. Note that the dives are all drift dives, as anchoring on the reefs is illegal. The divemasters are very strict in buoyancy control as the reefs off Rocktail Bay are totally pristine, and there has literally been no diver impact on these reefs


The Maputaland Sea Turtle Project

The satellite tracking of turtles is a joint venture with Wilderness Safaris, KwaZulu/Natal Wildlife, and the University of Pisa, Italy  to monitor the populations of loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles on the Maputaland coast, and to place on record other activities involving sea turtles in South Africa and Mozambique. Due to increasing pressure from local people (and tourists in some areas - especially in Mozambique - where they drive on the beaches) where the nesting takes place, it has become necessary to increase control and protection of the beaches to prevent the destruction of nests and killing of turtles. 
This is the longest running research programme on loggerhead and leatherback turtles in the world and the only one that hhas demonstrated the successful recovery of sea turtle populations. Leatherbacks have increased over ten-year averages from 24 to 86 per year, and loggerheads have gone from 256 in the first ten years to an average of 468 overall. The main focus of the South African study is the 56 km of beach north and south of Bhanga Nek; this stretch is intensively patrolled every night by field rangers, guards from the local communities, and/or biology students. 

Towards the end of the egg-laying season (end-January), satellite  transponders are attached and activated, thereafter sending a tracking signal via the Argus satellite system in France. These movements are interpreted and monitored by the University of Pisa. Weekly and bi-monthly movement updates from satellite readings are sent to participating institutions, contributors and patrons. For example two years ago, one leatherback female fitted with a satellite transponder moved immediately south, 600 km past Cape Agulhas, turned westwards into the Atlantic and then turned eastwards, heading for Australia. She swam 7000 km in five months, before the battery failed - an incredible swim. Last year, one of the two leatherback females fitted with a transponder swam around Cape Agulhas and entered the Agulhas Current in a northerly direction. The last signal received from her (before the battery failed) was off the mouth of the Cunene River, which forms the boundary between Namibia and Angola. 

Cape To Cairo:  African Business and Adventure Travel
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 (800) 356-4433
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