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Diving South Africa

Famous for its stunning landscapes and game viewing, South Africa also makes for a top diving destination. With over 3000 km of coastline, diving in South Africa is varied, to say the least. From the tropical reefs in Sodwana Bay, diving with sharks in Gansbaai, to the rugged coastline and wrecks of Cape Town, South Africa diving offers plenty of opportunities to discover the underwater beauty of the country for any level diver.

One of the southern-most coral reef structures in the world with an enormous biodiversity of fish and invertebrates known to the Indo-Pacific, diving in Sodwana Bay is world class. Almost as exciting as the diving itself, are the launches by powerful rubber inflatable boats (RIBs) through the surf and back after the dive. Water temperatures range from 20 degrees Celsius in September to 28 in April. Sodwana is easily reached by car from Durban (4 hrs), Johannesburg (7hrs) or with the Baz bus to Hluhluwe-Bushlands stop and further by transfer.

Shark diving in South Africa offers an amazing variety of opportunities. The Aliwal Shoal, a reef system of about 3 by 1 kilometer that offers several different dive sites and is a concentration site for the ragged-tooth shark. Other frequently sighted marine life include sea turtles, dolphins, manta rays, and several other shark species like the bull shark or hammer head. Gansbaai is the area best known for viewing the great white shark from a cage. Cage diving with the great white is a thrilling experience that will leave you with a new sense of awe and respect for this magnificent predator. Another spectacular option of South Africa shark diving is diving the sardine run. This natural yearly phenomenon happens in June and July. Dive boats go out every morning, locating the sardines, which form a bait ball, literally surrounded by predators like sharks, seals, dolphins, game fish, and birds.

Cape town is located in an area of abundant natural beauty, which extends underwater. Wrecks, kelp forests, temperate reefs and rare shark species are amongst Cape Town diving highlight. Both the Atlantic coast and the bay east of the Cape offer several excellent dive sites. There are year round diving opportunities in Cape Town, but dives are weather dependent and water temperatures are relatively cold, ranging from 10 degrees Celsius in winter (August) to 18 degrees in summer (January).

Dive Sites

Most dive sites in Sodwana Bay can be found on 2 Mile Reef. With a length of 1.8km and width of over 900 meters, this is the largest reef structure of Sodwana, boasting over 20 excellent dive sites. Simons Cave is a varied dive site with plenty of crevices and overhangs to explore and a swim through, where white-tip reef sharks are known to hang out. A good selection of anemones, hard, and soft coral makes this site an interesting and colorful site. Bikini, a site located just off 2 Mile Reef, is a macro photographer’s paradise. An important cleaning station with plenty of species of cleaning shrimp, ghost-pipefish, moray eels and juvenile fish; this site is for advanced divers only.

A reef structure off the east coast of South Africa, Aliwal Shoal is well known for attracting a high number of ragged tooth sharks between June and November. One of the most famous dive sites of the Aliwal Shoal is the Cathedral. Here divers find an arch at 27 meters deep that enters into a chimney-like sinkhole that reaches all the way to 17 meters. In shark season, up to 60 sharks can be seen swimming in the cathedral. But also outside of shark season this makes for a great dive, with sightings of the rare frogfish, potato bass, and sea turtles.

Castle Rock is a beautiful unspoiled dive site, situated in a marine reserve on the east coast of the Cape Point Peninsula near Cape Town, with quite an abundance of marine life. The site is covered in sponges, sea fans, kelp forest, sea urgins and anemones with plenty of fish life that call this place home. Search between the rocks and corals for octopus, nudibranchs, brittle stars and look out in the blue for the occasional shy shark. Dive site Pyramid rock, close to Castle Rock, is a popular kelp forest dive site. The main attraction here is the chance to see the spotted sevengill cow shark, gully shark, and shy shark. But even without a shark sighting, this is an excellent Cape Town dive site, with lots of rocks to explore, swim throughs and tons of soft corals.

Travelling Around

Coral divers, located in Sodwana Bay, is a one-stop dive facility for a complete South Africa diving vacation. A PADI 5 star Gold Palm IDC center, their dive center offers full dive training from absolute beginner level to instructor. On site accommodation is available in proper South African bush camp style in safari tents or cabins with catering options. They offer transfers from the nearest Baz Bus stop in Bushlands.

Oceanworkx Dive charters is a dive center in Umkomaas, ideally located to organize daily trips to the Aliwal Shoal and local ship wrecks. They share premises with Sea Fever Dive Lodge and Hidden Reef Restaurant, making it a great location for all your needs in diving South Africa’s east coast. They organize an array of trips from snorkeling to full-on dive packages with highlights as the Aliwal Shoal, shark bait diving and the sardine run. Umkomaas is closest to Durban airport and can also be reached by Baz Bus or rental car.

For shark cage diving in South Africa, head over to Gansbaai, the capital of diving, with the great white shark. Marine Dynamics Shark Tours is an award winning eco-tourism and conservation enterprise that organizes daily shark cage diving trips, with high standards of boat, equipment and staff. They run several conservation efforts to support populations of penguins, whales, and sharks and to discourage littering. From Cape Town daily trips leave to Gansbaai as well, organized by Apex Shark Expeditions. Transportation will take a bit longer, but this offers a good option if you’re limited on time or just staying in the city. Apex also organizes other shark diving trips in South Africa, including the sardine run.

Pisces Diving is located in Simon’s Town, on the east coast of the Cape Peninsula, with easy access to some splendid dive sites like Castle Rock, or diving with the pre-historic looking cow sharks. They offer a full palette of services, including PADI dive courses, boat charters, tank fills, equipment repair and maintenance.

Published May 3,
2014

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Dive Sites

Windmill Beach Sunny Cove Quarry Roman Rock A Frame Spaniard Rock Pietermaritzburg Castle Rock, Cape Point Outer Castle Pyramid Rock Partridge Point Batsata Rock Steenbras Deep Steenbras River Mouth Pinnacle, Gordon's bay Cow and Calf Balcony Coral Gardens, Gordon's Bay Crosses Percy's SAS Gelderland Ark Rock Barge Brunswick Glencairn barge and reef SAS Good Hope SAS Fleur Lusitania Pie Rock Reef Caravan Reef Rambler Rock Photographer's Reef Castor Rock Fish Hoek Reef Catherdral, Aliwal Shoal Chunnel, Aliwal Shoal Amphitheatre, Aliwal Shoal Cowrie, Aliwal Shoal Tiger Ledge, Aliwal Shoal Castle, Aliwal Shoal MV Produce, Aliwal Shoal Raggies Cave, Aliwal Shoal Howards Castle, Aliwal Shoal Inside Edge, Aliwal Shoal Outside Edge, Aliwal Shoal Eelskins, Aliwal Shoal Manta Point, Aliwal Shoal Simon's Cave Wayne's World Pinnacles, Sodwana Bay 4 Buoy Arches Coral Gardens, Sodwana Bay Caves and Overhangs Antons Chain Stringer Cat Deep Sponge Garden Route Grand Central Pick 'n Pay Smarties Spots and Stripes Two Buoy Roonies Hopscotch Bikini Mellow Yellow, Sodwana Bay Pothole, 5 mile Reef Hotspot, 5 mile Reef Ribbon, 5 Mile Reef 7 Mile Reef Snappers 9 Mile Reef

Marine Life

Giant Kelp Giant Manta Ray Great White Shark Sandtiger Shark Whale Shark Frogfish Puffadder Shyshark Hottentot Seabream

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