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Aliwal Shoal Diving

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In uMkhomazi

-30.2006, 30.8027

Challenging, choppy rides to the reefs

+27 82 800 4668


Aliwal Shoal offers some of the most varied and exciting diving in the world and is regularly showered with accolades by international dive magazines.

A fossilised sand dune, the Shoal is about five kilometres long and about three to five kilometres offshore. It supports an incredible variety of marine life as well as dramatic topography.

There are two wrecks – the Produce and the Nebo – vast Brindle Bass, magnificent rays, including manta rays, turtles, great shoals of pelagic fish and some rare sightings, such as Harlequin Goldies and Tiger Angelfish. These are often overlooked by divers, who come in the hope of seeing the stars of the show, Aliwal’s famous seasonal visitors, the Ragged-Tooth Sharks, which congregate on the Shoal to mate between June and November.

Tiger and hammerhead sharks are often sighted in the summer months so this is a top spot if getting up close and personal with apex predators is your dream.

Arguably the most spectacular site on the Shoal, Cathedral is a huge arch that dominates an amphitheatre-like hole in the southern section of the reef. The arch is encrusted with marine life, while the amphitheatre is home to many large stingrays, moray eels and, from July to November, large numbers of Ragged-Tooth Sharks.

Raggies Cave is another top spot to view big groups of Ragged-Tooth Sharks. The site, a large overhang with two swim-throughs out the back, is world renowned and popular, so following raggie etiquette is important – divers may not enter the cave when the sharks are in residence but can hold on to the large rock at the entrance and watch in awe as the fearsome looking raggies move in and out or rub themselves in the sand.

If you can drag yourself away from the action you’ll find geometric eels lurking in the reef, resident Potato Bass, turtles, Scorpionfish, Stonefish and, in the gullies, a variety of juvenile reef fish.

In season you might also see Tiger Sharks in the mid-water. A short drift south of Raggies Cave, Shark Alley is another favourite hangout for the raggies.

Eelskin, at the south-western tip of the reef, is a superb example of the fossilised rock formations, swim-throughs, sand gullies and caverns that epitomise the Shoal. This reef has something for everyone - wonderful corals, numerous cleaning stations, lots of rare creatures, such as Peacock Manta Shrimp, and plenty of sharks. So, not surprisingly, this is where the baited shark diving is offered.

The top wreck is the Produce, which hit the north-east pinnacles of Aliwal Shoal in August 1974. The wreckage, which lies in 32m of water, is in two pieces - the bow, which still has her spare propeller, and the stern - with a scattering of the mid-ship in between.

A number of penetration points make the Produce a great place for wreck-lovers to explore. A resident family of large Brindle Bass is an added attraction and you’ll often see turtles, Lionfish, Scorpionfish, Stonefish, Salmon, Kingfish and big rays, as well as the usual colourful reef fish.

The Nebo is home to turtles and an abundance of pelagic and reef fish, including the rare Harlequin Goldie, but visibility is not usually as good as on the Produce.

Aliwal Dive Centre
Aliwal Shoal Scuba

South Coast

KwaZulu Natal


Decades ago, beach holidays were simple. They were holidays of buckets and spades, sunburn, ice-creams melting on your fingers, brollies and swimming. Somehow, the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast has managed to retain this relaxed, old-school charm and escaped the ruthless modernisation of other parts of the world.

The South Coast stretches from the outskirts of Durban to the Eastern Cape border just south of Port Edward, with countless small towns dotted in between.

Some are prime holiday destinations that attract crowds by offering busy nightlife and organised activities. Others are gentler and more relaxed, relying on the natural charm of the ocean and the beach to attract a less frenetic class of people.

Whatever your preference, you will be sure to find some place that fits the bill on the South Coast.

Running down almost the length of the South Coast is the N2 highway, passing through grasslands, hills, sugar cane and over bridges that span a multitude of wide rivers bringing water from the inland mountains. It is an area of great natural beauty and the sandy beaches are numerous and beautiful, perfect for long walks in the afternoon.

Obviously the Indian Ocean is the prime reason for most tourism and it is easy to understand why. Even in winter, the water is warm and swimmable, but in spring, summer and even autumn the water hovers around 25 degrees Celsius, making it perfect for long days in the water.

Six beaches on the South Coast have been awarded the coveted Blue Flag status, which means they satisfy 32 criteria, including service, safety, water quality and even environmental management. While these six beaches obviously have something to crow about, there are dozens of other beaches that are as beautiful, safe and worth visiting. In fact, in summer, when the crowds are out, many of these beaches might prove more enjoyable than those with the coveted Blue Flag status.

Beneath the warm waters of the Indian Ocean are further attractions, and the scuba-diving spots of Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks are some of the best in the country, with Aliwal often rated as one of the top-10 dive sites in the world.

The South Coast offers far more than just its top-class beaches, though, with a number of small game reserves, excellent golf courses and more. 

Oribi Gorge is piece of rugged wilderness just a short drive from Port Shepstone beach. Nature is the attraction here, and all sorts of birds and animals thrive in the gorges and forests along the river banks. It has also become something of an adventure destination, so prepare yourself for adrenalin highs.

Wherever you choose to stay, and whatever you choose to do, make a point not to drift too far away from the simplicity and relaxation of a holiday on a beautiful beach.

Look out for

The Sardine Run is one of the world’s great migrations and sights of the natural world. Unfortunately, the timing is a bit hard to pinpoint, much like the Namaqualand daisies, but it generally occurs in the middle of winter. Tens of millions of sardines make their way up the coast, followed by thousands of sharks, dolphins, game fish and whales, as well as flocks of predating birds. Scuba-divers can dive alongside this natural phenomenon.

Oribi Gorge, a short drive inland from Port Shepstone, is a spectacular natural attraction formed by the Mzimkhulu and Mzimkulwana rivers. A nature reserve offers birding, game-viewing and walks, while operators in the area offer white-water rafting, mountain-biking, a gorge swing, abseiling, horse-riding, fishing and more. It is also a wonderful spot for landscape photography, or relaxing at one of the lodges or spas.

Scuba-diving is a major attraction on the South Coast, which is lucky enough to boast two world-class dive destinations in Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks.

If scuba-diving is too tame for you, or if you want to up the stakes a little, try shark-diving on for size. Specialist dive operators give you the opportunity to swim with all sorts of shark species, including the fearsome bull shark, tiger shark, hammerhead shark and ragged-tooth shark.

The coast’s Blue Flag beaches (Trafalgar beach and Marina beach near San Lameer, Ramsgate beach, Margate beach, Lucien beach near Margate and Umzumbe beach) rank amongst the best in the world and spending the day on them is a privilege that should be savoured.

The South Coast boasts some wonderful golf courses, including San Lameer, Selbourne and the Wild Coast Sun (just across the provincial border in the Eastern Cape), while almost every small town also offers a very good local course.

For something a little different, pop into the Beaver Creek Coffee Farm outside Port Edward. Here you can watch the entire process that the coffee bean makes on its way to becoming that hot cup of brew on your breakfast table. There is also a restaurant and a shop selling Beaver Creek’s excellent coffee.

The South Coast offers very good birding along most of its length, and birders can enjoy sightings of interesting birds without leaving the towns they are staying in. That said, there are a few spots that are particularly good, such as the Mtamvuna Nature Reserve and Oribi Gorge.

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