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Scuba Diving in the Western Cape


Scuba Diving in South Africa

With its vibrant reefs, abundant tropical fish, deep wrecks, sharks, kelp forests and diverse marine life, South Africa has some of the most varied diving in the world.

The best and warmest sites are in sub-tropical KwaZulu-Natal on the north east coast of the country. Sodwana Bay is South Africa’s diving Mecca, but there are a number of alternatives on this coastline.  On a good day, diving its pristine tropical reefs must be right up there with the Red Sea or the Barrier Reef.

The brightly coloured sponges, corals and vast shoals of colourful fish, particularly on the reefs further out to sea, are mind-blowing.  Ragged tooth sharks are seasonal visitors, dolphins are regularly sighted and you will occasionally encounter whale sharks, manta rays and even sea horses.

The reefs of Aliwal Shoal, south of Durban, are also superb.  They offer wrecks, arches, caves and other dramatic features and, of course, the chance to get up close and personal with bull, tiger, black-tip and ragged tooth sharks. The Shoal, and nearby Protea Banks, are often rated by international dive publications as two of the top sites to dive with these apex predators.

The Eastern Cape is the transition zone between the warm water that runs down the east coast and the nutrient rich cold water of the Cape, and this makes for particularly diverse marine life. Port Elizabeth offers reliable diving all year round, with both pretty corals and regular shark sightings.  It is also one of the best places to base yourself for the Sardine Run - the annual migration of sardines and their trailing band of predators. 

The sardine run usually starts on the Transkei Wild Coast in late June and July, and runs up the southern coastline of KwaZulu-Natal.  Chokka diving, in turn, involves the predation of the chokka (squid) egg beds and takes place late from October to November each year along the coastline between Port Elisabeth and Cape St Francis.  It may be the less publicised of the two, but is an equally special event and worth looking out for.

When the weather plays along, diving on the Garden Route can be extremely rewarding, and if you’re prepared for the cold, the sites off the Cape Peninsula are spectacular – and often possible as shore entries. 

There are some 500 wrecks within an hour's drive of Cape Town, many of which are accessible to novice divers, while the tiny critters of the kelp forests are a macro-photographer’s dream. 

That’s the good news. The bad news is that variable dive conditions, relatively low water temperatures and, in many areas, surf launches and big swell deter many ‘fair weather’ divers from taking the plunge. But if you really find the open water too intimidating, there are always the sheltered, fresh water inland sites of Bass Lake and Miracle waters.  Truth be told, however, these sites are mostly used for training and to keep skills in practice.  

Finally, as a novelty, diving is also possible in two magnificent aquariums - the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town and the uShaka Marine World in Durban - where you can swim with the fishes, ragged tooth sharks and turtles in safe, warm, confined conditions. 

Articles & Blogs

Coast Of Hard Knocks

Valda 9:55pm 30 Mar

Words & pics Jean Tresfon

At first glance the Weskus is a harsh and barren coastline, an area comprised of sand, sea and wheeling seabirds. Travelling north along the R27 you soon realise that this is the place to find huge expanses of sky, wide windswept beaches and the strong salty smell of the ocean. The landscape is sparse yet undeniably beautiful, a good place to rediscover some of the things that are really important in life. It’s also a really...

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Mako Shark Trip

Nightjar Travel 11:10am 26 May

Another interesting photo and story from the team at Apex Predators -

By the way, Chris Fallows is speaking at One&Only Cape Town next month, win tickets here:

Mako Shark Trip by  Monique Fallows

After a month of pretty bad weather we anxiously watched the forecast of good weather stay true for a great opportunity to head of Cape Point in search of ...

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Nightjar Travelled

Nightjar Travel 11:40am 15 Oct

With rain still lashing the Cape we decided to give open water diving a miss and headed to the Two Oceans Aquarium for dip with the sharks in the I&J Predator Exhibit. Diving with apex predators sounds intimidating but this is actually the easiest dive in the Cape – all you need is a Discover Scuba qualification. There’s no surge, the visibility is great, the water’s warm and you spend the dive eyeballing menacing looking ragged tooth sharks, cheeky turtles and massive game fish. Best of all it carries serious bragging rights – just check the wide-eyed admiration of the aquarium...

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shane 9:31am 7 Jun

Text by Murray Jackson

Often overlooked in favour of famous terrestrial landmarks, Cape Town’s underwater Eden deserves more recognition as a top international dive destination. The fertile waters support an astonishing array of marine life, pristine reefs await discovery, and hundreds of wrecks litter the coastline ready to be discovered and explored. With this spirit of adventure Murray Jackson asked some regular Cape divers to give us their list of cool things to do underwater around Cape Town.

No.1: Dive with pelagics in the deep

It’s a different world when you move...

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