Top 5 dive sites in South Africa
The Big Five - Dive sites
South Africa really does have it all – the Big Five, incredible fine dining, stunning scenery. There's also a lot to discover below the water, as you'll quickly learn in this article published by Dive Style.
Many water babies are happiest below the waves and, luckily for them, South Africa will not disappoint in this regard – especially given that the country is surrounded by two oceans, which each attract a variety of marine life for different reasons. So, if you're a flipper fiend, don your wetsuit and discover the country's top five dive sites.
Mabibi forms part of the Maputoland Coastal Forest Reserve, which spreads into Mozambique and is a World Heritage Site. As a result, there are only two boats launching from this area, so visitors can be assured of an exclusive and unspoiled diving experience through reefs with a mixture of soft and hard corals. An assortment of gullies, swim-throughs and pinnacles will keep scuba enthusiasts entertained, as will the tropical reef fish and pelagics. Between October and February, migrating whales and whale sharks frequent the area, while ragged-tooth sharks can be found soaking up these warm Indian Ocean waters between November and January.
2. Sodwana Bay
The tranquil and protected area of Sodwana Bay lies approximately 100km south of the Mozambican border. This is one of the world's most popular dive sites as it “has a variety of reefs, depths and so much more to explore.” Each reef is named according to how many miles it is out to sea from Jesser Point, and the Two Mile Reef is the most popular. If conditions allow, don't pass up the rare opportunity to go on a night dive to see a completely different array of marine life from during the day.
Sodwana is great whether you're newly qualified or a technical diver, and it is also the perfect place to complete your open water certification if you've never dived before. This is because there are no huge waves and the nearest reef isn't far from shore.
3. Aliwal Shoal
The Marine Protected Area of Aliwal Shoal is situated about 50km from Durban on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, and offers a variety of dives, including shark and wreck diving. Visibility here is usually excellent and this fossilised sandbank is best known for the ragged-tooth sharks that can be found here between June and September when they come to mate. “It is not uncommon to find 15 to 150 of these ferocious-looking, yet docile animals on a single dive... Depending on the conditions, the best dives are Cathedral, Raggie’s Cave and Shark Alley.”
If you're interested in witnessing the annual Great Sardine Run, then it's worth diving in Aliwal Shoal between May and June, when tumbling swirls of sardines, sharks and dolphins pass through this area.
4. Protea Banks
Protea Banks is located about 7.5km out to sea from Shelley Beach, which is approximately 160km south of Durban. If you love the bigger marine species, then this is the dive site for you.
“Ranked amongst the top shark and game fish dives in the world, Protea Banks offers you a variety of sharks and pelagics on almost every dive.” Ragged-tooth sharks congregate here to mate in the winter and the Zambezi sharks make these banks their home in the summer. Hundreds of hammerheads can be seen swimming above divers during this time; and guitar sharks, blacktips and coppers tend to stop by for a visit too. You may even be lucky enough to spot the elusive tiger shark on a dive!
But even if you're not a shark fanatic, you won't be disappointed at Protea Banks, as humpback whales, manta rays and spotted eagle rays also frequent these waters, along with game fish, such as snappers, tuna and potato bass.
5. False Bay
The southern side of the Cape peninsula is called False Bay and offers a diving diversity like few other places. The bottom composition of dive sites range from rocky terrain to dense kelp forests, which act as a filter for dirty water and are home to leopard catsharks, pyjama sharks and puffadder shysharks.
Red and orange sea fans swaying in the surge are characteristic of dive sites in Gordon’s Bay, Rooi Els and Simon’s Town; and pinky-purple soft corals and feather stars compete for space, making it a rewarding feat to spot nudibranchs that are endemic to the area. A Cape fur seal may well become your new dive buddy, and Simon's Town is the only place in the world where you can bump into a seven-gilled shark.
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