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The diversity of the South African Kwa-Zulu Natal South Coast

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If you know anything about diving in South Africa, you probably know that you can expect to see a wide variety of sharks. From the Great Whites, Makos and Blue sharks in the Western Cape to the Tigers, Ragged tooth (Sand Tigers/ Grey Nurse) and Bull Sharks in Kwazulu-Natal. You have probably also heard of Aliwal Shoal, a reef structure approximately 5km off the Kwazulu-Natal Coast, usually dived from the towns, Umkomaas and Scottburgh.

People travel from all over the world to dive on Aliwal Shoal. When they get there, they discover the region has so much more to offer. Yes, there are the wild game safaris, incredible local craft breweries and a host of other tourist activities. But let’s focus on the diving.

The fossilized sand bank of Aliwal Shoal is home to a wealth of diverse sea life. Apart from the sharks, whales, dolphins and rays, you are likely to encounter hundreds of different species of sub-tropical creatures.

This rocky reef structure presents you with exciting pinnacles, drop-offs and caverns, which during the right time of year, are usually filled with docile Spotted Ragged Tooth Sharks. Dozens of interesting dive sites like Raggie’s Cave, Cathedral, Shark Alley and Manta Point are some of the most frequented by divers.

Of course, with a reef structure that has pinnacles as shallow as 6 or 7 meters, ships were bound meet their demise. Two incredible wreck dives in the area are “The Nebo” and “The Produce”. The wrecks themselves are both interesting and unique, but one of the most incredible sightings divers look forward to seeing, are the enormous Brindle Bass, also known as the Giant Grouper. Growing up to 2.7 meters, they are definitely a giant fish that can be a little nerve-racking to bump into.

To the south of Aliwal Shoal there are even more dive sites that offer not only an abundance of typical sea life but the opportunity to see some of the rarest marine animals.

In November 2019 a team of divers recorded a Coelacanth on a deep wall. The Coelacanth, “Dinosaur Fish”, was once thought to be extinct. However, there have been numerous sightings of the fish on the South African coast, mainly in Sodwana Bay north of Aliwal Shoal, which makes this particular find very interesting.

The elusive and elegant Thresher Shark has been seen on a number of occasions, most notably at a site called Allen’s Cave. This dive site with a maximum depth of 36 meters features some incredible rock formations with gullies, ledges and swim-throughs. During the Ragged Tooth Shark season, there are often sharks resting inside the swim-through.

Umzimai Wall is a site dived less frequently which means that divers are spoiled with inquisitive and curious marine animals. It’s the huge wall and fascinating reef structure that really is the star of the show. Although you can spend a great deal of time at 25m on this reef, the wall descends down to 40 meters. As with many of the deep reefs in this area, you will see long spiraling whip corals that will dwarf many a diver.

Other notable dive sites south of Aliwal Shoal include Landers; Half Acre; Butchers and Fern Reef, all with unique and interesting attractions.

If you’re into some deep wrecks, there certainly are a number in the area that will no doubt impress. The Griqualand is one such wreck that lies in 52 meters of water north of the Aliwal Shoal reef system. At almost 500 tons, this steamer, which sank in 1970, requires more than one dive to truly appreciate all it has to offer. Divers can swim along its mast, that is still intact, and lays across the sand while witnessing a large school of Daga Salmon darting around the wreck. Look out for the enormous Brindle Bass that could be hiding in the shadows of one the holds. And of course, keep an eye out for the sharks that often visit while you’re doing your decompression.

If the weather isn’t great for diving or if you just need to dry out your gills, there are a multitude of activities to keep you busy. Divers visiting South Africa will enjoy seeing the marine big five, but don’t forgot about the big five land animals. A trip to South Africa will not be complete without a visit to some of the best wildlife viewing the world has to offer. Many parts of the country have world-class lodges and camps nestled in the bush affording visitors an unforgettable wildlife experience.

The adventurous could go on hiking or mountain-biking trails, ziplining, bridge swinging or even river rafting. Those that prefer a slower pace can enjoy a round of golf at one of the many golf courses in the area.

Whether you are an entry level diver or an advanced technical rebreather diver, there is something for everyone and enough to see to keep you busy for weeks. South Africa is an incredibly diverse nation with so many attractions whether on land or underwater, that you are spoiled for choice. The hard part is deciding where you want to visit first.

Images: Kristof Goovaerts


Article by PJ Prinsloo – www.pjptech.co.za

Since becoming an instructor in 1996, PJ has had many different roles in the scuba industry. Before joining RAID as the technical training director for Southern Africa, he was the regional manager for SDI/TDI. PJ has written and contributed to a number of courses for RAID. When he is not teaching, he is involved in a various diving projects in Africa and Europe. Find out more at www.pjptech.co.za

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Gear Review: Fourth Element 3mm Neoprene Gloves (Watch Video)

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In a video shot exclusively for Scubaverse.com, Jeff Goodman reviews the 3mm Neoprene Gloves from Fourth Element.

For more information, visit www.fourthelement.com

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Veterans take part in Hadrian’s Wall trek to raise funds for their ‘Red Sea family’

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A group of veterans from Scuba Diving rehabilitation charity Deptherapy have pledged to take part in a 40 mile expedition-style trek along historic Hadrian’s Wall this July to raise funds for the staff at Egyptian dive centre and resort Roots Red Sea.

The dive centre in El Quseir has been closed since the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic last Spring and with Egypt now on the red list for UK travellers it is unlikely to be able to re-open in the near future. UK couple Steve and Clare Rattle, who own Roots Red Sea, have been supporting the 16 staff of the dive centre and their families but faced with an ever increasingly uncertain future, the Deptherapy beneficiaries wanted to add their support too.

Roots Red Sea is Deptherapy’s home from home in Egypt and the location where the charity’s majority of overseas training courses and expeditions are held. The facilities at the Egyptian dive centre and resort are a perfect fit for the charity offering an ideal combination of self-contained and fully adapted accommodation, as well as a team of highly trained staff.

Deptherapy normally runs 2-3 trips to Roots Red Sea each year but recent and planned trips continue to be a casualty of Covid. For the time being, training has shifted to UK waters, but their Egyptian family is never far from the minds of the Deptherapy Team.

“We’re hoping to raise £3,000 for the staff at Roots to support their families due to hardship caused by the pandemic,” explains Tom Oates, Deptherapy Divemaster, Ambassador and former Scots Guard.

“Deptherapy has been a lifeline for so many of us beneficiaries and an essential part of that journey has been our scuba diving adventures at Roots Red Sea. We view the staff at Roots as part of our extended families. They have become close friends. The welcome, service and care we are shown is unbelievable but now it is our turn to give something back. The staff at Roots have given us everything and have helped to save and change our lives. Now, they need our support.”

“This is an amazing endeavour from the guys at Deptherapy,” says Steve Rattle, who is organising the logistics of the trek which is planned to stretch over several days. “We have supported the charity for many years; it’s always been a delight to have them come to Roots and to see them really benefit from the experience. Now the tables are turned, and it is the families of Roots that are in need of help. It is really humbling to have Team Deptherapy now raising money for them. Awesome effort!”

The fundraiser is scheduled to take place from 12th -16th July 2021 starting from Heddon on the Wall in the east to Lenercost in the west. The route has been designed to take in a variety of features including many historical sites such as the Roman Army Museum at Greenhead.

Please give generously to sponsor Team Deptherapy in their quest to raise £3000 for the families of Roots Red Sea at the special JustGiving Page: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rootsredseafundraiser

For more information about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education visit www.deptherapy.co.uk.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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