In the Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks, KwaZulu-Natal's South Coast offers visitors two of the finest off-shore dive sites on the planet
In the Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks, KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast offers visitors two of the finest off-shore dive sites on the planet, while the lush sub-tropical shoreline – with its 200 km of endless golden beaches, shore reefs, rocky coves and gullies – afford excellent snorkelling and spearfishing options.
Home to the renowned Aliwal Shoal, Protea Banks, Lionfish Hole, Manta Point, Subway Reef, North and South Sands, Hammerhead Reef, Cowrie Reef, Deep Landers and several other sites, KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast offers some of the most spectacular scuba diving opportunities anywhere. Or, as one visitor put it, “It’s a fishtank from Heaven!”
April to July (our autumn and winter) affords the best KwaZulu-Natal diving conditions, when the seas are generally calmer and visibility is at its greatest.
With luck, your timing could coincide with our annual sardine run. Know as ‘The Graetest Shoal on Earth’.
Tthis usually takes place towards the latter part of June. That said, good diving conditions are generally available all year round and with mid-winter water temperatures seldom dipping below 20°C, it’s always very comfortable diving.
Premier amongst the offshore sites is the renowned Aliwal Shoal, so named for the barque ‘Alawal’ that nearly wrecked there in 1849. Situated some 4km off the Scottburgh/Umkomaas coastline, Alawal Shoal measures 1,5km long by 1km wide. A fossilised sand dune of sponges and hard and soft coral, it offers a variety of wreck and other dives, ranging from 3m to 37m in depth. For the adventurous there is also ‘Raggie Cave’, where you glide mask-by-gill amongst numbers of large ragged-tooth sharks.
Another world-class dive site along KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast is the Protea Banks. Lying 7,5km off Shelly Beach and ranked one of the best shark and gamefish dives going. Protea Banks guarantees experienced and novice divers an unforgettable experience.
Measuring some 6km x 800 metre, Protea Banks serves up an intriguing blend of caves, ridges, pinnacles and amphitheatres at depths from 27 to 40 metres. Diving the southern and northern reefs will bring you face-to-face with Tiger, Guitar, Bull, Copper, Maco, Oceanic Reef and Hammerhead Sharks, while huge shoals of Ragged Tooths glide in from June to November.
Protea Banks is also the home of Giant Manta, Sting and Marble Rays, while amongst the myriad of gamefish you’ll swim with great shoals of King Fish, Yellow Fin Tuna and Spanish Mackerel – known locally as Barracuda. The site also abounds with numerous species of colourful tropical reef fish and the occasional turtle, while nearer shore are several other interesting reefs.