Scuba Diving in South Africa

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Scuba Diving Locations - Scuba Diving in South Africa
Saturday, 17 January 2009 12:29
People often go to South Africa to go scuba diving because of the diverse conditions and variety of life that the coastal regions of the country offer. The coastline is extremely long and there are spots all along where you can readily dive and have a wonderful experience. Many of the coastal areas are considered to be some of the best diving sites in the world. In fact, Aliwal Shoal was even chosen as one of the top ten must-do dive sites by Diver Magazine. The coral growth and sponges in this area are gorgeous as are the other marine life which is amazing.

South Africa Diving Map
South Africa Diving Map

However, if you head further down the coast, you will notice that the water gets noticeably cooler. In Cape Town you can dive among beautiful kelp forests in the chillier water, but it is considered to be worth it because this is the only place in the world where all three different types of kelp grow together. A lot of people tend to avoid the colder water dives, but putting on the thick suit is more than worth it when you get the experience of swimming through the giant kelp and spotting the colourful coral underneath the canopy. If you have always wanted to travel through an enchanted forest then this is the dive for you.

Also, do not worry if you are a novice scuba diver as there are plenty of diving schools that will help give you instruction so that you can safely dive off of the South African coast. This gives you the comfort of training before you get fully immersed in the water, while still allowing you to have the option of exploring these beautiful dive sites to the best of your ability.

Diving Wrecks in South Africa

One wreck that has drawn some interest in South Africa is The Produce. This was a Norwegian tanker that was in commission during the 1960's and 70's. However, in 1974 the ship sank off of the coast near Aliwal Shoal in the area of the Northeast Pinnacles. There weren't any lives lost, but the ship sank to the bottom in thirty metres of water. The site has been classified for intermediate to experienced divers because of the currents that surround it. There are a lot of big fish about for you to enjoy viewing, plus a large variety of smaller tropical fish whose wonderfully bright colours stand out in sharp contrast to the turquoise waters.

The Produce Wreck, South Africa
The Produce Wreck, South Africa

Another wreck in the area of Aliwal Shoal is The Nebo. This ship sank in 1884 carrying a large load of railroad materials. Although over the years the hull has been broken and some of the stern has been lost, it is still fairly well intact for having been in the water as long as it has. The ship is still a large draw for many divers in the region. One of the reasons that people enjoy diving here apart from the interesting wreck is that there are a lot of really big grouper in the area.

The Nebo Wreck, South Africa
The Nebo Wreck, South Africa

Best Time to Dive in South Africa

Since the waters can reach a chilly 19C from July to October, it is recommended that you try to dive in the warmer months of February and March when the water is around 24C. There is a lot to be said for cold water dives and if you don't mind wearing a full wetsuit, then you can dive in the colder months. This is especially important if you want to see the ragged tooth sharks, as they can be predominantly found in the area from June to November. Tiger sharks and hammerheads can be seen from December to January.

Notable Dive Locations in South Africa

The Northern Pinnacles is an interesting dive site in a region known as Protea Banks. This site is most well known for its display of a rare pink coral and the numbers of rare reef fish that can be found. Also, divers can visit two caves known as ?Hole in the Wall? and ?Hole in the Floor.? These caves make for interesting penetration dives and they are also a focal point of the ragged tooth sharks during the mating season. It is recommended that people who want to dive at the Northern Pinnacles do so in the colder months (June to November) in order to get the best experience.

If you are a novice who is looking for a good dive, or an intermediate diver who wants to see something different, there is a small reef at Sodwana Bay that is known as Anton's Reef. The area is very shallow and there is a visibility of about fifteen metres, which have combined to showcase the region's wonderful variety of coral types and marine life. Divers will be able to enjoy the large schools of tropical fish and the exciting underwater topography which is formed by many of the overhang regions.

If you want to go for a more adventurous dive, there are cage dives available on the tip of South Africa that will introduce you to great white sharks. One of the most well known of these diving locations is Mosselbaai, which is located in the Indian Ocean. The climate in this area is more or less constant all year round so you will not have to worry about the temperature affecting your dive and holiday status. However, the best time for you to take advantage of the chance to see as many great white sharks as possible is from April to July or September to November.

A diving site located in Sodawana Bay that attracts some of the more serious divers is Nine Mile Reef. This area is a little harder to get to than some of the other reefs in the area, so it is not frequented by as many divers, leaving it in nearly pristine condition since it hasn't been bothered by too many people. The underwater topography in the area is stunning, with large drop off regions, large coral tree growth and gorgeous pinnacles. Another bonus is the fact that there is a large diversity of tropical marine life (perhaps even the largest collection of specimens in the region), and there are also large schools of fish that will pass by as you dive, making it a truly spectacular underwater experience.

There are also interesting interior diving options in South Africa as well. One of those is Badgat, which is an old asbestos mine that has been flooded. This means that you will have the opportunity to dive in a confined cave situation with multiple levels. A feature that is often talked about among scuba divers that have been to the location is the incline shaft that extends down to more than one hundred and eighty six metres. You will have to watch for potential falling hazards due to the decay that the mine shaft has been experiencing since the flooding. This means that you should go in groups with at least three to four people. You need not worry about the visibility in the dark shafts as it is a lot better than you would expect. The site has been hailed as a wonderful adventure for explorers, but it is not recommended for novice divers unless you are there with a very experienced instructor.

Types of Marine Life in South Africa

There is a great diversity of marine life that can be seen up and down the coastal region of South Africa. Here are just some of those types of life you might encounter in your diving location: great white sharks, ragged tooth sharks, humpback whales, turtles, mantas, eels, Zambezi sharks, coral, sponges, hammerhead sharks, rays, grouper, tuna, southern right whales, sardines, whale sharks, tiger sharks, and a wide range of tropical and reef fish as well as schools of pelagic fish.

South Africa Diving Fact Sheet:

Average Air Temperature: 25C - 29C

Average Water Temperature: 19C - 24C

Recommended Exposure Protection: Anywhere from a 3mm - 7mm suit depending on where you are diving and what time of year you plan on doing the dive.

Average Visibility: Anywhere from 5 to 50 metres.

Coldest Times: July to October

Hottest Times: February to March

Best Times to Dive: Since the waters can reach a chilly 19C during the month span from July to October, it is recommended that you try to dive in the warmer months of February and March when the water is around 24C. There is a lot to be said for cold water dives, and if you don't mind wearing a full wetsuit then you can dive in the colder months. This is especially important if you want to see the ragged tooth sharks, as they can be predominantly found in the area from June to November. Tiger sharks and hammerheads can be seen from December to January.

Worst Times to Dive: There really isn't a bad time to dive as there is always something to do.

South Africa Diving Video