The South Africa shoreline provides some of the best and most magnificent scuba diving venues attracting enthusiasts from all over the world.
These sites, starting north along the KwaZulu-Natal shoreline at Sodwana, the Aliwal Shoal at Umkomaas and the Protea Bank at Shelly beach, carrying on to Storms River, Mossel Bay and round the Cape peninsular.
Various outfitters operate from the South Coastal towns of Umkomaas down to Shelly Bay, with new outfitters expanding to beaches closer to the reefs.
One new outfitter to the Umkomaas region is Protea Shark Divers and Tour Operators, who moved their shop from Shelly Beach after operating there for one year, to set up operations at Greenpoint Lodge Caravan Park at Clansthal.
The business is run by Ruaan Boers, a native from Scottburgh, together with his two partners, Michael and Patricia, all experienced dive masters.
Ruaan who grew up in Scottburgh, was since childhood part of the diving scene, snorkelling as kid and eventually moved up to scuba diving and reaching instructor level in this sport, decided to expand his knowledge and love for the sport by getting physically involved.
Thursday 15 June saw the opening of the diving shop, which is situated at the Greenpoint Lodge Caravan Park at Clansthal, three km from Umkomaas on the road to Scottburgh.
Diving training will be done in the big pool at the facility. Excursions to the Aliwal Shoal will still be done from the beach at the Umkomazi river mouth and later possibly from Clansthal beach.
The shop is fully equipped with diving gear where everything needed from dive training to diving at the shoal can be rented. This also include the wetsuits needed for the dive.
While training or diving, your kids, partner, or spouse can enjoy a milkshake, drink or lunch at Chiefs Cabin Restaurant adjacent to the shop.
The dive shop is also stocking up on items like weatherproof jackets, and other regalia like printed mugs and necklaces featuring a shark tooth from different shark species.
Visitors attending training or excursions to the Aliwal Shoal, can rent a bungalows at the caravan park and enjoy the pool and the adjacent beach of Clansthal. Ruaan mentioned that the central location of Clansthal as well as the facilities surrounding the diving shop, were the main reasons for setting up shop there.
He and his partners invite diving enthusiasts to drop in at their shop. Just follow the signs directing to the shop at the entrance to Clansthal.
Another reason is that the variety of tropical venues, as experience along the KwaZulu Natal coastlines, with shipwrecks together with the stunning variety in sea-life ensure that South Africa has become one of the top destinations for a thrilling diving experience.
The reefs are found along the coastline from Sodwana in the north going south past the Aliwal Shoal at Umkomaas with the Protea Bank further South past Port Shepstone at Shelly Beach reaching down to the East Cape coast along the Garden Route at Storms River, Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, Mosselbay and Cape Town in the West Cape.
The tropical reefs flourish in the warm Agulhas current where the average temperature maintains 20 degrees Celsius and warmer right through the year.
Although Sodwana on the Natal North Coast and diving sites at Ponte de Ora and Ponte Malugane in Mozambique seems to be quite popular, these areas are not easily reached by conventional vehicles and in most places, accommodation consists mainly of tents with central ablution facilities.
The Aliwal Shoal at Umkomaas is a rocky reef, the remains of an ancient sand dune, and part of a large offshore reef complex. The narrow ridge parallel to the coastline about 5 kilometers offshore, more specifically referred to as the Crown, is the part usually referred to as Aliwal Shoal lying south-south east from the coastal town of Umkomaas, a popular destination for divers with a few outfitters using it as a base, both for training and excursions.
Aliwal Shoal is relatively shallow with most of it only 17 to 20 meters below sea-level. The shoal is exposed to heavy wind-driven wave action, with an annual average swell height of 2.5 metres.
Aliwal Shoal was named after the near-sinking of the 3 masted vessel “Aliwal”, captained by James Anderson, in 1849, when he nearly crashed into this huge rock in the middle of the sea. There are two wrecks near the reef that are popular recreational dive sites.
These wrecks are the Norwegian bulk carrier, the MV Produce which sank in 1974, and the SS Nebo which sank in 1884.
Aliwal Shoal has a diverse marine life including large predators and is popular as a recreational scuba diving destination. The Shoal is known especially for its abundance of Grey nurse sharks, locally known as ragged tooth sharks or “raggies”, between July and November when the sharks congregate there to mate.
Since Umkomaas is only about 50 km from Durban, it is easily accessible from King Shaka International Airport at Durban and a highway which stretches all the way down the South coast.
For this reason diving at the Aliwal Shoal from Umkomaas has become a worldwide destination and with the relative cheap excursions in terms of the poor rand/dollar exchange rate, a viable option for overseas diving enthusiasts.
Another diving site, Also in this region is the Protea Banks about 80 km further south on the coast at Shelly Beach. Here the divers will find most of the species found at Aliwal Shoal.
Apart from Scuba diving, the Protea Banks attract quite a number of snorkeling enthusiasts where you can move freely through swarming fish and around the intricate coral reefs. Although centered near Umkomaas, the still do excursions to Protea Banks.
As this is one of the more controlled activities and still growing, the saturation point is far from being reached. This is also relatively close to local South African adventure seekers living in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State, with the South Coast as their holiday destination.
Protea Shark Diving is affiliated to the SSI (Scuba School International) to do online training in more than 40 skills, starting at Master Diver Instructor for which 60 dives is required to become instructor and other skills including Open water Instructor, Advanced rescue diving, Photography diving, Wreck and River diving, just to name a few.
They are equipped to handle groups as well as individuals, although booking is advised.
Protea Sharks diving can be contacted at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone them at 072 773 1315 (Patricia), 079 753 0001 (Michael) and 060 704 5288 (Ruaan). Visit their website at www.proteasharkdivers.co.za.