Dive with The Pelagics – sharks, whales, dolphins – in South Africa.
The best areas are just west of Durban on the Wild Coast
Most Meaningful Experience: Getting out of my comfort zone and diving in fast currents
Tackling the strong currents on deep dives at Protea Banks (only for experienced divers) while getting up close to packs of hammerheads and bull sharks. I was way out of my comfort zone not only going deep 32M but also becoming zen in the currents. www.afridive.com @divesouthafrica
• Do a baited shark dive at Aliwal Shoal or come face-to-face with ragged tooth sharks at Raggie Cave
• Dive the beautiful (and colorful) 7 Mile Reef at Sodwana Bay, which is frequented by sharks at particular times of the year
• Embark on a big game dive charter from Cape Town
• Experience the natural marine spectacle of South Africa’s annual Sardine Run with www.afridive.com
One of the things I was really looking forward to during my time in South Africa was diving with big pelagics. Most of my diving-to-date had been in tropical waters, so I was really excited to encounter big fish and sharks. I’ve always wanted to see hammerheads and had come at the right time!
I drove along the coast just south of Durban until I arrived at Uzumbe Surf House – a quaint lodge run by a South African and his American wife. It had a large yard for campers and direct access to a surf beach while also being within easy access of Aliwal Shoals – a rocky reef that’s renowned for its large predators.
I decided to dive with the Agulhas House dive shop (www.agulhashouse.com), which had a good setup around a pool and seemed to be targeting serious divers. The most exciting experience was the baited shark dive, with blacktip sharks surrounding us as they feasted on the bait. Another highlight is meant to be the Raggie Cave where ragged tooth sharks congregate, although there weren’t many around during my visit so we didn’t go.
The following day I went to Protea Banks and dove with African Dive Adventures (www.afridive.com), which is run by local divers with plenty of experience in the challenging conditions. They kept asking how many dives I’d done in the last 90 days and if I could handle currents. As soon as we got in the water I understood why, with the current around 2.5-3 knots near the surface. The trick was to get down to around 35 meters as fast as possible, from where you could look up at the sharks circling above.
The first dive was anything but relaxed as I fought against the current and monitored my Nitrox (this was my first Nitrox dive), but also exceptional! Not only were there hammerheads and bull sharks, but also manta rays swarming above. The dive instructor also owned the shop and he was teasing me after the dive. “I told ya, mate. You gotta stay down and stay calm or you won’t see them. That was a great dive!” He challenged me to rerun and I did. During the following day’s dive I felt much more comfortable and could truly enjoy the experience of getting up close to a pack of hammerheads and a large bull shark. In the end, we were approached by a Tiger shark which was one of the prettier, if scariest animals I’ve seen up close.
After my time there, I continued the scuba them and drove to Sodwana Bay and slept in my car at a lodge before waking to dive 7 Mile Reef and Wayne’s World Reef. Sodwana is considered one of the most diverse marine areas in the world (depending on the time of year) and 7 Mile Reef was definitely the highlight, with a vividly colored reef and plenty of fish. Just further up the coast in Ponto do Ouro, Mozambique, the diving gets even better, I was told. I didn’t make it over the border since I did not have an overland Visa so I went to Swaziland next.
If you’re looking for more underwater adventures, you can keep driving towards Mozambique and dive at Kozy Bay, which features beautiful sand dunes and breaking waves being ridden by fish. Then continue to Ponta do Ouro – another destination famed for its combination of tropical and big game fish. My dive partner at Sodwana Bay also raved about the charter diving from Cape Town or you can coincide your trip with the annual sardine run (May to July), which attracts big game predators such as sharks, dolphins and whales.
Here are some great dive pictures by Arnaud, a professional dive photographer, I dove with.