25 May 2005

Scuba dive sites in South Africa: Aliwal Shoal

Selected as one of the top ten dives sites of the world by the Diver Magazine, Aliwal Shoal offers almost anything a diver can wish for.

All the diving is done from semi rigid boats fitted with twin 85 Yamaha motors. The RIBS are launched from the river mouth and through the surf for a twenty-minute ride to the reef.

During the months of June through to November you are sure to see Ragged Tooth Sharks as they congregate on the Shoal to mate. It is not uncommon to find 15 to 50 of these ferocious looking but docile animals on a single dive.

In summer you have every chance of seeing Tiger sharks and Hammerheads. Should you tire of the sharks, you can always dive on any of the wrecks or go hunting for the huge (and I mean huge) Brindle Bass. Other species (depending on the season) include Manta, Devil and other rays, schools of pelagic fish, whales, dolphins, and many, many more!

Visibility varies from 5 to 40 meters, and the water temperature in summer is 24+ � C and in winter not colder than 19 � C. The depths vary between 6 to 18 meters with 30-meter sites for the suitably qualified. The dives are all done without cages and afford the unique opportunity to see the sharks in their natural environment!

The top sites are:

This is a spectacular hole in the reef and is home to many large stingrays, moray eels and ragged tooth sharks, beginning with a depth of 28m (94ft), and continuing the dive up to 10m (34ft).

The Pinnacles
Average depth is 10 - 15 m (34ft - 50ft). It is best dived when there is little or no surge or current. Many caves, gullies and overhangs can be explored on this reef, and there are large shoals of fish.

Raggie Cave and Shark Alley
Average depth is 16 m. Best known for housing groups of ragged tooth sharks in winter. Although they are not overly aggressive, they should never be approached too closely.

North Sands
With and average depth of 12m (40ft) and a maximum of 15m (50ft), this flat, sandy part of the reef provides the opportunity to see rays, skates and sand sharks of all sizes. In winter, groups of Raggies often congregate close to the large overhang on the southeast side.

South Sands
Like North Sands, this site is home to rays, skates, sand sharks and guitar sharks. Average depth is 15m (50ft) with a maximum of 18m (60ft).

The Produce (1974)
The wreck of the Produce, a Norwegian Bulk Molasses tanker, struck Aliwal Shoal on the NE Pinnacles in 1974, no lives were lost. She now rests in 30 metres of water (100ft) and makes an interesting wreck dive. Big game fish such as salmon, kingfish, brindle bass share the wreck with lionfish and many colourful tropical species.

The Nebo (1884)
The Nebo struck Aliwal Shoal in 1984 in fair weather and went down with its cargo of railway material. No lives were lost and she lies in 30m of water (100ft), still fairly intact. The wreck is home to an abundance of reef and pelagic fish.

Source: Scuba diving in South Africa


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