SCUBA Travel

Diving South Africa

24 November 2015
To the east of South Africa lies the Indian Ocean. To the west, the South Atlantic Ocean. Both sides offer exciting diving.

The best time to dive the Atlantic coast is in summer, between October and February. The water is cold.

Between Cape Town in the south west and Port Elizabeth in the south - the South East Cape - you find the "Chokka" squid run. During summer - October to December - they are at the height of spawning. The fishing season is closed in November and a multitude of predators arrive to feast on the squid: sharks, dolphins, rays, octopuses, seals and others. The squid (Loligo vulgaris reynaudii) migrate in single-sex schools which mix during spawning. They lay their eggs in large, sheltered, sandy bays like at Port St Francis, west of Port Elizabeth. Visibility is often poor and the water cold - around 14 °C.

Sardine run
Sardine Run. Photo credit: Jayvee Fernandez.

In the winter months of May to July you might see the amazing sardine run - the annual migration of the South African pilchard (Sardinops sagax) from the cold Cap Agulhas in the west round the coast towards Aliwal Shoal and Durban. Like the Chokka squid, the tightly-packed fish attract an array of predators like ragged tooth sharks, bottlenose dolphins, orcas and bryde's whales. The sardine run doesn't happen every year: it seems to depend on current and temperature.

South Africa is blessed with a large population of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias). In the 1990s some dive operators at Dyer Island in the Gansbaai area started offering cage diving with the sharks. This proved popular and spread to False Bay south of Cape Town and Mossel Bay which is half way between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The best time to see the sharks is during winter, May to August. The shark cage operators are licensed and are restricted in the method of chumming and bait used. (An example of Chum is fish oil and minced fish.) They put the bait into the water and then wait for the sharks, sometimes for hours. Once the sharks arrive the cage is lowered into the water and divers get in through the top. The cage is always very close to the surface. There is concern about feeding sharks, worries that it could increase shark attacks as they learn to associate people with food or that sharks will come to depend on humans. However, research suggests that if the licence restrictions are followed - and the sharks are not intentionally fed - then "cage diving can be a beneficial industry that in no way augments the small risks that white sharks represent to humans"1.

Great white shark cage dive
Great White Shark. Photo credit: Elias Levy (CC BY-SA 2.0)

On the Indian Ocean side is Sodwana Bay near the border with Mozambique. The water is warmer here, between around 19 and 29 ° C. The whole area is a National Park, and has been since 1950, with diving permitted in just a relatively small area. The protection has resulted in masses of fish with many resident and visiting species, including dolphins, sailfish, whale sharks (October to February), humpback whales, manta rays and ragged tooth sharks ("Raggies"). Many of the dive sites are named for their distance from a lighthouse: Two, Five, Seven and Nine Mile Reefs.

There is a high level of crime in South Africa, but mostly away from the tourist areas. Be particularly vigilant in Durban's city centre and beach front area. Make sure you have at least 2 blank pages in your passport before you go. With effect from 1 October 2014, parents travelling with children into or out of South Africa may be asked to show the child’s full birth certificate, and where only one parent is accompanying, proof of parental or legal authority to travel with the child. Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel. For the latest security information see Foreign travel advice South Africa.

Dive Sites of South Africa South Africa Dive Operators Books to Take to the South Africa Find a hotel in South Africa Your Comments

References:
1Johnson R and A Kock. 2006. South Africa's White Shark cage-diving industry - is there cause for concern? In Nel DC & Peschak TP (eds) Finding a balance: White shark conservation and recreational safety in the inshore waters of Cape Town, South Africa; proceedings of a specialist workshop. WWF South Africa Report Series - 2006/Marine/001.


Dive Sites of South Africa

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
Sodwana Bay

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

"Probably the most beautiful sub-tropical reefs on the planet. From 1/4 mile, to 2 mile, 5 mile, 7 mile and 9 mile reefs. Nudi's, 1000's of reef fish, turtles, rays, mantas, whale sharks, sharks, etc, etc. The variety is stupendous. The beaches are endless and the location is African, what more could you want? "
Guy Pringle, 2010

"There are several dive sites at Sodwana Bay. Stunning reefs are packed with large schools of fish, huge moray eels and sting rays and excellent macro life. Highlights included a huge manta ray on a safety stop and snorkelling with a whale shark. Humpback whales were also seen from the boat as well as a huge pod of dolphin. Dive intervals were spent on a 9 mile long white beach. Amazing! "
Laura Munro, 2010

Stingray
Stingray. Photo credit: Tim Nicholson

"Sodwana Bay lies on the East coast of Africa, nestled between St Lucia and Mozambique. I learned to dive here with Coral Divers and many of the people I dived with were very experienced and worldly divers and they all agreed that it was an amazing dive experience, being only slightly lower on the continent than Mozambique it offers similar conditions. With awesome boat launches through towering surf and weather that is absolutely great year round. Super coral reef abound with aquatic life including rays, eels, turtle, whales and sharks. The coral is spectacular and varied with many arches and tunnels and caves for those who like to play. It is probably one of the most reasonable diving holidays and if that wasn't enough it is a hop, skip and a jump from the Kruger National Park which teams with wild life. Happy holidaying. "
Sandi Goosen

"Just perfect to dive here, water was flat like a pancake. I saw lots of eels, sharks, rays and turtles. "
Martin de Jong

"Stunning reefs, all protected and loads of eels, fish, clownfish, cleaning shrimp, rays, white tip reef sharks, whale sharks, raggies. "
Cheryl Middleton, USA, 2008

"Only Maldives had more variety and water is really warm in summer. "
Hayley

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
9 Mile Reef

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

"On a reef called 9 Mile the species seen ranged from Whale shark and Bottlenose dolphin on the way out to the site, and a Blue marlin as we entered the water, to the most coral species I have seen on any of my dives around the world. It was just yummy. "
John Weller

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
Quarter Mile Reef

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

"Very small, but interesting reef, very near to the launch site. Is best in January and February when the raggies abound. The closest you will get to a raggie! Restricted site - so limited amount of divers per day. "
Cheryl Middleton, USA, 2008

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
2 Mile Reef

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

"Very nice dive, lots of fish. "
Tana Torro, Brazil, 2008

"Very colourful reef. Lots of reef fish and coral. Saw several large turtles. Easy site to dive. "
Darrell Lizamore, South Africa, 2008

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
5 Mile Reef

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

Dolphin underwater

"Its always a huge treat to go and dive there! We always see schools of snappers, rays, spectacular coral reefs and sometimes raggetooth sharks! Sometimes u dive alongside turtles, whalesharks and the dolphins!! Its always very nice to dive there, and never dissapointed! "
Arno van der Westhuizen, 2012

"Great visibility, good diversity. Sharks, whale sharks, dolphins, whales and big schools of fish. Interesting reef formation as well as different types of coral etc. "
Evelyn Sboros, 2011

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
Ribbon Reef

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

"Nice dive on 2 big rocks. Saw lots of Lionfish and some massive stingrays. "
Darrell Lizamore, South Africa, 2008

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
Dyer's Island

"Kelp forest with Cape Fur Seal's. We even spotted a Great White passing in the distance, no threat to anyone as they swim in open water mainly and not in the kelp forest. These creatures are a great attraction, and their behaviour is very inquisitive. December is normally calving season, we stop all diving activities there except for marine research. "
Gansbaai SCUBA

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
Fred's Reef

"We found a new reef in Gansbaai area which I took the liberty of naming after myself "Fred's Reef". This dive is a boat dive, as the reef is about 900 meters off shore. The depth is between 9 and 18 meters, and there is a vast variety of marine life there, as well as South African Rock Lobster. This is excellent to catch and eat, although you must have a permit to dive or catch them. The visibility ranges now from 2 meters to 10 meters, which is good for this country! "
Gansbaai SCUBA

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
Bazaruto Island

"Water vis was not good - very green - and not a lot of fish life seen. "
John Weller

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
Aliwal Shoal

Rating: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

"Tropical mixed with big pelagics. An hour after leaving Durban cbd, you can be diving with tiger sharks and almost every other creature. "
Vegard Kvam, 2014

"The highlight of the reef sites on Aliwal Shoal was Cathedral Rock with 30 Ragged Tooth Sharks all swimming in and out the natural rock auditorium. Amazing! The Shoal has lots soft coral, large schools of pelagics and great macro diving. Swim throughs, caves and crevices give the dive sites character and are great fun to explore. Excellent diving! "
Laura Munro, 2010

"The vis was about 20 meters on all three days: we were spoilt. It normally 10 - 15 m. We saw a wide variety of sea life including a Humpback whale and her calf being led by a School of dolphins, mind-blowing stuff. Manta rays and moray eels were some of the good things we also saw. When you get back there is a restaurant that does an awesome feed for a good price. The beers tasted pretty good as well! "
Shaun Millington

Manta Ray
Manta ray. Photo credit: Tim Nicholson.

"Shark heaven - hammerheads, bull, angel, raggie, reef. Mantas. Great team work needed on the ROB launch. Fab experience. "
Helen Moffatt, UK

"Three types of sharks, turtles, dolphins, breaching whales and lots more. "
Conrad Smit

"Good sightings of raggies, currents tough at times. "
Tertius Hofmeyr

"Visibility 20m, water was warm, sea conditions flat. The group was all Aquabud and the fun started from the time we arrived at the charter until we left that afternoon. The Divemaster was tops. He showed up exactly where we would go and what we would see having the main dude (Miguel) on the dives, just makes a dream come true with his ways. "
Phillip Muller, Germany, 2008

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
The Produce Wreck

Rating: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

"This large wreck is home to numerous brindle bass which weigh in excess of 200 kg. My best dive here to date had visibility around 25 m, and 8 Brindle bass were seen outside the wreck, on the port side, keeping out of the strong current and just "chilling". A rare sight indeed! Louie Bodenstaff, South Africa, 2011

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
Cathedral

"Vis was 20m, water temp 23 deg. Lots of ragged tooth sharks, rays etc. "
Austin, USA, 2007

"Hundred of sand tiger sharks. "
Giorgia Lombardini, Italy, 2009

"The water visibility was about 20m, water was warm 26 degrees. I had a Raggedtooth shark, Paperfish, Pineapple fish, huge Potato bass, Turtles, lots of different rays and at the end of the dive we had countless Sand sharks. "
Frank Miller, UK, 2008

More Details: Ultimate Diving Adventures: 100 Extraordinary Experiences Under Water

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
Tiger Shark Dive

Rating: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

"The most exhilarating dive ever! A drum of fish heads hangs in the water attached to a surface buoy. The sharks are not fed at any point on the dive, they are just attracted by the scent. The dive begins by us rolling into a sea swarming with dusky sharks which gets the heart pumping. At 8 meters you are briefed to get neutral buoyancy and sit vertically in the water. Only then do you truly appreciate the spectacular show the duskys and oceanic white tips are putting on, ducking and diving around the drum. A few minutes passed before the first tiger shark came in! What gorgeous creatures they are! The 3 meter female swam around us several times, clearly inquisitive but never aggressive. A second one came in towards the end of the dive, this one slightly smaller than the first female. To be so close to so many sharks at once and to have the opportunity to be face to face with a tiger shark is nothing short of amazing and such a privilege! The operators have been doing these dives for years without incident which just goes to show how misunderstood sharks are. After this dive I am definitely a shark fan and cant wait to do the dive again! "
Laura Munro, UK, 2010

South Africa
Protea Banks

"On a lucky day you can virtually see any shark. Both from tropical or temperate areas. On an average day, depending on the season you will see at least 3 to 4 different species. "
Patrick

"Always see the big stuff - sharks (many types), mantas, dolphins, turtles and the viz is fantastic."
Andrew Stacey

South Africa > Durban
Cooper's Light

Rating: 4.5 stars

"Old whaler... no penetration but awesome fish around...one of my favourites I did with Calypso Dive. "
Jenny Goss

"Our wreck dive was a great one. Once we backward rolled into the water, we could see the wreck at 30m. Once again Miguel of Aquabud Scuba was on the dive and he showed us so much on that wreck that you can only dream about. Just fish everywhere."
Phillip Muller, Germany, 2008

South Africa > Durban
Shark Cage Dives

The shark cage operators are licensed and are restricted in their methods. They place the bait into the water and then wait for the sharks, sometimes for hours. Once the sharks arrive the cage is lowered into the water and divers get in through the top. The cage is only a metre or so below the surface. There is concern about feeding sharks, however, research suggests that if the licence restrictions are followed then "cage diving can be a beneficial industry that in no way augments the small risks that white sharks represent to humans".1

Rating: 4 stars

"So great getting up close and personal with the ocean boss. Calypso Dive prices were reasonable, less than half than what others down coast are charging."
Jenny Goss

South Africa
Chunnel

Rating: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

"Visibility 15 m, water temperature was 23 degrees, no current. We had on the dive: Sharks (whitetip reef sharks and a Raggie), Pineapplefish, Banded pipefish, all types of morays and a lot of other fishes."
Melissa Alves, Brasil, 2008

South Africa
North Sands and Inside Edge

Rating: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

"Visibility 20, water temperature 22 degrees, with a bit or a surge. We had on the dive, all types of rays (round ribbontail, Spotted eagle rays and Blue Spotted rays), a school of hammerhead sharks, Potato bass, turtles. "
Melissa Alves, Brasil, 2008

South Africa
Pinnacles

Rating: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

"Visibility was around 10 m, water was warm and a bit of a current. We had Dolphins underwater, Frogfish, Paperfish, rays, turtles, Potato bass and many other fish. As well as dolphins on the surface."
Melissa Alves, Brasil, 2008


South Africa Diving Operators

South Africa > Sodwana Bay
Coral Divers

Coral Diverscorallogo
Sodwana Bay
Zululand
KwaZulu Natal
South Africa
Tel: +27 33 345 6531
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]
http://www.coraldivers.co.za
Or check our Facebook Page here.

Coral Divers is a PADI 5 star Gold Palm IDC Centre and a National Geographic Dive Centre situated in Sodwana Bay, South Africa. We are proud to be able to provide all levels of PADI scuba instruction from Bubble Maker to Instructor Development Courses as well as accommodation and dive charters.
Lying within the boundaries of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, Sodwana Bay provides the travelling diver with a vast array of unspoilt coral reefs populated with a huge diversity of Indo-Pacific fish & invertebrates.
Apart from the great diving & beautiful coral reefs, the area offers fun and excitement for the non-diver too. From quad bike riding, horse riding, kiteboarding and paintballing to day trips to Makhasa Game Reserve for Rhino or Buffalo tracking on foot, you're sure to find something that appeals to you, your friends and/or family.
South Africa > Sodwana Bay
Amoray Diving

Mseni Lodge
Sodwana Bay National Park
Sodwana Bay
Zululand
KwaZulu Natal
South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)35-5710284
Fax: +27 (0)35-5710251
E-mail: [email protected]

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

Amoray Diving, run by Colin. Great setup on the beach - one of two 'permanent' structures. More personal than the big 'sausage factory' outfits. Good crew, friendly staff and Colin's incredible knowledge, make this a must for divers who want to feel part of a family. Cost of dives vary - depending on which reef you are going to. Normally in the R200 to R280 range.
Cheryl Middleton, USA, 2008

South Africa > Johannesburg
Aquatastic Scuba

Dive the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area.

14C Sherry Vilano
van Tonder Ave
Edenglen
South Africa
Book diving via Divebooker…

South Africa > Durban
Dive Dimension
South Africa > Durban > Pinetown
Scuba Club

1 Falcon Place
Cowies Hill Park
Pinetown
3610
Tel: 031 701 4896
Fax: 086 519 2825
E-mail: [email protected]

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

I did my open water one with Scuba Club In Durban, The instructor is very experienced and an excellent dive master. He takes time to show people what is hiding in the nooks and crannies, Which is good 'cos if you are new to the area you aren't sure what to look for. On top of that he is a nutter! I would definitely be going back. Fully inclusive, Even the day after qualifying I never had to pay to hire any equipment from Scuba Club. Definitely a worth while experience! .
Shaun Millington

South Africa > Durban
Calypso Dive

Reviews: 4 stars

Shaka Marine World
Shop K8
Village Walk
Durban

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

Offer everything... Local dives sites, awesome dive trips, shark diving - no cage - WOW (6 Tiger Sharks)!.. Aquarium diving for my kids... So awesome and they're based inside Durban's uShaka Marine World... I couldn't have asked for more. My kids did a discovery course with them inside the aquarium, which was great as i had no worries, especially with my 10 year old. Calypso does all the PADI courses in the aquarium... I would have loved to not have seen the bottom of the swimming pool on my PADI... I remember dead spiders and the odd hair ball... this is far much better.
Jenny Goss

South Africa > Durban
Aquabud Scuba

Tel: +27 824506635
E-mail: [email protected]

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

I did my Advanced course with Miguel Nunes, the owner of Aquabud. A true professional, he just made us all so comfortable during the lectures and on the dives. The course was a real value for money. I would recommend anybody to Aquabud, not only the teaching and the coaching in diving, but the friendly manner of their divers. Thank you, Miguel for an awesome time in South Africa. We will be back. Diving in Durban cost as R180 per dive + equipment hire. Aliwal Shoal dive cost R220 + equipment hire. The diving experience was unthinkable, a dream come true. Thank you all the Aquabud buddies you have changed my life.
Phillip Muller, Germany, 2008

Aquabud Scuba are charging R220 per dive and R150 for all gear for the day. The service I got from them was excellent. One of my best experiences was with them. They cater for all types of dives and they make you feel welcome at all times. They don't just give you a great dive, but the fun you have with them is priceless. Once again thank you for the great fun I had with you guys at Aquabud Scuba and may your business be Prosperous, just keep up the good work and your professionalism. I'll be back.
Melissa Alves, Brasil, 2008

South Africa > Scottburgh
Two Oceans Scuba Academy

Dive the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area.

180 Scott Street
Scottburgh 4180
KZN
South Africa
Book diving via Divebooker…

South Africa > Scottburgh
Blue Wilderness Dive Expeditions

Dive the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area.

Rocky Bay Resorts
Gate 2
Old Main Road Park Rynie
Scottburgh
KwaZulu-Natal
South Africa, 4182
Book diving via Divebooker…

South Africa > Gauteng
Immerse Yourself Safaris

49 Fred Street
Kempton Park 1619
Gauteng
East Coast of South Africa
Tel: +27 82 336 8573

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

They provide a 10 day dive safari with diving at the two main dive areas in South Africa with two nights at a safari lodge. Excellent value for money. They take safety and service beyond any opeator I have ever dived with. I have already booked my next trip! The guides go out of their way to accommodate your every need and then some. There is absolutely nothing we would change or add to the trip. The service, experience, diving, accommodation is worth every penny. It was by far the best holiday we have ever had and we consider ourselves well travelled. We loved the mixture of diving and wildlife safari. Where else in the world can you dive with a whale shark in the morning and watch hippo at lakes edge in the afternoon or horse ride on the beach. The two nights at the game reserve broke up the diving between Sodwana and Aliwal and gave us a chance to see the best of both sea and land animals. Our guides could not have done more to make our stay the best ever and we really hope this review will encourage others to take the trip of a life time.
Laura Munro, UK, 2010

South Africa > Umkomaas
Aliwal Shoal Adventures

1 Golf Course Road
Widenham
Umkomaas
4170
Book diving via Divebooker…

Review

South Africa > Umkomaas
Blue Ocean Dive Resort

1 Reynolds Road
Umkomaas
4170
Book diving via Divebooker…

Review

South Africa > Umkomaas
Oceanworx Dive Charters
South Africa > Pretoria
Dive South Africa
South Africa > Mossel
Adventures Edge
South Africa > Mossel Bay
White Shark AFrica

7 Kerk Street
Bayside Centre (Checkers Centre)
Mossel Bay, 6500
South Africa
Book diving via Divebooker…

Review

South Africa > Plettenberg
Oceans Africa Diving Adventures
South Africa > Plettenberg
Pro Dive Plettenberg Bay
South Africa > Port Elizabeth
Pro Dive Port Elizabeth
South Africa > Cape Town
Adrenalised Diving

Shop 8, Quay 5
V&A Waterfront
Cape Town
South Africa
8002
Book diving via Divebooker…

Review

South Africa > Simon's Town
Ollava Scuba

Good's Shed
Main Rd
Simon's Town
7975 Cape Town
South Africa
Book diving via Divebooker…

Review

South Africa > Simon's Town
Apex Shark Expeditions

Quayside Building
Main Road
Simon's Town
7975 Cape Town
South Africa
Book diving via Divebooker…

Review

South Africa > Cape Town
Ollava Scuba

82 St Georges Street
Simon's Town
South Africa
7975
Book diving via Divebooker…

Review

South Africa > Gansbaai
Shark Diving Unlimited

Fully licensed shark cage diving operator.

1 Swart Street
Kleinbaai
Tel: +27 (0) 82 441 4555
[email protected]

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended

I tried shark cage diving in Gansbaai South Africa with Shark Diving Unlimited. It's the company of Sharkman Mike Rutzen from the Discovery and Nat Geo documentaries. We saw 3 huge sharks, 2 3 metre and one 4 and 1/2 metre, it made my heart stop. I would really recommend this company and you get a yummy free brekkie and lunch afterward. Also nice to see a company that is doing some environmental protection too.
Maraika van Wessem, 2015

South Africa > Gansbaai
Sharklady Adventures

Small shark diving trips and educational tours twice daily.

61 Marine Drive
Hermanus
7220
South Africa
Book diving via Divebooker…

Review

South Africa > Gansbaai
Shark Bookings
South Africa > Gansbaai
White Shark Projects

Shark cage diving operator

16 Geelbek str
Kleinbaai
7220
Western Cape
South Africa
Book diving via Divebooker…

Review

South Africa > Gansbaai
White Shark Safaris

Shark cage diving operator

12 Geelbek Street
7220 Kleinbaai
Western Cape
South Africa
Book diving via Divebooker…

Review

South Africa > Gansbaai
Marine Dynamics
South Africa
Blueray Adventures

Books to Take to the South Africa

South Africa and Mozambique atlas of dive sites
190 pages, 2011
A comprehensive atlas and guide to some of the top dive spots in Southern Africa. See more details
Two Oceans: A Guide to the Marine Life of Southern Africa
by George Branch, Charles Griffiths, Lynnath Beckley, Margo Branch, 368 pages, 2007
Covers over 1,400 species of the most common forms of marine life that inhabit southern Africa - including the invertebrates, fish, reptiles, mammals and plants. The book concentrates on the most frequently encountered species living in the waters that can readily be explored by scuba divers.
See more details
Coral Reef Fishes Coral Reef Fishes, Indo-Pacific and Caribbean
by Ewald Lieske and Robert Myers, Harper Collins, 400 Pages, Paperback
An excellent, comprehensive guide to reef fishes, which is small and light enough to pack regardless of amount of diving equipment. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to identify the fish they see whilst diving the tropics.
Read the full review...

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