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South Africa

Land of unrivalled wildlife and spectacular scenery

South Africa is a vast country of incredible diversity featuring stunning landscapes, world famous vineyards, numerous wildlife parks, over 1600 miles of coastline straddling two oceans and a rich and colourful history. If it’s raw, untamed nature and adventure that you are after then you’ve come to the right place!

The diving in South Africa ranges from temperate to tropical due the Benguela current from the Atlantic Ocean forcing cold water along the West coast and the Indian Ocean’s Agulhas current bringing warm water from the East coast. The combination of the two ocean currents creates a rich marine environment.

South Africa has virtually every type of diving you could wish for with wrecks, corals, kelp, large shark encounters, schooling fish and the magnificent Sardine Run the biggest draw. Diving can be found just about everywhere in South Africa – from the west coast of Cape Town, all the way up the east coast to Mozambique. 

Nothing encapsulates South Africa better than the famed ‘Garden Route’. From the West coast city of Cape Town to the East coast city of Port Elizabeth lies one of the greatest road trips in the world that presents the very best of South Africa.

The beautiful city of Cape Town offers a stunning backdrop to diving on the West Coast and it’s where many people start their South African adventure. There is a combination of waving kelp forests bordering the cape shoreline, hard and soft colourful corals, numerous ship wrecks and world famous Great White Shark experiences in False Bay and Gansbaai to enjoy.

Travel East along the route and you will find the beautiful coastal towns of Mossel Bay, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Port Elizabeth where there are excellent and varied diving opportunities.

Over to the east there is spectacular diving along Aliwal Shoal and Sodwana Bay and, of course, the legendary Sardine Run!

Below is a quick run down of what you can expect in each area. We can put together a bespoke itinerary for you, combining as many of these areas as you fancy, to give you the ultimate South African experience. Please do contact us for a chat and advice on when and where to go and we will be happy to help. 

GANSBAAI – Great White Sharks cage diving

Gansbaii is about 2 hours drive eastwards from Cape Town. This is one of the best places in the world to dive with great white sharks. Just 20 minute’s boat ride from Gansbaii is Dyer Island and Geyser Rock, where great whites cruise around the sea lion colonies looking for food. Spending a day out cage diving with these amazing animals is an absolute must.

When to go
Water temperatures are usually between 10°C and 20°C. The water is actually warmest during the winter months (May to September), than during the summer months (October to April), and this is due to the effect of the Agulhas Current.

SIMONS TOWN – Broadnose Seven Gill Cow Sharks and kelp forest

Simon’s Town is also famous for its wonderful kelp forests and Broadnose Seven Gill Cow sharks. We highly recommend you take a full day 2-tank diving trip to experience this unique area.

A combination dive day will give you the chance of seeing a Broadnose Seven-gill Cow Shark, experience the beauty of the kelp forests, plus there are wonderful reefs and Cape Fur Seal dives.

When to go
Diving is good all year round and this is a wonderful add-on to any South Africa itinerary.

SARDINE RUN – Running from East London to Port St John’s

Probably South Africa’s biggest underwater attraction, this annual migration occurs between May and July and is an exhilarating experience not to be missed.  This natural phenomenon occurs when billions of sardines spawn in the temperate waters of the South coast and head North East into subtropical waters. It’s a waiting game for the predators who congregate until the shoals form (often in excess of 7km long and 30 metres deep) before the feeding frenzy ensues. Gannets form an aerial assault while dolphins separate the shoals into smaller, more densely populated bait balls which make easy pickings for themselves as well as sharks and large gulps for the Bryde’s whale.

When to go
The Sardine run occurs during the months of May, June and July. As the Sardine Run is an act of nature it can be unpredictable and so cannot be guaranteed or have a best time to see. To give you the best chance of seeing the action, we offer Sardine Run trips from three locations; Port St John’s, Kentani and East London, all of which are reached via a flight into Durban. 

ALIWAL SHOAL – Reefs, wrecks and sharks

Just a one hour drive north of Durban, is Umkomass. This is where you can dive the amazing Aliwal Shoal, a reef system created out of fossilised sandstone, some 80,000 years ago. About 2.5km long, the reefs have depths varying from 6 – 27m and offer superb diving and to all levels of scuba divers. The reefs are covered with both soft and hard corals and have an abundance of fish life that is normally associated with tropical coral reef diving.  Aliwal Shoal’s marine life includes Sand Tiger Sharks (June thru November), Tiger Sharks (December thru May), Oceanic Blacktip Sharks (all year round), Bottle Nose Dolphin (all year round), Turtles (all year round), Manta Rays (November thru March), Humpback Whales (June thru November)

In addition to the reef itself, there are also two good wrecks: The Produce is an 18,000 ton Norwegian tanker that hit the Shoal and sank in 1974, and lies at 32m. The Nebo, which struck the shoal in May 1884, sunk almost immediately with its cargo of railway material. It now lies at 27m.

SODWANA BAY – The world’s most southerly coral reefs

Located on the East coast in KwaZulu-Natal near Mozambique, Sodwana Bay is located in the centre of a vast and wonderfully unspoilt marine reserve and is known as South Africa’s diving capital. The world’s most southerly hard corals can be found here along a stretch of 50km reef systems with a great diversity of seascapes and marine life. Being on the Indian Ocean side you can expect warmer waters with over 1200 species of tropical fish as well as large pelagics passing through.   

The best months for diving at Sodwana Bay are from April through to September, with the clearest visibility usually being May and June. The water temperature is usually between 24-28C, but with some cooler thermoclines down 21C. Sodwana Bay is reached via a 4.5hr road transfer from Durban airport.

Ready for your next adventure?

Great Escapes Diving Holidays Ltd

Westerfield Business Centre
Main Road
United Kingdom

Office hours: Mondays to Fridays 09.30am - 5.00pm
Tel: +44 (0)1473 921888

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