Dive sites of Aliwal Shoal
bio-diversity of species is mind blowing
Aliwal Shoal, our resident reef, is rated in the top 10 dive sites in the world. Diving Aliwal Shoal is an experience never to forget, the bio-diversity of species is mind blowing. From big to small, pretty to scary we have it all. Aliwal Shoal also boasts two wrecks that are both different and magnificent dives. Let’s not forget our speciality…Shark Diving! Aliwal Shoal forms the crown of a Marine Protected Area, meaning that no form of fishing is allowed on the dive sites. Divers are not allowed to touch the reef, any of the animals or take anything other than a shark teeth from the sand.BOOK YOUR DIVE TODAY!
One of the most popular dive sites on Aliwal Shoal, boasts numerous species of fish, coral and sponge encrusted rocks in the area make for interesting critter viewing including various nudibranchs, eels, stonefish and much more. The main attraction of course being it’s name sake, the ragged tooth sharks (or grey nurse sharks) which visit the reef during the mating season from late May to November. Maximum depth 18m.
Cathedral is one of the most popular dive sites on Aliwal Shoal, known for the haven of ragged tooth sharks during the mating season. It’s a large amphitheatre structure with entrance either via the large front archway, through the roof or a swim through. A visually stunning rock formation leads to a crater like centre forming an enclosed area that shelters from the currents and surges. Also look out for various other attractions such as cuttlefish, moray eels and other special critters that your dive master will show you. Maximum depth 27m.
Northern Pinnacles is best for honeycomb morays and rays, shoals of reef fish and juvenile fish. On the northeastern end of the shoal, formed by a spine of rock formations that rise up from the sea bed forming a series of gullies, caves and potholes. Look out for some of our incredibly well camouflaged critters, including leaf fish, various eels, paper fish and a school of resident batfish. This is also a good spot to see mantas during the season. This is a shallow reef, which was responsible for the sinking of the MV Produce in 1974 and is attributed to having had a hand in sinking the SS Nebo in 1884. Maximum depth 18m.
South Sands offers great opportunities for spotting large groups of rays and dolphins, which enjoy playing in the openness of this site. It is a large sand patch with fragmented patches of coral reef, great for finding shark teeth. Look up and out into the blue for passing schools of game fish, and other large fish and white-tip reef sharks or even the occasional hammerhead shark. Look in the small ledges on the outskirts for crayfish and natal sea catfish and many colourful nudibranchs. South Sands is also the ideal location to start your drift dive from south of the reef, ending off at North Pinnacles getting yourself acquainted with multiple sites on a single dive. Maximum depth 17m.
Chunnel Cave is the ideal dive site for Open Water Divers that want to experience sharks, turtles, rays and much more. The name comes from the formation in the reef of a large opening on either end forming a cylindrical swim through of around 10m in length, with a bit of a dog leg to the right. To the left of where the cave’s right hand junction is, there’s a small cavern offering shelter to smaller plankton feeding fish, such as pineapple fish. Bring the family or even just your camera for life-long memories of this beautiful piece of the planet. Maximum depth 14m.
The MV Produce was a Norwegian bulk ship carrying molasses that sank on 11 August 1974 after colliding with the Aliwal Shoal. No lives were lost as local commercial fisherman rescued all the sailors. The true heroes of that day were Tony Janssen, Clive Homes, Piet De Jager and Ross Hitchins. The story goes that the Captain was “napping” at the time of the collision. These four heroes were among the first on the scene along with the SAS Oranjeland (saving 14 crew members) & a South African Airforce Helicopter (saving 3). Our heroes managed to save 17 crew members within 4 hours, about the same time it took for the MV Produce to sink. None of the crew members suffered any injury other than a mild case of shock. Tony Janssen aka Cook, is still manning the Umkomaas River mouth launch site to this day.
The wreck has started to break up in the last few years and penetration dives are not advised. She is 119m long and lies on her starboard side at about 32m deep. Diving the MV Produce isn’t always entirely possible should the visibility be bad, currents be flying or for Open Water qualified divers. The Produce is home to the mighty brindle bass, harlequin goldies, lionfish, salmon and kingfish as well as an abundance of other colourful tropical fish.
The Nebo Wreck, having sunk in 1884 sits at a depth of 27m. She turned over and sank in heavy seas with her cargo of railway materials on the 20 May 1884 and is now a national monument. This wooden wreck is fairly intact, having broken into two parts and is an interesting dive especially the swim through at the propeller. On this wreck kingfish, salmon and many tropical fish can be sighted. It is one of the few places on Aliwal Shoal where you can lose sight of your buddy because of the amount of small fish in the water. The reason for the wreckage has two rumours: The first being that on her Maiden Voyage from Durban to Sunderland she hit the pinnacles. The second rumour being that she was carrying a heavy load of bridge materials which was incorrectly packed. A rogue wave hit her in rough seas, subsequently pushing her over causing her to overturn and sink.
While the Nebo Wreck sits at 27m your average dive profile is around 17-19m. The wooden sleepers she was carrying can still be seen and make home for natal cat fish, harlequin goldies, scorpion fish, rays and much more. While diving, look up every now and then as you may see hammerheads passing or a bull shark chasing down a ray. The dive requires an Advanced Open Water Diver qualification however, as an Open Water diver we can offer you an adventure dive with an Instructor at an additional cost, which will count towards your advanced course or speciality when you decide to continue your PADI education.
all year round shark activity
Aliwal Shoal boasts all year round shark activity. Below are guidelines of seasonal sightings at Aliwal Shoal:
- Mar to Oct: Giant Guitar Sharks
- May to Sept: Dusky Sharks
- May to Nov: Humpback whales
- June to Nov: Ragged Tooth Sharks
(Aliwal Shoal is their breeding grounds)
- Oct to Mar: Hammerhead Sharks
- Nov to May: Tiger Sharks AND Bull (Zambezi) Sharks
- Dec to Feb: Whale Sharks
- Dec to May: White Tip Reef Sharks
- ALL Year Round: Oceanic (Pelagic) Black Tip Sharks, Dolphins, Turtles