The KZN South Coast is home to two internationally-known dive sites, namely Protea Banks and Aliwal Shoal, the latter having being rated by Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 sites in the world.
Lying 4km out to sea off the coast of Umkomaas, Aliwal Shoal offers a great variety of marine life, from Nudibranchs to Manta Rays. Recognised as one of the top ten dive sites in the world, Aliwal Shoal is home to soft and hard coral, eels, turtles, fish, rays and sharks. Whale sharks, whales and dolphins often visit the reef, which is situated on the inside edge of the Mozambique current, thus offering divers warm water and great visibility.
Named after the 3-mast ship that collided with it in 1849, this rocky reef is also home to shipwrecks such as the ‘Produce’ and the ‘Nebo’, which are suitable for more experienced divers, and worth exploring. Other dive spots include Raggie’s Cave (situated at a maximum depth of 18 metres), a cave often occupied by Ragged Tooth Sharks during the winter months, Shark Alley (depth of 24 metres), a gulley that drops off from Raggie’s Cave, home to a number of Potato Bass and Manta Point (maximum depth of 200 metres), frequented by a large variety of colourful reef fish and, as the name implies, magnificent Manta Rays.
Suitable only for the more seasoned diver, Protea Banks is internationally recognised as one of the most impressive shark dives in the world. Situated 7.5km offshore from Shelly Beach, Protea Banks, like Aliwal Shoal, is essentially a fossilised sand bank. Stretching over a distance of about 6km, the reef lies at a depth of between 27 and 40 meters.
It is home to a rich diversity of marine life, and is often frequented by game fish such as Barracuda, Yellowtail, Kingfish and Potato Bass. The area is also one a rich Tuna ground, resulting in impressive Zambezi (Bull shark)sightings. Other shark species that frequent the reef are Scalloped Hammerheads (and occasionally Great Hammerheads), Blacktip, Dusky, Guitar and Ragged Tooth sharks, which are a highlight for divers during the winter months. Tiger sharks are also spotted on the reef from time to time.
The two hotspots on the reef are: The Southern Pinnacles: Dived mainly in the summer months, with depths ranging from 26 to 40 metres.The Northern Pinnacles: Dived mainly in the winter months, with depths ranging from 30 to 38 metres.
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