Snorkelling in South Africa

Please advise your clients that South Africa is not a snorkel destination. If the dad has done the Red Sea, they will be bitterly disappointed by the snorkelling in SA, be it Kosi, Vidal, or Sodwana. Most of our reefs are quite far off shore, and are deep, 10 meters plus, with viz on a good day at 10 meters. So, if you are snorkelling on the surface, you can barely see the reef, let alone sea life on the reef. Places like Sodwana do offer snorkelling but it’s from the shore and only a peak high and low tide, when there is no current. Wilma, I really wouldn’t recommend it. They will be disappointed.

Dive Boats/Equipment

That all depends on the type of diving you are doing. All Great White cage diving whether in Gansbaai, Mossel Bay or Simon’s Town we use rigid hull 36 ft. catamaran that accommodate 18 divers + 4 crew and a 30 ft. catamaran that accommodates 9 divers + 3 crew. For all other diving in South Africa and Mozambique, we use 8 or 9 meter “Rubber Duck’s” as they are locally, affectionately called, otherwise known at Semi-inflatables or RIB’s.

Mozambique

June is a magic time to dive off the Bazaruto Archipelago. Its winter in the tropics, the dry season, therefore there is no run off from the rivers making for excellent viz.
Barra Lodge is right next door to Tofo. Tofo is a town, Barra is a dive resort. You can walk from Barra to Tofo along the beach. It’s a walk of about 2 hours. When staying at Barra or a B&B in Tofo you all dive the same reefs.
You can only dive 1 hour before high tide to 1 hour after high tide. Then you return to the lodge / hotel and you have to wait until the tides turn, when you go out again for the second dive of the day, which is 1 hour before low to 1 hour after low tide. So effectively you have two, 2 hour windows, when the tides turn. The Archipelago’s shoreline experiences two nearly equal high and low tides each day. And, the tides turn at different times every day depending on the gravitational pull of the moon and sun, and rotation of the Earth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tide

Where we dive mostly, Barra and Tofo, our diving is year round; different times of year can offer us different sights, above water and below. Because Mozambique is in the southern hemisphere, our summer is from December to February and our winter is July to September, though because we are not too far from the equator our winters are not extremely cold.

From December 15th until January 15th it is the South African school holidays and because Mozambique is close to South Africa, all seaside resorts tend to be quite busy during this time, so if you would like to come and visit us during this period, you need to book early! It can get very hot during this time (temperatures can get up to 40 ˚C) and quite humid. Water temp: 27 ˚C-29 ˚C.

From February until May: February is considered cyclone season in this part of the world. Most years this does not affect us and we have gorgeous calm weather, but if the conditions are right for it, cyclones can form out in the channel and send us big waves. At Easter, because of the South African school holidays, the dive resorts are very busy, so if you would like to come during these two weeks you need to book early. Outside the Easter period, it tends to be fairly quiet so it’s a great time to visit us if you want to escape the crowds. The days are still nice and hot but the evenings are getting a little cooler. Water temp: 23-27˚C

From June until September: The whales are here, it’s sunny and warm during the day, and the evenings are cool enough to wear long sleeves. If you come in late June, it is possible to see both the humpback whales and the whale sharks! Water temp: 20-25˚C. This is however the main windy season so be prepared for some choppy sea conditions.

From September until December 15th: It’s starting to get a little warmer at night, the dive resorts varies between very busy and not busy, though these times are unpredictable, so book early or check with us.The water temperature is rising steadily from 23-27˚C.

Visibility, wind and sea conditions: You will need to remember that this is Africa! It is impossible to compare our conditions to other parts of the world. The sea conditions can range from lake-like to very rough with swells sometimes reaching over 5 meters and wind speeds up to 30 knots. We will not launch our boats and take you diving if the sea conditions are too rough (decided by our experienced dive and boat staff) or unsafe. You will find, that if you have never dived here, or along the south-eastern coast of Africa, that the conditions can be quite challenging one day, and very easy the next. Visibility can range from 1 meter to 30 meters and none of the conditions are predictable. We can also get very strong currents on our deeper dives and this is why all our deep dives are considered drift dives and done with negative descents. Having said all the above, we can also experience very calm and pleasant sea and diving conditions.

Great White Cage Diving

There are 2 Great White Shark cage diving locations. Gansbaai & Simons Town. Please go to the following link:- http://www.divethebig5.com/shark-diving/shark-diving/great-white-shark-facts/gansbaai-simonstown.html
Strictly speaking, in order to get into the cage on scuba you have to be a certified diver, but nothing prevents you getting into the cage with a snorkel. If the dive master is satisfied that you are OK on scuba even though you aren't certified he "may" allow you in the cage using scuba. But believe me, sometimes the action viewed from the deck of the boat is as impressive as being viewed from the cage!
As for the amount of time you are able to spend in the cage - this again depends on a number of factors. The main factor being the number of divers on the boat. Most boats accommodate 10 people max, but not are all divers as some come along to surface view only. Obviously the more divers the more people there are who want to view the sharks from within the cage. The dive master will then limit the amount of time each diver has in the cage until all divers have been in the cage and seen the sharks. Thereafter it's up to the divers on board as to who is next in the cage and again, depending on how many divers are standing in line for a second shot, depends on how much time you can spend in the cage. You should also remember that there are times when it's impossible to get into the cage due to the roughness of the water. In such instances, even if you could get into the cage it would be like being in a tumble dryer and you wouldn't see a thing.
South Africa is reputed as having some of the healthiest shark populations in the world. We were the first country in the world to protect the Great White Shark and this was done as an act of parliament way back in 1991 and since then lots has been done to protect the sharks off our coast. But having a 3 000 kilometre coastline it’s not a simple task but never the less we are blessed with an enormous number of shark species. And for this reason, South Africa must rank as one of the top spots in the world to view and swim with sharks. As explained above, we have a 3 000-kilometre coastline and the sharks are found all along this coast. Some sharks favour the colder waters of the Cape, like the Great White, others favour the more warmer waters just south of Durban, like the Sand Tiger, Bull, Tiger and Hammerhead Sharks and then the massive Whale Sharks prefer the warm, tropical waters off the coast of Mozambique. In order to be able to dive with sharks you have to be prepared to travel, from Cape Town to Durban to Inhambane in Mozambique, and to give you an idea of distances, from Cape Town to Durban is the same distance as from London to Istanbul, a two-hour flight by Boeing. Then from Durban to Inhambane as about the same!! Then there are the seasons as well. Some sharks are more active during our summer months (October through March) whilst others are more active in our winter months (April through September). In order to simplify things we have prepared the link to our "Big 8" Shark Timetable" as a guide. But because sharks can't read, they don't always abide by this timetable so this is purely a guide for us mortals! http://www.divethebig5.co.za//shark-diving/timetable.html Our suggestion to people wanting to dive with sharks is that you pick the species that you most want to dive with, look at the "Big 8" Shark Timetable and plan your trip around that based on the time you have available to spend in South Africa / Mozambique. As for levels of certification? When diving Great White's you don't need to be certified at all as this can be done on snorkel. If you want to dive with Sand Tiger, Bull, Tiger, Copper and Hammerheads at Protea Banks you need to be an advanced diver, Open Water 2 or have 25 logged sea dives within the past 12 months due to the depth of the dive (in excess of 30 meters) and the strong currents that are normally found on Protea Banks. To dive with the Sand Tigers and Tiger Sharks at Aliwal Shoal you just need to be a certified scuba diver, certified by a recognised agency such as PADI, NAUI, CMAS, SSI, BSAC etc. To dive with the Whale Sharks, this is best done on snorkel, as the exhaust bubbles from the regulator tend to frighten the Whale Sharks away. So there you have it! It's not that easy I'm afraid. You need to decide which species you want to dive with, at what time of the year, how much time you have available and budget as getting around South Africa and Mozambique by air and road is expensive these days, what with the price of fuel and all. If we can be of any assistance in putting your shark diving package together, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Please be advised that Great White “breaching” and Great White cage diving / surface viewing is to a large extent "seasonal", although the sharks are there all year round. Dive Time Table We say seasonal for two reasons. Firstly the weather. The part of the world where Great White cage diving takes place, Gansbaai, and Simon’s Town, is known as the "Cape of Storms" for very obvious reasons. The winters are normally wet and miserable whilst the summers, although sunny and hot, are known for the "Cape Doctor" or south Easter, which blows virtually all day, every day. Our statistics are that you are able to get out to "Shark Alley" the narrow strip of water between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock, 12 days out of 30 in the winter months (April through October) and 20 days out of 30 during summer (November through March). The more time you are able to spend in the company of the Great whites, the better your chances are of seeing these magnificent creatures. Secondly, the seasons. There are definitely times of the year when the White Sharks are more active and these times are May through October. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the water temperatures. Contrary to what you would normally expect, the temperature of the water is actually warmer during the winter months (approx 16° C) than it is during the summer months (approx 9° C). Sharks prefer the warmer waters and are therefore far more active during the winter than during the summer, and unfortunately, that coincides with the time of year when the weather is at its worst. Also, November is the time of year when the Cape Fur Seal pup. The Cape Fur Seal, being the Great Whites main source of food, congregate in their thousands on Geyser Rock, off Gansbaai and on Seal Island in False Bay / Simon’s Town, where up to 60 000 seals can be found on each of the two islands during the pupping and mating season, November/December. With this great abundance of food around, it is extremely difficult to attract the sharks to the dive boat, and if you do, they are just not interested in the bait you have put out to attract their attention, which normally, at other times of the year, is long enough for the divers to get into the cage and view the Great Whites in their natural surroundings. You should also remember that Gansbaai, this is where we launch the boat for "Shark Alley", and that Simon’s Town where we launch the boat for Seal Island in False Bay, is a two hour, and one hour, road transfer from Cape Town, respectively. We normally launch the boat at between 06h30 and 08h30 depending on the time of year. This means a 04h30 / 07h30 departure from Cape Town depending on where you are doing your Great White Encounter. http://www.divethebig5.com/shark-diving/shark-diving/great-white-shark-facts/gansbaai-simonstown.html Whilst the weather in Cape Town could be fine, both Gansbaai and Simon’s Town which are situated on opposite ends of Cape Town could be blowing a gale, thereby making it impossible, due to safety reasons, to launch the boat. During the four months of October, November, December and January, we do not run any Great White Encounters out of Simon’s Town. We however do run Great White Encounters out of Gansbaai, but we do not recommend them, nor do we guarantee “sightings”. We value our reputation. Our Great White Encounter cancellation policy is:- Full refund in the event of the dive being cancelled due to bad weather. Should the weather forecast be favourable and on arrival at the dive site the dive is cancelled by the skipper of the dive boat due to weather conditions, a full refund on the dive but no refund on the transfer fees, if applicable. Should we launch the dive boat for the dive, and during the course of the dive the skipper decides to return to shore due to unfavourable sea and weather conditions, there will be no refund. The skipper’s decision is final and is based purely on diver safety and comfort.”
About 30 meters max, but the crew spot the shark approaching the decoy a long time before it’s on the decoy, they do this daily and know where and what to look for, and as soon as they spot the shark approaching the decoy they start reeling the decoy in, and try to get the shark to breach as close to the boat as possible. A good lens 70/300 should be enough.
As for a non-diver going on a White Shark Excursion, they pay the same price as a diver, simply because they occupy a space on the boat, (limited space on the boat), that could be taken up by a diver.
Please tell your crazy friend that not everybody has a death wish, and our authorities do not condone assisted suicide. Great White diving without a cage is not allowed in South Africa. Seriously, the only way in which to attract a Great White to the boat is to chum. Decanting mashed sardine and fish oil into the ocean. The Great Whites sensory organs are so acute that they can pick up 1 particle of blood in 1 000 000 particles of water. Once we are successful in attracting the shark to the boat, we put out a piece of “bait” to hold the sharks attention, and once we have the sharks attention, we slowly drag the “bait” towards the boat, and towards the divers in the cage, which is attached to the side of the boat. In short, we create a feeding frenzy! The shark cannot differentiate a “bunny hugger shark diver” from a tuna, both of which are a meal to The Great White. Please be assured “you don’t want to be in the water with a great White on a feeding frenzy.” Pure suicide, and painless, so I’m told. Great White Shark diving is so strictly controlled in South Africa to the point that you may not use mammal blood as chum, only mashed sardines and fish. Also, it is forbidden to use mammal meat such as whale or seal meat as “bait”. http://www.divethebig5.com/shark-diving/shark-diving/the-bait-debate.html Hope this answers your question, and we look forward to getting your “crazy friend” wet when he comes to South Africa. Please be reminded, assisted suicide is illegal in SA.
The question is not a strange one at all, especially from divers who are not used to diving with animals capable of inflicting grievous bodily harm / injury, or even eating them alive!!
Here is the answer from Brett, a very experience shark addict who runs the Aliwal Shoal Operation:-
I have the same people here. On my dive today was a guy in a yellow wetsuit - he is still alive!!!
Personally I would not buy new fins.
Worst case scenario, we can lend them some fins if they feel strongly about it.
And from Kym, who runs the Protea operation:-
lol. yes yum yum yellow. The sharks are more interested in yellow, white and silver fins. We have never had an issue but if the diver is a bit more nervous of sharks coming close them another choice could be better. Some of our rentals fins are yellow...lol.
Really, I would not worry!

Sharks (Blue Mako, Raggies, Tiger, Bull (Zambezi))

The best months are October through July. This is a full day expedition, departing Simon’s Town Pier at about 08h30 and returning at 16h00, depending on shark activity and weather conditions. Blue and Mako Sharks are deep water predators and are found in the waters 30 to 50 km’s south of Cape Point where no land is visible. Once the sharks have been located the chum is decanted into the water to catch the sharks attention and a bait box full of mashed sardines is lowered to about 10 meters to hold the sharks attention. You then have the choice of “free diving” on snorkel with the sharks, or kitting up on scuba and diving with the sharks – your choice. Once every diver has had their fill of diving with the deep water predators, the Blue and Mako Sharks, you will return to Simon’s Town Harbour.
This is a very contentious point and an often-asked question. Please go to the following link and ask yourself the question again:- http://www.divethebig5.co.za//shark-diving/shark-diving/the-bait-debate.html
Many thanks for spending time on our Dive The Big 5 website and for asking your question “What time of year for the shark dives”. South Africa is fortunate in having a very health shark population. Great White Sharks have been declared a “protected species” since the 1969, and catching all other species strictly monitored. If you go to the following link on our website http://www.divethebig5.com/shark-diving/timetable.html You will see from this “timetable” what sharks are where, and at what times of the year. Please note that the Sharks have not read this “timetable”, so they don’t know where they are supposed to be, and when.

Sardine Run

We launch the boat every day at about 06h30 in the hope of being in the middle of a shoal of Sardines, with even higher hopes of being on a bait ball, along with all the other sea creatures, so there is never a dull moment. If you do happen upon a shoal, you stay with it as long as possible, if not, you are up and down the coast all day looking for the action. You will return to shore at about 15h00 or when everyone on board the boat “has had enough”, and then we try again tomorrow. But our main and sole objective is to find the shoals of Sardines.
The Sardine Run is not for the light hearted, and some general requirements are needed to ensure a safe and enjoyable expedition. •General Health. To participate in the Sardine Run, potential explorers should have a clean bill of health and a reasonably good level of fitness. Whilst Dive The Big 5 dive boats have stepladders, spending upward of 5 hours at sea daily and clambering on and off inflatables is physically demanding. •SCUBA qualification (optional). Most guests enjoy the Sardine Run immensely whilst snorkelling. However, if you wish to go on SCUBA, then a minimum of an open water certification is required. •For Snorkelers. To be eligible to accompany Dive The Big 5 as a snorkeler, guests must be competent in the water and have a basic knowledge of using a mask, snorkel and fins. •Sea sickness. Dive The Big 5 cannot return to land if a guest is feeling seasick. Thus if any guests are prone to seasickness we insist that precautionary measures be taken prior to venturing to sea. Otherwise, it may turn into a very long day.
The Sardine Run is not for the light hearted, and some general requirements are needed, to ensure a safe and enjoyable expedition. •General Health. To participate in the Sardine Run, potential explorers should have a clean bill of health and a reasonably good level of fitness. Not all Dive The Big 5 vessels have stepladders, and spending upward of 5 hours at sea daily and clambering on and off inflatables is physically demanding. •SCUBA qualification (optional). Most guests enjoy the Sardine Run immensely whilst snorkelling. However, if you wish to SCUBA dive, then a minimum of an open water certification is required. •For Snorkeler’s. To be eligible to accompany Dive The Big 5 as a snorkeler, guests must be competent in the water and have a basic knowledge of using a mask, snorkel and fins.
As I’ve said, there is the possibility that the Sardines don’t show up on cue, and the main reason for this is that the water temperatures don’t drop below 19º C. In this case, the Sardines stay far out at sea where the waters are colder or they stay deep. The upside is that all the sea predators are in exactly the “same boat” as you are in. They know as much as you, so all along the entire 1 600 km stretch of coast where they are likely to appear, there are literally thousands of dolphin, whales, sharks, gannets, seagulls, seals, penguins – you name it – all waiting for the arrival of the Sardines. The tell-tail signs that there are Sardines are the sea birds, especially the Cape Gannet. They usually sit quietly on the water waiting patiently. As soon at the Gannets spot a shoal, and they are always the first to do so, they fly into the air and start dive-bombing the shoal. There are literally thousands and thousands of Gannets. It’s a sure giveaway that there are Sardines. The skipper then moves the boat directly above the shoal of Sardines and the fun begins.
The choice is then yours. Do you go in quick with mask, fins and snorkel or do you kit up into full scuba gear and drop down to about 10 / 15 meters and watch the action from below. Remember, the shoal is constantly on the move, so sometimes it’s best just to don fins, mask and snorkel and get onto the action ASAP. If the skipper and DM are of the opinion that the shoal will be around for a while, or if the predators break the shoal up into a smaller “bait-ball” then get into your scuba gear. But the skipper in conjunction with the DM will advise you what’s best.
You don’t want to be in a dry suit when on the Sardine Run. The dive boats we use are “Rubber Ducks”, Zodiacs or RIB’s. We launch at about 07h00 and stay out at sea almost the whole day. Until about 15h00, depending on the action. I really don’t think you want to be in a dry suit for 8 hours with no place on the boat to change in and out of the dry suit. Water temperatures will be about 19°C so we suggest 5mm wet suits. When there is no action, you strip the wet suit to the waist and wear a fleecy lined windbreaker on top. When there is action, you pull on the wetsuit, put on your mask, fins and snorkel and bail overboard to view whatever action there is. If the skipper and DM are of the opinion that the shoal and action will hang around a bit, i.e. form a bait-ball, they will advise you to don full scuba gear and drop down to about 10 meters to be part of it! A dry suit is the most impractical suit to bring on the Sardine Run. All dive gear is available for rent whilst on the Sardine Run.
When based in Port St John’s, we work an area of about 25 miles north of the launch site, and 25 miles south of the launch site. That’s a lot of ocean to cover. Each day, weather permitting, we have two boats out on the water, going in different directions and in direct radio communication with each other. In addition, we have a dedicated micro-light aircraft in the air, directing us to the shoals of Sardines, if they are anywhere 25 miles north or south. Out of Port St John’s / Mbotyi, on a good day, there may be a maximum of 14 boats out at sea. 10 out of Port St. Johns and 4 out of Mbotyi. 14 boats in an area of 50 miles, is insignificant. Also, amongst the “operators”, there is an unwritten law. If you happen upon a bait ball, there are no more than 4 boats in on the bait ball, depending on its size. Once one boat moves away from the bait ball, another boat can take its place. So you are unlikely to have between 10 to 14 boats on a bait ball at any one time. Please understand, its organised, and not a free for all. Please also remember, with hundreds of sharks, thousands of gannets and all the other ocean predators feeding off a shoal of Sardines, 10 boats on the surface of the ocean will have absolutely no effect on the shoal, scaring them away.
Just a bit of background on the Sardine Run so as to try and answer your question “Would the Sardine Run trip be running in 2016? And would the trip July 10 to 17 out of East London be a good time for this, or is it really too late in the season?” Not many people are fully aware of the Sardine Run, where it takes place, when it takes place and why it’s so unpredictable. Following is a bit of background, which is worth reading. The Sardines could start running anytime from the end of May, through June to the end of July. Nobody on earth knows exactly when. The Sardines could come close to shore anywhere between south of East London to just south of Durban. A 1 600 km’s stretch of rugged coast. Exactly where they could come close to shore is anyone’s guess. All we know is that the water temperature must drop below 19ºC for them to come close inland. If the water temperature doesn’t drop below 19º C, they simply stay very far out to sea and stay deep in the search of the colder water. This is when the Sardines don’t run at all, and there have been the odd years that they haven’t “run”. The trick is to try and “guess” where to be based along this 1 600 km stretch of coast, and when. That, I’m afraid, no one can predict. It changes from year to year. As I’ve already said, it’s quite possible that: a) The Sardines don’t show up during any given period. b) Show up an another location than where you are based (East London), either up or down the coast, and due to the isolated location where you are based it’s not possible to quickly move the operation to another location. You are also limited in terms of how much fuel you have on board the boat. c) The weather just does not permit the skipper to launch the boat. That’s the down side. The upside is that all the sea predators are in exactly the “same boat” as you are in. They know as much as you, so all along this 1 600 km stretch of coast are literally thousands of dolphin, whales, sharks, gannets, seagulls, seals, penguins – you name it – all waiting for the arrival of the Sardines. The tell-tail signs that there are Sardines have arrived are the sea birds, especially the Cape Gannet. They usually sit quietly on the water waiting patiently. As soon as the Gannets spot a shoal, they all fly into the air and start dive-bombing the shoal. There are literally thousands and thousands of Gannets. It’s a sure giveaway that there are Sardines. The skipper then moves the boat directly above the Sardines and the fun begins. The choice is then yours. Do you go in quick with mask, fins and snorkel or do you kit up into full scuba gear and drop down to about 10 / 15 meters and watch the action from below. Remember, the shoal is constantly on the move, so sometimes it’s best just to don fins, mask and snorkel and get onto the action ASAP. If the skipper and DM are of the opinion that the shoal will be around for a while, then get into your scuba gear. But the skipper in conjunction with the DM will advise you what’s best. The daily programme is that you launch the boat every morning at about 06h30 in the hope of being in the middle of a shoal of Sardines, with even higher hopes of being on a bait ball, along with all the other sea creatures, so there is never a dull moment. If you do happen upon a shoal, you stay with it as long as possible, if not; you are up and down the coast all day looking for the action. You will return to shore at about 15h00 or when everyone on the boat “has had enough”, and try again tomorrow. But our main and sole objective is to find the shoals of Sardines. So Rick, it’s really a bit of a lottery. July 10 to 17 is as good a guess as any, it’s really “hit and miss”. Please don’t shoot me, I’m just “Mother Natures” and “King Neptune’s” messenger. No matter when you decide to do your Sardine Run, where you decide to be based, and who you decide to book through, the above facts remain.
Snorkellers enjoy the Sardine Run as much as certified scuba divers. Before launching the “Duck” or Zodiac all members are dressed in full wetsuits, either 5mm or 7mm, and you stay in the suit the whole day. No change rooms on the Duck. If & when you first happen upon a shoal of Sardines you normally get in the water just with wetsuit, mask, fins, and snorkel. If the DM & skipper are of the opinion that the shoal will stay around for a while, they will advise you to don your scuba gear. Scuba divers then drop down to between 5 meters and 15 meters to view the action from below whilst the non-certified divers use snorkel and view the action from the surface. When it’s over, or the shoal has moved on, you all get back in the boat and catch up with the shoal and do it all over again. Can be quite strenuous! It can get quite choppy, and if in the skipper’s opinion it is too rough, he will return to shore or call it off before you launch.
Unfortunately, you have to pay the full Expedition rate. The reason for this is because, none of the dive operators who offer Sardine Run Expeditions are permanently based along the stretch of coast between East London and south of Durban, where the Sardine Run usually takes place. They are all based either in Durban, Umkomaas (Aliwal Shoal), Shelly Beach (Protea Banks), or Cape Town. Every year these operators move their entire dive operation, from their base, to their preferred location along this 1 600 km stretch of coast. Be it East London, Mpame, Port St John’s, or Mbotyi. They move their dive operation, lock, stock, and barrel, to one of these locations for the months of, end of May, June to the end of July. Staff, boats, spares for the boats, fuel, compressors, dive gear – absolutely everything. Then they base themselves and their dive crew at the lodge, hotel, B&B of their choice, for two and a half to three months. They then divide the 6 / 8 week period when the Sardines “should be running” into 5 day, 6 day, 7 day, 9 day Sardine Run Expeditions, and they then sell these “Expeditions” as a package. Accommodation, all meals, and full days at sea, weather conditions permitting. With fixed staring dates as per the schedule on our website and with fixed finishing dates as per the schedule on our website. These dates are “set in stone”. You are quite welcome to join an expedition a day or two after its advertised start date, or to finish an Expedition a day or two before the advertised finish date, but you will still have to pay the full Expedition rate as per the schedule on our Website.
Correct, rate includes tanks weights and air, all other gear can be rented, but we need to know sizes so that we can have it on site when you arrive.
Water temperature must drop below 19°C, otherwise the Sardine don’t show, they stay far out to sea and stay deep. Unlike us, they prefer cold water! So bank on water temperatures ranging from 18°to 21°C. A 5 mm ot 7 mm Farmer Jon wet suit.

Wildlife Safari

Correct. Animals are most active in the early morning, from sunrise until about 09h30 when it starts to heat up. Then the prey species (impala, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, and other antelope species) seek respite from the heat and lie low in the shadows, under trees and in “donga’s” (ditches and river courses). At about 15h30 it stars to cool off again and that’s when you go out on safari again, as that’s when the animals become active again. After sunset, when it’s dark the predators are active using their superior night vision and stealth to hunt their pray, impala, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, and other antelope species. That’s also when you see the nocturnal species like nag apies, porcupine, honey badger, civet, serval, and hyena etc. You usually return to camp at about 19h30 for dinner, as it’s very difficult to spot the nocturnal species with a spot lamp when they are on the move hunting. The larger species (like elephant, rhino, giraffe, hippo, etc) and primates (like baboons and vervet monkeys) are seen throughout the day and often from the lodge at a water hole or river near the lodge. In between morning and evening safari you have the option of going on a bush walk with an armed ranger and tracker to see and experience the smaller things in the bush which you tend to miss from a Land Rover, like spoor, droppings, birds, bugs etc. It’s an action packed day from before dawn to well after the sun has set!

Whale Shark Diving

To be perfectly honest, you stand very little chance of encountering Whale Sharks off the coast of KwaZulu/Natal in October. Although there are "common sighting" of Whale Sharks along the KwaZulu/Natal coast during the summer months, November through March, these are sporadic and cannot be relied upon. Unlike the sightings of Whale Sharks further north along the Mozambique coast in the area off Inhambane, Barra, Tofo and in the Bazaruto Archipelago. Here Whale Sharks are regularly encountered by divers on their way out to a dive site and on their way back from a dive. The distance from the shore to the reefs is anything from a few hundred meters to 25 km’s out to sea, so the chances of “bumping” into a Whale Sharks is very good when on your way to and from a dive. As soon as the caudal fin of the Whale Shark is spotted, the skipper of the “duck” (Zodiac or RIB) positions the boat in the path of the oncoming Whale Shark and the divers bail overboard, as quickly and quietly as possible, and wait for the Whale Shark to swim up to them. The amount of time that the divers are able to interact with the Whale Shark can be anything from a few seconds to 15 minutes and longer, depending on the individual animal. Experience has shown that it’s best to interact with the Whale Sharks when on snorkel and not on scuba as the exhaust bubbles from the regulator often frightens the Whale Sharks away. For the non-scuba diver wanting the experience of being able to interact with Whale Sharks, you are able to charter a “Rubber Duck” purely for this purpose, and you spend as many hours as you like cruising the back-line, just beyond the breakers, looking for, and when found, interacting with the animals. The “Duck’s” are chartered out on an hourly bases, just as they would be for divers going on a dive or for deep-sea fishermen going out for a day’s fishing. Please let me know if you would like any further information and if you would like some guidelines on where and what to dive on your trip to South Africa next October. We also book safaris, so are able to help you with that as well. About 30 meters max, but the crew spot the shark approaching the decoy a long time before it’s on the decoy, they do this daily and know where and what to look for, and as soon as they spot the shark approaching the decoy they start reeling the decoy in, and try to get the shark to breach as close to the boat as possible. A good lens 70/300 should be enough.
The east coast of Southern Africa is blessed with a very healthy population of “Rhincodon typus” or Whale Shark, for now! Unfortunately these gentle giants are being mercilessly fished by the local fishermen along the entire east coast of Africa. Whale Sharks are highly efficient filter feeders favouring the warmer waters of the oceans following seasonal concentrations of food. Off the coast of southern Africa, their range extends from the sub-tropical waters of KwaZulu/Natal north to the equator and beyond. Being warm water animals, in South Africa they are seasonal and are found mainly off the KwaZulu/Natal north coast in the summer months (November through March) when the water temperatures reach a maximum of about 28º C. However, off the cost of Mozambique, which lies mainly in the tropics, they are found year round. Bearing the above in mind, you will find “the occasional” Whale Shark in the waters off the KwaZulu/Natal north cost during the months of November through March. Off the cost of Mozambique, the concentrations of Whale Sharks are the greatest north of Xai Xai. Here you are likely to find Whale Sharks all year round, with greatest concentrations in the summer months when the waters are at their warmest. The best way to interact with these giants of the ocean is to “cruise” the back-line just beyond the breakers in a boat. The tell-tail sign that there is a whale Shark in the water is the tip of their caudal fin breaking the surface of the water. Because the boats that we use off the coast of Southern Africa are mainly “Rubber Ducks” or Zodiac’s we are positioned very low in the water so it is not possible to spot the animal’s great hulk from above. The other way in which to spot them is from a micro-light aircraft, but this is very expensive as there are no micro-lights based anywhere along the coast of Mozambique, so the plane and pilot would have to be “imported”. Divers wanting a Whale Shark experience are normally based at a dive resort along the cost of Mozambique, either at a resort close to the town of Inhambane, on one of the islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago or at Pemba in the north of the country. The Whale Sharks are usually encountered on the boat ride out to the dive site, and on the return trip back to shore after the dive. The distance from the shore to the reefs is anything from a few hundred meters to 25 km’s out to sea, so the chances of “bumping” into a Whale Sharks is very good when on your way to and from a dive. As soon as the caudal fin of the Whale Shark is spotted the skipper of the “duck” (Zodiac or RIB) positions the boat in the path of the oncoming Whale Shark and the divers bail overboard, as quickly and quietly as possible, and wait for the Whale Shark to swim up to them. The amount of time that the divers are able to interact with the Whale Shark can be anything from a few seconds to 15 minutes and longer, depending on the individual animal. Experience has shown that it’s best to interact with the Whale Sharks when on snorkel and not on scuba as the exhaust bubbles from the regulator often frightens the Whale Sharks away. For the non-scuba diver wanting the experience of being able to interact with Whale Sharks, you are able to charter a “Rubber Duck” purely for this purpose, and you spend as many hours as you like cruising the back-line, just beyond the breakers, looking for, and when found, interacting with the animals. The “Duck’s” are chartered out on an hourly bases, just as they would be for divers going on a dive or for deep-sea fishermen going out for a day’s fishing. To be able to get to any of the main locations in Mozambique, either, Inhambane, the Bazaruto Archipelago or Pemba is to fly. Flights depart out of Johannesburg International but to Inhambane and to Pemba, these flights only operate on certain days of the week, unlike flights to Bazaruto which operate daily. Divers must also please remember that Whale Sharks are animals in the wild, who have the whole world’s oceans as their “back yard”. They are extremely sensitive to water temperature, ocean currents, wind and most importantly, the availability of zooplankton, which is their main source of food. Having said that, you must appreciate that although the east coast of Southern Africa has a large and currently healthy population of Whale Sharks it is impossible to guarantee sightings of these gentle giants of the ocean. Obviously the more time you are able to spend on the water looking for the Whale Shark, the better your chances are of interacting with them. Whale Sharks are also protected species in the waters of Mozambique with the result any diver, snorkeler or swimmer want to go out and interact with Whale Sharks will be required to sign a “Code of Conduct” (attached) which specifies the “Do’s and Don’ts” when diving and interacting with Whale Sharks. As you will see from this code of conduct, it is forbidden to touch and hang on to these animals. Please be advised of this, as this code of conduct is strictly enforced and is there for the protection of these wonderful animals. Also, when diving anywhere in South Africa or Mozambique, please don’t expect to do more than 2 dives a day. By noon, along the entire east coast of southern Africa the wind tends to pick up quite a bit, causing white caps on the ocean and making diving conditions difficult and even dangerous. As all dives are drift dives, it’s very difficult for the skipper of the Rubber Duck to spot the buoy in rough conditions and even more difficult to spot individual divers as they surface after their dive. The first dive of the day is usually scheduled for sunrise with the second dive of the day being scheduled after surface interval time and breakfast, at about 10h30. By noon, when the wind has picked up, all dives for the day have been completed. If by chance there is no wind, then a 3rd or even 4th dive might be possible, but this is very unlikely. The wind tends to drop by about 17h00, and if it does, then there is the possibility of a night dive. But this can only be confirmed on the day, at about mid-afternoon. Remember when diving anywhere off the coast of Mozambique you are thousands of kilometres from the nearest medical facility and recompression chamber with the result that all dive operators in Mozambique do not allow "pushing the limits" and prefer to err on the side of caution, so as to minimise the possibility of any dive accidents. There is no technical diving or deep de-co diving in Mozambique. That’s the whale shark story.
I'm afraid that to spend one day looking for Whale Sharks off the coast of South Africa, specifically off Sodwana Bay, because that is the place that they are "occasionally" encountered, is expecting nigh on the impossible. Sodwana Bay offers the best chance of encountering Whale Sharks during our summer months, November through March, but they are few, and far between, and cannot be encountered with any regularity or certainty. Off the coast of Mozambique, you stand a far better chance, but I doubt if you will be that far north.

Diving with Sharks

Not an easy question to answer, as South Africa has a 3 000 km coastline, and we are blessed with a very large variety of sharks, from Great Whites, Mako, Blue, Sevengill, Guitar, Sand Tigers (Raggies or Grey Nurse Sharks), Tiger Sharks, Bull (Zambezi) Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Copper Sharks, Black Tip Sharks and many, many, more species. All of which divers would love to dive amongst! Sharks are also to a large degree, territorial. So a shark that prefers warm waters won’t be found in the cold waters off the Cape. Likewise, Great White’s which prefer the colder waters won’t be found in the tropics. To compound matters even more, sharks are seasonal. Some species are resident and stay the whole year round, other, come and go according to the seasons. So……. After that brief introduction to shark diving:- Are you and your husband certified divers? That will limit you to the type of shark diving you will be able to do. Where do you want to do your shark diving? Cape Town, Simon’s Town, Gansbaai, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, Protea Banks, Aliwal Shoal, or Sodwana Bay. What type of sharks would you preferably like to dive with? Great White’s, Blue Sharks, Mako Sharks, Sevengill Sharks, “Raggies” (Sand Tiger or Grey Nurse Sharks), Tiger Sharks, Zambezi Sharks (Bull Sharks), Hammerhead Sharks? What time of year do you want to dive with the sharks? As I’ve already said, most sharks are “seasonal”. Please follow this link for the Shark Timetable. Please also remember, the sharks haven’t read this timetable. http://www.divethebig5.com/shark-diving/timetable.html And lastly, how long would you and your husband like to spend diving with the sharks? Looking forward to introducing you to our wonderful shark populations and to getting you “wet”.
As for “free diving” with sharks! That’s a completely different “kettle of fish”, if you will excuse the pun. South Africa is reputed as having some of the healthiest shark populations in the world. We were the first country in the world to protect the Great White Shark and this was done as an act of parliament way back in 1991 and since then lots has been done to protect the sharks off our coast. But having a 3 000-kilometre coastline it’s not a simple task, but never the less we are blessed with an enormous number of shark species. And for this reason South Africa must rank as one of the top spots in the world to view and swim with sharks. Most divers who want to dive with sharks don’t want to come and dive with the tame ”Micky Mouse” species, like the Shy Shark, Cow Shark, Gully Shark, and Broadnose Sevengill Sharks, Blacktip Reef Sharks, etc. They want to dive with the big “Man Eating Sharks”!! # 1 on the list is the Great White, thank you David Benchley and Steven Spielberg! Then next on the list are the Tiger Sharks, Bull (Zambezi) Sharks, Grey Nurse (Ragged Tooth) Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Blue Sharks, Mako Sharks, the list just goes on and on. For starters, in South Africa it is illegal to “free dive” with the Great White. All Great White Shark diving is done in a cage out of Simon’s Town, Gansbaai or Mossel Bay. http://www.divethebig5.com/shark-diving/shark-diving/great-white-shark/gansbaai-simonstown.html there is no cage diving off the KwaZulu/Natal. The only cage diving is Great White shark cage diving which takes place off Cape Town at either Simon’s Town or Gansbaai. Free diving, or a “baited shark dive” http://www.divethebig5.com/shark-diving/shark-diving/the-bait-debate.html is done off Cape Point (Blue & Mako Sharks), off Protea Banks – Shelly Beach, and off Aliwal Shoal – Umkomaas, (Tiger, Zambezi, Raggies, and Hammerheads). These are all seasonal and we suggest you go to the following link to establish the best months of the year to dive with what species of shark. http://www.divethebig5.com/shark-diving/timetable.html A Baited Shark Dive: When we dive with Blue Sharks, Mako Sharks, Tiger Sharks, we use the “baited sub surface drift” method. We started the surface work a la’ the Great White Shark cage diving in 2002 /3, but without a cage, and it has been very successful, other than breaching, we are getting all the other behavioral “stuff” that they get with the Great Whites. And the most asked question!!! Why do we use a cage when diving with Great White’s yet when diving with Tigers, Blue’s, Mako we don’t use a cage?? Are Tiger Sharks / Blue Sharks / Mako Sharks not dangerous? All wild animals in their natural environment are dangerous, but unlike Great Whites who prey mainly on live animals, Tiger Sharks especially are scavengers, and prefer to eat something that’s already dead rather than to hunt live pray. Let’s hope the Tiger Shark agrees!!! Once we arrive at the dive site, we start chumming so as to attract the Tigers / Blue & Mako Sharks, and put out a buoy with the bait, which is contained in a stainless steel “box” with holes in it, so that the “smell” and oil from the sardines in the “box” permeate into the water. When the first sharks appear, the DM assesses the situation and if he is of the opinion that the sharks are going to stay around awhile and that they are not aggressive, the divers may enter the water. Either you can view the action from the “safety” of the boat, or for non-certified divers, on snorkel, certified divers drop down to about 5 meters and follow the action from below. This is a drift dive as the boat, chum and bait is drifting with the wind and surface current, as are the divers at 5 meters. Should the sharks swim off or disappear, the snorkelers and divers climb back onto the boat and we move to another location and start all over again. For this type of dive, you don’t have to be a certified diver, so an uncertified diver does the dive in the surface of the ocean using snorkel, mask and fins. In order to drop down to where the bait box is suspended, you have to be an OW1 certified diver. Diving with Raggies, Bull and Hammerhead is very seasonal and we usually encounter these species on a normal reef dive, but are “target species” in that we concentrate the dive around encountering these specific species, which are very seasonal.

Diving – General

Got it! All our dives in South Africa and Moz are led by a qualified Dive Master. They actually go down with each group of divers, the DM has the Surface Maker Buoy (SMB), and stays with the group till the last diver is low on air, and then they both ascend together. Any diver who is heavy on air, and need to ascend before their buddy, advises the DM that they are low on air, 50 bar, and ascends on their own on the buoy line. It’s all very organised and controlled. In Apartheid days the likes of PADI, NAUI, BSAC all boycotted South Africa, and the only certification agency in the country was CMAS, so you will find, all us “oldies”, are CMAS certified. Now its 90% PADI.
For the CMAS 1* diver, with “brevet” PE40, it will be no problem. We will request that he / she buddies up with the Dive Master. All dives in South Africa, and Mozambique, are accompanied by a fully qualified Dive Master (DM). The dive master has the SMB (Surface Marker Buoy). The DM is always the first to descend and waits at the bottom until all the divers are safely on the bottom. Only once all the divers are safely down does the dive commence. When a diver runs low on air, at about 50 bar, they let their dive buddy know, and they also let the DM, who is leading the dive with the SMB know, and then they ascend up the buoy line. The skipper, on the boat above, follows the buoy, and as the divers ascend, and reach the surface, the skipper helps them back in the boat. Only once the last diver has run low on air, the last diver, and the Dive Master, ascend to the surface and get back into the boat. Once all the dive gear has been stowed, and fastened, does the skipper head back to shore. Quite organised.

Stupid Questions

Many thanks for visiting our website and for asking your most intriguing question: “Why do sharks eat fish”I’ve been in this business 20+ years, and this is the first time I have been asked this. Well done! Do I get a prize if I answer it correctly? The answer, I guess, is the same reason why lions eat meat. Or, why Zebra & Buffalo eat grass. And if you think of it, why giraffe eat leaves! I guess they like the taste, I like shrimp, I like spinach, and I like “grass”! Hope I’ve answered your question satisfactorily. Please mail the winner’s check.