Protea Banks, 8km off Shelly Beach, is a unique reef system along the Kwa-Zulu Natal South Coast of South Africa, which offers diving experiences second to none! The pelagic life is the main attraction with schools of Yellowtail, Kingfish, Tuna and Barracuda attracting a variety of top predators. The reef is especially known for it’s large “Zambezi ”(Bull Shark) populations and has been rated as one of the world’s top shark dives.
Diving on Protea Banks was started in the early 90’s. Diving with sharks wasn’t on many people’s agenda with the Jaws syndrome still deeply ingrained in much of the diving community. But after a few years things began to change and divers began to realize that these misunderstood creatures were not actually man-eating beasts but actually very intelligent animals who were an absolute privilege to dive with.
In the past years there have been some safely incidents on Protea Banks resulting in 3 deaths and 2 helicopter rescues. These incidents have rippled through the diving community and as a result Protea Banks has gained a reputation as being a potentially dangerous dive site. The dive charter that we use in this area has not been involved in any of these incidents and has a 100% safety record.
Another opinion that seems to be held by the broader diving community is that Protea Banks is a technical dive. When diving Protea Banks you level off at about 30 meters and drift along in predominately moderate currents viewing the marine life as you go. There is nothing technical to it … and a decent buoyancy will make you even more comfortable in the water.
Protea Banks is by no means a novice dive site, however the operator with whom you dive has the necessary experience and knowledge of the sea conditions and the reef. It is as safe as diving on Aliwal Shoal.
There are two dives that can be done on Protea Banks:
1. The first is a reef dive. Due to the depths an Advanced qualification is required for this dive.
The Southern Pinnacles of Protea Banks are dived mainly in the warmer months. This site is home to the Bull (Zambezi) shark which brings a great deal of notoriety to this world-renowned dive location. Other sharks frequenting the Southern Pinnacles include Hammerhead, Oceanic Blacktip and Dusky sharks. For a fortunate few there is even the possibility of seeing a Tiger shark. Guitar sharks are often seen on Sand Shark Gully numbering up to about 50 at a time. A variety of Rays and Potato Bass are seen on a regular basis and game fish love to shoal on the Southern Pinnacles.
The Northern Pinnacles of Protea Banks are dived mainly in the colder months. This site is where the Ragged-tooth sharks come to mate and it allows divers to view the 'Raggies' in close proximity on their annual migration route. The area consists of two 'cave' systems in which the 'Raggies' congregate. At times it is impossible to see the mouth of the 'caves' as it is completely obscured by masses of Ragged-tooth sharks. A variety of Bull (Zambezi), Oceanic Blacktip, Tiger, Dusky and Hammerheads sharks are also seen. There are also a few friendly Potato Bass that regularly love to come and say Hi to the divers. The Northern Pinnacles can also be a very 'pretty' dive as it is rich in reef fish life.
Some of the marine life on Protea Banks can be seen all year round, while others can only be enjoyed during certain months. We can not guarantee specific sighting, but the chances of seeing a particular species are very high during these months:
2. The second dive is a baited shark dive. As we only go to 10m, anyone with an Open Water certification and above can take part in this dive. You just need a decent buoyancy and be willing to get close to sharks … EPIC diving!
8km (5 miles) out to sea from Shelly Beach
Rated as one of the top shark dive sites in the world
Depth of the reef varies 30 - 40m
Baited shark dives take place in mid water at 10m
Current can be from very mild to very strong
Sharks are seasonal with Bull (Zambezi) and Oceanic Blacktip sharks seen throughout the year.
With a very healthy Humpback Whale population at the moment from June to December these Whales are almost seen daily going to and from the dive site and for the very privileged, occasionally on scuba.