Aliwal Shoal is basically a “Three Dive Destination”:-

  • A reef dive destination.
  • A wreck dive destination.
  • A shark dive destination.

A reef dive Destination:

Aliwal Shoal itself is a reef created out of fossilised sandstone almost 80 000 years ago. The area around the shoal consisted of sand dunes and, with heavy rains, the sand and shale dissolved forming a compound of calcium carbonate, which today forms the main body of the shoal.

With the shifting of the continental shelf, approximately 6 500 years ago, the sea level rose causing the flooding of the dunes. Over the years with the continual deposits of sand, sea shells and other reef building materials, a large and elaborate structure was created which today is known today as Aliwal Shoal.

Aliwal is about 2½ km’s long with a width averaging 150 meters. Depths very from 6 to 27 meters (19 to 88 ft) and the shoal offers a tapestry of diversity. The Cathedral area of the reef is one of the more spectacular dives. Its inhabitants include the Ragged Tooth Shark, Loggerhead Turtle and Ribbon Tailed Rays.


A Wreck dive Destination:

In addition to the reef itself, there are also two good wrecks on which to dive. The Produce, an 18 000 ton Norwegian tanker that hit the Shoal and sank in 1974 and the second wreck is the Nebo, which struck the shoal in May 1884 and sunk almost immediately with its cargo of railway material. Both wrecks lie at approximately 30 meters and are fairly intact, which makes for great wreck diving.

A shark dive destination:

On Aliwal there are two methods used to dive with Sharks.

A “baited shark dive” with the target species being Sand Tiger Sharks (Raggies), Zambezi (Bull) Sharks and / or Tiger Sharks. Diving with these three species of Shark is seasonal. Please refer to our Website link to see what sharks you can expect to encounter, and when. Please remember, the Sharks have not seen this link, so they don’t know where they are supposed to be, and when! Ii addition to “the target species” you can also expect to encounter Dusky Sharks and Black Tip Reef Sharks, as these two species are present on Aliwal all year round.

“Free diving” no bait is needed, with the Sand Tiger Sharks “Raggies” or Grey Nurse Sharks.

Raggies are found on the Shoal from July through October. All “Raggie” diving is done on scuba and we usually do the first dive as early in the morning as possible, at first light, so as the be the first group of divers on the reef, as this is when we "catch" the Raggies resting. As more and more divers descend on the reef this tends to drive the Raggie off. After the first dive we return to the Lodge for surface interval time and breakfast before going out for the second “Raggie” dive. Sometimes we may do a 2 tank dive without coming back for breakfast. SIT is done on the boat.

Aliwal Shoal Diving Facts

Latest Information:

50 kms (31 Miles) south of Durban lies Umkomaas, on the banks of the  Mkomazi River. (uMkhomazi means the place of the Cow Whales) due to the large  numbers of whales which once used the estuary of the river as a nursery, giving  birth in the shallows and lolling around in the warm waters.

The Aliwal Shoal is situated 5kms (3 miles) off the village of  Umkomaas.

Some divers who regularly dive Aliwal say the dive is second only to the  boat ride through the breaking surf to get to the shoal, some divers use up all  their air on the ride out - before they even enter the  water!

Depths very from 6 to 27 meters (19 to 88 ft) and offer a tapestry of  diversity. The Cathedral area of the reef is one of the more spectacular dives.  Its inhabitants include the Ragged Tooth Shark, Loggerhead Turtle and Ribbon  Tailed Rays.

For the more daring diver the reef sports a landmark of international  importance - Raggie Cave - one of three locations on the reef famed for its  shark diving; the other two being Cathedral and Shark Gully. From July to  December the Shoal is the congregation point for Ragged Tooth Sharks, where up  to 60 sharks have been encountered at ant one time.

In the history of diving the Shoal there has been no recorded incidence  of aggression or attack between the thousands of sharks and the hundreds of  divers frequenting the reef.

The Aliwal Shoal is not just a vivid pageant of marine life but it is  also the final resting-place of two unfortunate ships, which were once ripped  asunder by the upper reaches of the reef. The Produce (1974), once a 2000 ton bulk  carrier, lies on the sandy bottom at 30 meters (100 ft) and its rusted framework  has formed an established reef, home to many species of fish, including 20 tame Brindle Bass. The Nebo which sank on  its maiden voyage in 1884 lies at 25 meters (82  ft).

The Aliwal Shoal is like a magnet, inextricably drawing countless ocean species into its realm - now it extends the same invitation to  you.

Water temperatures vary from between 19º C to 25º C (66º F to 77º  F)

Tiger Sharks X X X X X
Zambezi  X X X X X X X X X X X X
Oceanic Blacktips  X X X X X X X X X X X X
Hammerhead  X X X X X X
Ragged tooth  X X X X X X X
Guitar  X X X X
Whale  X X X X X X X
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec

Water Temperatures in Aliwal Shoal