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 https://www.divethebig5.co.za/shark-timetable.html 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
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)
Some of the marine life on Aliwal Shoal can be seen all year round, while others can only be enjoyed during certain months. We cannot guarantee specific sighting, but the chances of seeing a particular species are very high during these months:
This area, together with Protea Banks, is the best-known and most popular dive destination in the country.
Aliwal Shoal is about 5 km (3 miles) off the mouth of the Umkomaas River
Near Aliwal Shoal in KwaZulu-Natal there are 2 wrecks - The Nebo, which sank on its maiden voyage in 1884 - at 25 meters (82ft) and the The Produce (1974), 2 000 ton bulk tanker - at 30 meters (100ft). Its rusted framework has formed an established reef.
Whether you are a novice or experienced diver you will find a dive site to suit your experience
Dive sites are quite far from the shore
All dives are zodiac (rubber ducks) dives with launches through the surf
Dives are drift dives led by local divemasters
Diving is most dependable in the winter months from May to October. At this time, the visibility is good and the migratory spotted, ragged-tooth sharks are in residence.
Dive sites closer in shore are best dived in winter as the summer rain causes high run-off from many rivers. The resulting low visibility is exacerbated from time to time by industrial effluent from the nearby SAICCOR pulp-processing plant. Divers have nick-named this scourge the ‘purple death’.
All diving in South Africa is best done early. Firstly the “Raggies” are found in vast numbers on the reef but, as the day wears on, and the reefs are visited by more divers, the “Raggies” tend to move off. Also, in the mornings, the wind and the seas tend to pick up causing a chop on the water and this makes for unpleasant diving.
The KwaZulu-Natal South Coast is an absolute pleasure for non-diving companions as it is a very well-developed tourist area catering mainly for family holidays.
Lovely long beaches
Golf, tennis, bowls, horse-riding
Shopping malls and restaurants - a major feature of the area
The Wild Coast Sun Casino - a short drive down the coast