If scuba diving is not your thing, or should you not yet have the required experience, you can always try your hand at snorkelling and explore the depths from the surface.
South Africa remains one of the African continents best places to enjoy the thrill of deep sea diving. Travellers from all over the world venture to South Africa each year to see the country’s spectacular wildlife as well as the prolific ocean life swimming deep beneath the waves.
South Africa’s oceans are filled to the brim with extraordinary sea life. While shark diving in South Africa is a big reason why most people come to our shores, while you are exploring the depths, you could also see turtles.
Turtles are the oceans reptiles and have graced the depths for 150 million years. They spend 96% of their lives in the sea and even though they rely on surface air they are accomplished free divers. Female turtles leave the ocean only to lay eggs on the beach, usually the beach from which they were hatched.
These creatures are probably the cutest animals you will encounter while diving and both divers and turtles enjoy swimming together.
There are seven different species of turtle and five of them are found in South African waters. Each turtle species feeds on a different prey, which ensures that they do not need to compete for food or space. Unfortunately turtles are an endangered species and it is mostly the females that are at risk since they have to come ashore to lay eggs. In some countries, turtle meat is still eaten but that is not the only threat to these creatures. Gill nets and pollution along with human ignorance are also impacting the turtle population. There is also a threat to the turtles breeding sites that have a major impact on their survival.
South African Turtles
The Leatherback Turtle is the largest of all the sea turtles. They can weigh up to 900kg and reach a length of 2.5 meters. Their shells are a dark blue/grey colour and mottled, consisting of 7 lateral ridges of pliable shell. They also have very large forearms. Leatherbacks travel on the oceans currents in search of prey. They can dive over 100 meters and stay submerged for up to 35 minutes. They can be found breeding along the Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal coast between November and January, but are generally found all around the South African coastline.
During the breeding season, Leatherback females come ashore on the high tide at night and lay batches of 100 – 200 eggs at a time, over 9-10 days resulting in about 1000 eggs. After about 70 days the young turtles have hatched and head off to the ocean. Of the thousands of hatchlings one in 1000 will reach sexual maturity, which takes 4-5 years. The juveniles feed mostly on jellyfish and grow rapidly.
The Loggerhead Turtle is recognised by its large square head. This turtle has a dark yellow brown shell that has central plates as well as rows of plates on either side on the central ones. The plates do not overlap. These turtles have a slightly hooked bill and claws on each of its limbs.
Loggerhead Turtles keep more inshore making their hunting grounds the reef or rocky estuaries. They have strong jaws that crush their prey which consists of crabs, crayfish, sea urchins and molluscs. Their breeding behaviour is much the same as the Leatherback Turtle.
They get their name from the fat layer that is under their shells; it’s green. Their external colour is a mottled light to dark brown. Green Turtles have a very similar appearance to the Loggerhead Turtle. The most distinctive difference is their shape. The Green Turtle is rounder and flatter with a smoother shell. Another difference is the shape of their bills, the Green Turtle does not have a hooked bill.
Green Turtles are often seen basking on the surface of the ocean since they eat mainly seaweed and sea grass. These turtles lay their eggs on the islands off Mozambique and on other Indian Ocean islands. Sadly, man has hunted this turtle close to extinction.
When you book a diving trip to South Africa, you can be sure that you will be able to spot all kinds of creatures living deep in the ocean. Book your South African dive with Dive the Big 5.
South Africa is one of the most exciting holiday destinations in the world. Any adventurer will agree that our nation is one of the most diverse places in the world and there is plenty to do while visiting.
From shark cage diving off the coast of Gansbaai to diving the Aliwal Shoal and seeing the Sardine Run; to going on safari in the world-famous Kruger National Park or exploring the famous Winelands, there is something for everyone. When you plan your trips properly, making sure that your travel itinerary includes all of the best places to visit, you’ll get a real taste of what our country has to offer.
For the longest time, divers have been treated to the most incredible diving locations but when planning their trips, they often tend to leave out the other must see places, such as any one of the various safari destinations. Dive the Big 5 is the only tour operator in the country who offers combination tour packages which include days spent enjoying the best scuba diving in the Southern Hemisphere and seeing all kinds of wildlife in some of the country’s best national parks.
Diving in South Africa
South Africa has an epic coastline, filled with exciting places to see different types of marine life including the Great White Shark. Deep sea diving is the norm here and divers can also see various bright coral reefs, shipwrecks and more when they explore the depths of Aliwal Shoal or Protea Banks. Some of the country’s best coral reef destinations include Sodwana Bay.
While some of the best diving can be experienced in the warm waters off the coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal, there is also great diving closer to Cape Town. Here you can explore the kelp forests or go shark cage diving. This is also the perfect place to spot seals and penguins.
If you plan your diving carefully, you could arrive in South Africa during the Sardine Run. This is an annual marine event that takes place along the Kwa-Zulu Natal coast. Each year millions of sardines swim up the coast, most evading both ocean and air predators. Guests to South Africa can view the Sardine Run from the coast, from a boat or by diving.
When diving in South Africa planning is key to a successful adventure and it is important to book your tour correctly. Working with a tour operator will eliminate the possibility of leaving something off of your to-do list, such as accommodation or transfers.
Safari trips in South Africa
Not only is South Africa one of the best diving destinations in the world, but it is also Africa’s top safari destination. Home to the Big 5 and all kinds of other animals, safari trips are well worth the adventure and when here, they are not to be missed.
South Africa is the only destination in the world that offers great diving destinations as well as wildlife safaris. You could be exploring the oceans one day, and going on a real African safari the next.
Book your combination tour of diving and wildlife safari today and see the real South Africa.
South Africa is without a doubt one of the premier diving destinations for divers of all kinds. We are home to countless breathtaking deep diving locations where divers can get up close and personal with some of the world’s most intriguing underwater wildlife.
Diving throughout the year presents the opportunity to see all kinds of different marine animals, and for many divers, winter is the best time of the year to go exploring. Depending on where you go diving, you will need to prepare in different kinds of ways. Most of South Africa’s best diving locations can be found in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean while those wanting to go shark cage diving will have to brave the icy cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
South Africa enjoys an almost unbelievable amount of sunlight all year round. There are very few cloudy, rainy days, even when you are diving in the Atlantic Ocean. The Cape area is quite notorious for its cold winters but seeing as you will be beneath the waves, this really makes little difference. The Atlantic is generally quite cold but with the right diving gear, you will be well prepared for the adventure that awaits.
March to June
South Africa, being in the Southern Hemisphere, has its winter between April and August although it only really starts getting cold towards the end of May. During these few months of the year, divers are in for a treat in so many ways.
The most exciting thing to do when you dive in the winter is the Sardine Run. Each year, hundreds of thousands of sardines will swim up the coast, causing a frenzy among divers, fishermen and predators alike. The Sardine Run doesn’t start at any particular time of the year, but generally, the sardines begin to appear in May and disappear as late as September. Those wanting to dive at this time of the year will usually have the option of viewing the Sardines from a boat or from the shore, while there is also the option of diving.
If spotting sharks is on your diving bucket list, then diving at this time of the year will give you the opportunity to see Zambezi Sharks, Oceanic Blacktip’s and Tiger Sharks at the Protea Banks and Aliwal North, Blue Sharks and Mako’s at Simon’s Town, and Great White Sharks at Gansbaai. Spotting Dusky Sharks and Whale Sharks are a bit of a rare sighting regardless of the time of year you visit.
The other diving locations include wreck and reef dives, but they can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
Choose the Perfect Combination of Diving and Wildlife Safari
At Dive the Big 5 we are the only diving company offering both diving and the safari experience, all in one trip. You can customise your trip to South Africa by combining the two experiences in order to give you the ultimate African holiday. When doing this, you will have the perfect opportunity to spend one day diving in the best locations while the next you can be exploring the wildlife living in the Kruger National Park.
Book the ultimate diving experience with Dive the Big 5 and see the best of South Africa.
Revisiting the Topic of Sardines
The Sardine Run and all of the excitement that comes along with it is just a few months away. We thought that it is the best time to brush up on sardines.
- It is believed that the name Sardine comes from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, where sardines were abundant in the 15th
- Sardines are in the same family as Herring, namely Clupeidae.
- These small oily fish are rich in nutrients and consumed the world over and not only by humans but also seabirds, marine mammals and larger fish. Sardines along with other small pelagic fish account for about ¼ of all the marine fish caught throughout the world. Most of us know sardines as an omega-3 fatty acid mostly enjoyed from tins purchased at the local grocer, but these fish can also be purchased fresh and then grilled, pickled or smoked.
- Sardines are also used for commercial fishing purposes or made into fish meal or oil that is used in animal feeds. Sardine oil is also used in the manufacture of paint, varnish or linoleum.
- Sardines live mostly in the upper layers of the ocean, to a depth of about 200m. At dusk, sardines move closer to the surface of the water and at dawn, they move into deeper water. This phenomenon is known as Diurnal Vertical Migration. This means that they follow the light. Diurnal migration is used as a defence system from predators. As sardines move to the surface they scatter, and when they descend again they concentrate on forming shoals.
- Sardines are well camouflaged from predators by their colouring. Their abdomens are lighter than their backs. Swarming together when predators are closing in on them confuses the predator, as predators are then not sure how big their prey is. Predators also then struggle to single out one sardine in the group. Safety in numbers really works for these fish!
- Sardines live off phytoplankton and zooplankton. They play an important role in the marine food chain as they, by been consumed by larger fish, sea birds and marine mammals, then transfer the energy produced by the plankton to their predators.
- Although Sardines can live up to an age eight years and measure up to 25cm from the tip of head to tail, they do have a very high mortally rate and rarely reach that age or size.
Why are Sardines so healthy?
- Sardines are an excellent source of protein and because they feed on plankton, they contain much less mercury and other heavy metals that are found in larger fish.
- As the sun becomes a place we avoid, so more and more people are Vitamin D deficient. One can of sardines give you about half of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin D you need.
- Sardines are a rich source of selenium. Selenium is needed for our bodies to produce glutathione while it is also important for maintaining a healthy thyroid. Sardines are consumed with their skin and bones, thus making sardines a great way to get 1/3 of the calcium we need in one tin in its most absorbable way.
Spots for the Sardine Run are filling up and if you want to make sure that you don’t miss this year excitement, be sure to book your place today!
It’s never too early to start your planning for the annual South African sardine run!
From June to July, every year, South Africa plays host to one of the most sensational displays of marine life prowess. Millions of sardines begin their migration up the east coast, luring out both ocean and air predators in a spectacle that can last up to 3 months. Past seasons have been relatively quiet, but last year broke this lull and the sardines arrived in huge numbers, much to the delight of tourists, fishermen and the anyone wanting to catch a couple of sardines for themselves.
The sardine run is one of our busiest times of the year. Dive the Big 5 plans numerous trips for guests wanting to witness this event from the comfort of a boat as well as for those who want to take a dip in the deep. We’ve already started taking bookings for the 2019 season and we encourage anyone wanting to join, to make their booking as soon as possible.
Our trips leave out of 3 locations; Kentani, Port St Johns and East London. Each trip provides guests with up to 6 days (depending on the package chosen) to experience the Sardine Run.
About the 2019 Sardine Run and how to view it
As last year’s run was celebrated as being quite successful, there are high hopes for this year’s migration. But as with anything else to do with nature, it is next to impossible to predict what the outcome will be. Guests will certainly enjoy a unique trip, regardless of the amount of sardines they get to see, as the South African coast is filled with all sorts of marine life, some of which can be seen from the boat.
Those opting to go diving during the sardine run are in for an even more spectacular adventure. Diving during the sardine run is certainly not for the light hearted. It takes stamina and some experience to do it safely. Considering the number of predators in the water during the run, as well as the ocean conditions, being fit, calm and in good health are all a must! Spending up to 5 hours a day scuba diving means you have to have your qualifications in order. An open water certification is a necessity.
Not keen on staying in the boat, but also not qualified to scuba dive? No problem! Why not go snorkelling? To do this, you’ll need to be a more than competent swimmer and you’ll need to have some knowledge about using a mask, fins and snorkel.
Guests need to know that the sardines will not show up on cue, even if all of the conditions are perfect. The sardines are on their own mission, and although we’d like them to read our itinerary, we’ve had to accept that they will turn up when they are ready. This means that even if you were to spend 5 days diving, snorkelling or simply observing comfortably from the boat, you might only have 2 days of sardines.
The sardines like colder waters. So if the temperature of the waters closer to shore doesn’t drop to 19 degrees Celsius, the sardines will linger further out to sea. The one upside of this, should the sardines stay away, is that the predators are still expecting them, and will be in the area. All are waiting for the arrival of the sardines, giving you the opportunity to see thousands of sharks, whales, dolphins, seagulls, seals and penguins. Your tour will be anything but uneventful!
Dive the Big 5 makes it easier for guests from all over the world to come diving in South Africa. The sardine run is around the corner and if you want to experience the 2019 migration, now is the best time to make your booking!
South Africa is a land of diversity, and so is the coastline along the southern tip. Home to the marine Big 5, those visiting and diving in South Africa will be in for a treat when coming across any of these ocean inhabitants.
From the Garden Route to the City of Cape Town, this region of the Western Cape Province is already well-known as the Whale Route. But it is also a place for visitors to have an opportunity to see the Marine Big Five. When visiting or diving in South Africa, one of the must do things is to dive in this unique area of South Africa and tick off all these popular sea animals.
- The Great White Shark
- Southern White Whales
- The Cape Fur Seal
- The African Penguin
Great White Sharks
Top of the list of the Marine Big Five is most certainly the Great White Shark. This shark is one of the largest sharks in the ocean, growing to lengths of 4.5 to 6 meters and often weighing up to 2.5 tons. The Great White is equipped with several rows of regenerating serrated teeth. Regardless of its size, this fearsome predator is capable of swimming at a speed of 25km per hour.
Shark cage diving in South Africa centres on giving guests the opportunity to get really up close and personal to the one shark that has not only made headlines in the media but which has also become the stuff of horror movies. Despite appearances, the Great White is not nearly the villain it is made out to be. These sharks are well-known to frequent the Cape coast.
Southern White Whales
In the sheltered bays (False Bay or Hermanus) is where the Southern White Whales have their nurseries. A site to behold is seeing these whales frolicking a mere stone’s throw from the shore. Fully grown Southern White Whales grow to a length of 16 meters, a sight to make anyone’s jaw drop! If you are visiting South Africa during the months from June to December, take the time to visit the “Whale Route”, as this is when the whales move into the shallow waters of the bays to calf.
When we think of the oceans, we usually think of dolphins, so a trip to the ocean without seeing dolphins is considered incomplete. South Africa’s coastline has a rich marine biodiversity, making the spotting of dolphins more than likely the first of the Big Five that will be ticked off. Bottlenose, Long-Beaked and even the shy Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins can all be seen jumping in and out of the surf in both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans of the South African coastline.
The Cape Fur Seal
As cumbersome as they move on the land, so they can move with swift agility in the water. Cape Fur Seals can be found from Namibia and all around the cape and as far up as Port Elizabeth. At the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town, Hout Bay and Kalk Bay these seals are the star attraction. As shy as the seals are on land, so curious they are in the water, so why not go snorkelling in Hout Bay with the Cape Fur Seals.
The African Penguin
This dapper creature was on the brink of extinction, but now has some well-established colonies dotted around the Western Cape while St. Croix Island in Algoa Bay boasts the largest population in the world. For a guaranteed sighting year around, a visit to the penguin colony at Boulder Beach is a must. A walk on the beach or boardwalk will give you a spectacular view of these unique little creatures in their natural habitat.
Planning a diving trip to South Africa? Why not book yours with us? We have over 25 years of experience and we can assist you in planning the trip of a lifetime.
If you looking for the best diving site off the South African Coast, the coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal is blessed with the warm Agulhas current and a mere 8 km offshore is the diving hotspot, the Protea Banks. This dive site ranks amongst the best in the world with indigo blue water and much pelagic fish. This reef caters for a large variety of sharks, so if its sharks you after, this is the place to be.