great-white
By tyla_admin

Dyer Island

South Africa’s maritime history is arguably one of the most interesting. From tales of the Flying Dutchman haunting the coastal waters to numerous shipwrecks settled neatly on the ocean floor, we have a collection of stories to share and interesting places to explore.

One of those interesting places is Dyer Island, famed for its Great Whites and Cape Fur Seals.

Dyer Island was first named “Ilha da Fera”, or Island of Wild Creatures, by the 15th century Portuguese sailors who travelled a route that would take them past the island. In later years it was formally named Dyer Island after Samson Dyer, a Polynesian seaman who was the first to be stationed on the island back in 1806. The island is home to a colony of Cape Fur Seals, and at the time when Samson Dyer lived there, the colony was mostly living at Geyser Rock, just across from Dyer Island. Samson would harvest the seals and he also collected guano (bird droppings) which was sold as fertiliser. To this day, if you explore Dyer Island, you can see boiling pots and fireplaces left from the time he lived there.

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Believe it or not, but by the mid-19th century, the island was being regularly scrapped off bird droppings, a practice that only stopped in 1983. The droppings were primarily from African penguins who live on the island. The Penguins would use the droppings as a burrow when nesting, and as the droppings were removed, they had no choice but to nest on the open ground. This left them vulnerable to predators, including humans. Towards the late 19th century, penguin eggs were considered a delicacy and many liked to indulge in the treat. Up to 26 400 penguin eggs were collected in 1902 alone. The result of people’s taste for these eggs led to a dramatic decline in the African penguin population.

Also spotted on the island, at one time, were the eastern white pelican. But when man moved onto the island, their nests were destroyed and the eggs were eaten along with the birds.

But the island did, in a way, fight back.

All along the coast lie the ruins of ships caught in fierce storms and unable to navigate away from the treacherous coastline. Many steel and wood wreckages can be seen around the island, most of which were caught on the nearby reefs. And on the island itself, you’ll come across a number of graves, marking the final resting places of those who fell at sea and will now forever have a home on Dyer Island.

Present Day

Today, Dyer Island is a 20 hector sanctuary, protected after it was proclaimed a nature reserve. It is situated just 8.5 km away from Gansbaai, which is one of the best places to go shark cage diving in South Africa. The island is a part if the chain of seabird islands, each popular and protected because of the seabirds nesting there.

The island is officially recognised as an Important Bird Area and has populations of Bank Cormorant, Roseate Tern and African Penguins.

On the adjacent island, about 60 000 Cape Fur Seals can be seen basking in the sun. And wherever there is a big population of seals, you can be sure that there is an equally big population of Great White Sharks lurking nearby. The channel between the two islands has been given the name Shark Alley and it is one of the easiest places to see these gorgeous creatures. The area also happens to be breeding ground for the Southern Right Whale, an endangered species. While exploring the waters here, you will also come across various species of dolphins, as well as other whale species.

South Africa remains one of the best places to dive in the world. Our underwater wilderness is as diverse as it is unbelievably exciting. Book your tour to Gansbaai or Dyer Island and see for yourself!

whaleshark
By tyla_admin

The Sharks of Aliwal Shoal

When planning the perfect diving getaway, sharks might be on your ultimate list…along with all kinds of other underwater critters and creatures.

There are a number of great reasons why you might want to go diving on the Aliwal Shoal. Not only is it a fantastic place to explore wrecks and reefs, but it is also a wonderful spot to see sharks. In fact, the shoal is a wonderful place to see all kinds of interesting sharks, regardless of whether you are diving or snorkelling.

There are 5 main species of sharks that you are likely to find when diving in this part of the world and they are the Blacktip, the Tiger, the Ragged Tooth, the Dusky and the Whale.

Sharks of Aliwal Shoal

The Oceanic Blacktip

Fast, and occasionally aggressive, the Blacktip is one of the few sharks in the world to hunt near river mouths and estuaries, well away from the ocean. These sharks tend to prefer to make their homes in the warmer oceans and as such, they are often seen by divers and swimmers alike. Outside of mating season, these sharks live in segregated groups of males and females.

They eat mostly gamefish, smaller sharks, stingrays, cuttlefish, and crayfish. When diving and snorkelling in Aliwal Shoal or Protea Banks you have a really good chance of getting quite up close and personal with them. One of their odd behavioural traits is that they are sometimes known to leap from the water and land on their backs. This is one of their feeding techniques used when hunting schools of bony fish swimming close to the water surface.

The Tiger Shark

With a fearsome look and a somewhat bad reputation, the Tiger shark is another one of the creatures you’ll see just off the coast of South Africa. The shark gets its name from the dark stripes that are on display during their juvenile years but which all but fade as they grow older. Tigers are well-known for their exceptional sense of smell and sight, and they are really not fussy eaters. Their set of powerful, serrated teeth are capable of cracking sea turtle shells although they are mostly scavengers and have been known to even tuck into car tyres and license plates.

Tiger sharks are best seen during the summer months when the water temperatures are warmer. They are not exactly the most curious of species, instead, they need to be coaxed to make an appearance to divers.

Ragged Tooth

Next on the list is quite a toothy shark, and not at all attractive. But despite appearances, these sharks are pretty docile and are very unlikely to attack unless they feel threatened. Their look has also earned them a place in aquariums all over the world. The Ragged Tooth shark is also known as the Sand Tiger shark and the Grey Nurse shark, and it sticks to small areas around the world, preferring warm water. The best time of the year to see Ragged Tooth sharks at Aliwal Shoal is during the winter months, from June to October. As these sharks tend to stick to the reefs, only scuba divers will see them.

Ragged Tooth

Dusky Sharks

Known for making its home in the tropical and mild waters all over the world, the Dusky shark is a long distance swimmer and migrates according to the ocean temperatures. During the summers they migrate towards the poles while in the winter they head to the equator. In a year they can swim a staggering 2000 nautical miles! Once the females have reproduced, they will give birth in the same area in which they were born. Divers can spot these sharks during the South African winter months.

Whale Shark

Certainly, not your ferocious shark and definitely not a shark with a scary face, the Whale shark is one of the most incredible sharks you’ll see while diving. This is the biggest shark in the world and generally, live a solitary life. You might catch sight of larger numbers of whale sharks in areas which are rich with plankton. This is a filter feeder, and they have the biggest mouths designed for the purpose of filtering. These sharks are super easy to spot, as you probably guessed, and they can’t be missed!

There is no guarantee that you will see whale sharks at Aliwal Shoal. They are actually quite rare but during the summer months, you might just cross paths with a juvenile.

whaleshark

Go diving at Aliwal Shoal with Dive the Big 5 and see all kinds of interesting, unique underwater wildlife.

tiger-shark
By tyla_admin

The Great Importance of Sharks

Every year, Dive the Big 5 offers divers the perfect opportunity to see the “fearsome” creatures of the deep. Except, they are not so fearsome once you get to know more about them.

We dive with some of Southern Africa’s most famous sharks. The Great White, Mako, Raggie, Dusky, Blue, and Whale are just a handful of the sharks that you can dive with. And each of these magnificent species is so important. Many people don’t actually give much thought to just how important sharks are to the health of our oceans and the survival of many of the creatures living within. All they see is the hungry beast that the media often presents them with.

Changing this perception is important for the survival of all sharks, and the change is already happening. With each shark dive, divers get the chance to intimately see the shark in its natural habitat, doing shark things.

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Why are sharks so important?

The simple fact that for much of the general public the importance of sharks remains a mystery, is precisely why articles like this need to be written. Without the knowledge, the public simply remains fearful. So we’re breaking down the reasons why sharks are so important.

Sharks keep the balance

Sharks are responsible for keeping the oceans in balance. They are what is known as a “keystone species” as they are apex predators and so everything below them is kept in harmony through their actions. The species that they keep in check are kept in a healthy, well-balanced number and in turn, the species keep their prey in check as well. This cycle protects both food sources and oxygen levels in the ocean.

Some researchers have found that where shark populations have gone down, nearby coral reefs have started to decline. Herbivores are known to munch on the coral and other ocean plants, as a result causing a lot of damage when there is a lack of an apex predator roaming nearby.

They are the medics

Sharks play the very important role of removing sick and weak creatures from the ocean. By doing this, they are helping to ensure that only the strongest of the species survive and no illness or mutations will be passed on to others. This benefits the sharks because they will not have to use much energy to catch this prey and they will also be making their own environments a lot healthier.

They help the economy

This has little to do with keeping the oceans in pristine condition, and more to do with how the ocean food chain has an effect on the economy. With the loss of sharks, it can be very difficult to keep other predators in line and the result is that these predators end up decimating fish populations that we might rely on.

The other way that sharks can help the economy is through tourism. Small coastal communities rely on the income from those tourists travelling to the area to see sharks. Whether it is through a diving expedition or some other avenue that allows people to see sharks, their presence in the oceans can greatly boost the local economy.

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Our oceans need sharks and once you’ve dived with a shark, you’ll understand why they are actually a beautiful part of the underwater eco-system. With our wide variety of diving opportunities, you can see Great Whites the one day and Tigers the next. Book your dive with the company that has more than 22 years of experience.

Sardine Run South Africa
By Leigh-Anne Harber

Sardine Run 2019: History, Diving and More

2018 blessed us divers with an exquisite sardine run. Well, exquisite is an overstatement, but this year’s turn out of sardines was one of the best we have seen in years. When those first few sardines came darting up the coast, we could hardly contain our excitement, and we were able to share some epic diving with our visitors.

As the year draws to a close, we know that many drivers are keenly planning their 2019 diving calendar and we certainly hope that you are including the Sardine Run on your itinerary!

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By Leigh-Anne Harber

Why does a diving mask fog and what can you do about it?

Diving in South Africa doesn’t always offer the best of visibility. Depending on the time of the year and the location, sometimes seeing the magical underwater world beneath the waves is not as easy as you think. And when having to deal with a foggy diving mask, all of the excitement you’ve been feeling, all of the anticipation for the bright colours and open ocean you had expected to see, can be somewhat dampened.

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