South Africa as a country has so many hidden gems that are only now being discovered. The youngest democracy on the planet and a melting pot of cultural and natural beauty, boasting with an incredible 9 UNESCO world heritage sites.
On the South African coast line, many wonderful diving sites are being discovered or rediscovered and have now been made more accessible to the public. The diving sites are only a tip of an iceberg though, the towns, cultures and people emerging to tell their stories are making this South African a place well worth a place on anyone’s bucket list.
Although it is a great travel destination one of the most asked questions by aspiring travellers, is whether it is safe to travel to South Africa, especially if you are travelling alone and if you are a woman travelling alone. The short answer here is yes, but if it is your first time travelling to South Africa, do the smart thing and travel in a group.
There are very good, budget group tours that cover the best South Africa has to offer. The keyword to research here is “Overlanding”. There are two major players in South Africa, that have been running for more than 20 years each, they both have the infrastructure and support to ensure the safest travels. The one company is called Drifters Adventours and the other is called Nomad Adventure Tours. Their prices are pretty much the same but they do have a variety of differences in their South African Tour, so take your time to compare.
Ladies, in my personal experience, these tours are fantastic for making girlfriends and has sometimes even resulted in some long-term romances. Travelling in a group can be a lot of fun. You don’t have the stresses of planning and driving, you will have an experienced guide that does all of that for you. The guide travelling with you will also know where to source the best provisions locally.
With more than 2,500 kilometres (1,600 miles) of pristine coast line that includes two of the world’s great oceans, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the East selecting some good diving spots can be a challenge so here are a few of my personal favourites:
Simon’s Town, located on the Cape peninsula and the launch site for diving with Cape Fur Seals and the 7 Gilled Cow Sharks. one with the ever-playful Cape Fur Seals and another with the 7 Gilled Cow Shark. Please note that whilst these dives are available year-round you may want to check on the best seasons for these dives.
Gansbaai, the gateway to Great White diving in South Africa. Gansbaai is located just 2 hours from Cape Town and Great White Shark cage diving trips are offered throughout the year. The waters off Dyer Island in Gansbaai are aptly named Shark Alley and are known for their exceptional Great White Shark populations. The sharks are attracted by the massive 60 000-strong Cape Fur Seal colony which inhabits the smaller island of Geyser Rock.
Protea Banks Reef where some of the world’s largest marine predators can be found. Protea Banks is one of the richest Tuna grounds in the world which explains why it is so strongly frequented by Zambezi (Bull) Sharks. Almost all year round they patrol the reef in search of food. Scalloped Hammerheads swim up and down the reef in schools that at times are often hundreds strong, sometimes thousands of animals just keep coming.
Aliwal Shoal. Renowned as one of the best diving spots in South Africa. Dive with Ragged Tooth Sharks, Tiger Sharks and Manta Rays, Dolphins and Whale Sharks all meet in a symphony of greatness.
These are all wonderful places but there is also an annual event that every diver should get to experience at least once, it’s called The Sardine Run and it happens every year between May and July on the East Coast of South Africa and it is an extraordinary marine wildlife event that should not be missed.
Billions of sardines migrate from the Agulhas banks up along the East Coast following a cool counter-current which flows from west to east against the mighty Aghulas current, one of the world’s strongest currents. The fish follow this counter-current up to KwaZulu Natal where they spawn.
In terms of biomass, it is believed the sardine run could rival the East African wildebeest migration. Dolphins, sharks, seabirds and even whales partake in the event and work together to round-up the Sardines and have a feast. It is believed that 18000-20000 common dolphins follow the sardines up the coast and are then joined by the sharks and gannets to round-up the sardines and hunt together.
So, break the trends of only diving in the east and come and experience these wonderful dive sites that are lying here, on the membrane of the African Continent, patiently waiting underwater to be explored.