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Aliwal Shoal, Umdoni Coast, KwaZulu Natal

Aliwal Shoal offers some of the most varied and exciting diving in the world and is regularly showered with accolades by international dive magazines. The Aghulas Current runs south along the east coast of Africa, bringing with it, warm water and a huge diversity of tropical sea life.

Aliwal Shoal was formed thousands of years from fossilized sand dunes, when the sea levels where much lower than they are today. The Shoal is about five kilometres long and about three to five kilometres offshore. It supports an incredible variety of marine life as well as dramatic topography.

The Wrecks on Aliwal Shoal
The Produce

– Maximum depth 32m
– Advanced Divers

This cargo ship hit the reef and sunk in 1974 and is lying on its hull in 3 sections.  The stern and bow are more or less intact, but the centre section has totally collapsed. Everyone who dives here is hoping to catch a glimpse of the two resident giant Brindle Bass, which are rumoured to weigh around 400kg!  The wreck’s toilet has an interesting resident, a big moray eel. Rare Harlequin Goldie’s are seen here and if the visibility is good you might be lucky enough to see a Tiger Shark.

The Nebo

– Maximum depth 27m
– Advanced Divers

This old steamer’s wooden wreck, which sank in 1884, lies approximately 1km north west of Aliwal Shoal. Large numbers of eels and large shoals of baitfish can be seen all times of the year.  Around the boiler area you will find many different species of shrimp. Barracuda and Tuna are often seen around this area hunting smaller fish which shelter here.  Rare sightings of Paper Fish and Frog Fish have been recorded.  Visibility is not as good as on the Produce.

Tiger and hammerhead sharks are often sighted in the summer months so this is a top spot for getting up close and personal with predators.

Arguably the most spectacular site on the Shoal is the Cathedral, which has a huge arch that dominates an amphitheatre-like hole in the southern section of the reef. The arch is encrusted with marine life, while the amphitheatre is home to many large stingrays, moray eels and from July to November, large numbers of Ragged-Tooth Sharks.

Raggies Cave is another top spot to view big groups of Ragged-Tooth Sharks. This site has a large “overhang” with two swim-throughs and is world renowned and popular. Be sure to follow the correct raggie etiquette  – divers may not enter the cave when the sharks are in residence but can hold on to the large rock at the entrance and watch in awe as the fearsome looking raggies move in and out or rub themselves in the sand.

If you can drag yourself away from the action you’ll find numerous eels lurking in the reef, resident Potato Bass, turtles, Scorpionfish, Stonefish and in the gullies, a variety of juvenile reef fish.

Eelskin, at the south-western tip of the reef, is a superb example of the fossilised rock formations, swim-throughs, sand gullies and caverns that symbolize the Shoal. This reef has something for everyone – wonderful corals, numerous cleaning stations, lots of rare creatures, such as Peacock Manta Shrimp and plenty of sharks. So, not surprisingly, this is where the baited shark diving is offered.

Getting there: Aliwal Shoal is accessible at Park Rynie, 65km south of Durban, along the N2.

More info on the town of Sezela More info on the Umdoni Coast area


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