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Posted on: Thursday, 3 February 2011

Top 10 Dive Sites in South Africa

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Dive Sites

Our team got together and wanted to bring you a top 10 that was both exhilarating and refreshing. We cast our minds to the gorgeous coastline that surrounds us here in beautiful South Africa and took a closer look at the Top 10 Dive Sites in South Africa on offer. Although the challenge was to only mention ten locations, the purpose of this is to get the soul exploring and open your hearts and minds to what is on offer.

There is something here for everyone from the adrenaline junkie to the more experienced diver, up for a challenge, and even some sites for beginners. This is our take on the top ten Dive Sites in South Africa, we hope you enjoy and are inspired to keep exploring!

  1. Raggie Cave / Shark AlleyAliwal Shoal, KwaZulu Natal
  2. Sardine Run – Protea Banks, KwaZulu Natal
  3. UniformsSodwana Bay, KwaZulu Natal
  4. Hotspot – Sodwana Bay, KwaZulu Natal
  5. Avalanche Reef – Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
  6. Haerlem Wreck – Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
  7. Storms River Mouth – Mossel Bay, Garden Route
  8. Paquita Wreck – Knysna Heads, Garden Route
  9. A Frame – Simonstown, Cape Town
  10. Clifton Rock – Cape Town

1. Raggie Cave / Shark Alley – Aliwal Shoal, KwaZulu Natal

Raggie Cave and Shark Alley are the two names used for the same dive site situated 50km south off the coast of KwaZulu Natal called Aliwal Shoal. It is made up of an 80,000 year old sandstone reef and has been selected as one of the top ten dives sites of the world promising almost anything a diver can wish for. From June through November you are sure to see Ragged Tooth Sharks and in summer you are most likely to see Tiger sharks and Hammerheads!

After you are launched from the river mouth you will travel on “The RIBS” (Rigid Inflatable Boat) through the surf for a twenty-minute ride to the reef where you can expect depths from between 6 to 18 meters. Visibility will vary from about 5 to 40 meters and water temperatures are 24+ °C in summer and in winter not colder than 19 °C.

“The dives are all done without cages and afford the unique opportunity to see the sharks in their natural environment!” Well there you have it folks! Thrilling!

2. Sardine Run – Protea Banks, KwaZulu Natal

This “unbelievable spectacle of Mother Nature” happens annually and starts just north of Port Elizabeth moving quickly up the coast, to a site called Protea Banks in KwaZulu Natal. Taking place during the months of June and July, massive schools of sardines start their migration from the colder waters of the Cape and move to the warmer waters of KwaZulu Natal to birth their young. “The ocean awakes and the thrill is simply indescribable!”

You will experience this natural phenomenon, cage-less and free, as you dive to depths of about 5-7 meters and watch the scene unfold around you. Dolphins, fish of prey, whales, sharks and even the Cape Gannet (diving into the water from 20m above), all on a mission to catch their piece of the sardine buffet.

3. Uniforms – Sodwana Bay, KwaZulu Natal

This Sodwana Bay dive site is situated in coastal dunes and is part of the greater, well preserved, iSimangaliso Wetland Park (previously St Lucia Wetland Park) north of Durban. Known for its coral diversity, Uniform is a less “risky” dive and is situated east of ‘5 mile reef’ and is approximately 45 meters long and 50 meters wide. The best time for diving here is said to be between April and September even though that is when the water is at its coldest. If you prefer the summer water temperatures of about 25 degrees during the months of December and January you are set for a treat as this is the time the turtles lay their eggs.

Uniform promises to spoil you with its layered contoured coral and ocean beauties such as the Tiger Angelfish, purple butterfly fish, yellow tail goldie and much more. It is a fabulous experience and leaves you wanting more! Which takes us to our next dive spot …

4. Hotspot – Sodwana Bay, KwaZulu Natal

Hotspot in Sodwana Bay is all about Zambezi and Tiger sharks, whipcorals, game fishing, and blue and gold Fusiliers. This site is located just south of ‘5 mile’ where you will begin your launch from a 100 meter long ledge and reach depths of 27-30 meters. There are two longnose Hawkfish that hide under the overhang of black coral, a great site to see. Once again take the time to check out more diving sites around the area and make sure you take full advantage of this fabulous place with so much on offer! “There are caves, pinnacles and many places famous for its sharks.”

5. Avalanche Reef – Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

Known for its beautiful coastal scenery, Port Elizabeth offers a hub of outdoor water activities and some great dive sites. The water temperatures are definitely some of the coldest so if you own a dry suit it is advisable to use as this will ensure a more comfortable way to explore the marine life on show. It is all worth it, as you will see, when you experience Avalanche Reef with its “awesome topography and spectacular colours!”

A gorgeous, densely populated coral reef right here in our awesome South Africa! This is an amazing experience that will open your eyes to the splendour of our diverse country and fill you with a new sense of wonder.

6. Haerlem Wreck – Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

This dive takes you into the cooler waters of Port Elizabeth to depths of about 18-21 meters. A wreck site made from the navy frigate that, in its later life, found its purpose as an artificial reef perfect for divers. “The Haerlem was built in 1958 and disarmed in 1963 … the ship was finally scuttled in Algoa Bay on November 30, 1987.”

She has settled 21 meters below the surface, with her bow to the south and has created holes, nooks and crannies for the curious diver keen to encounter some shy sharks, a variety of fish and soft coral.

7. Storms River Mouth – Mossel Bay, Garden Route

Mossel Bay is a bay that is well sheltered and offers one of the “mildest climates of the world”. This dive location is perfect for adrenaline junkies as it is well known for its shark cage diving where you will see Great Whites feeding. For those on the other end of the adrenalin-spectrum, Storms River Mouth is the location for you, as it is all about gorgeous reefs and big fish! With the drop off being quite a tame one via boat it is also possible to do some night diving which is a whole new experience and very exciting. Mossel bay, being a part of the famous Garden Route, offers a full getaway experience and it is essential that you take full advantage of this beautiful location and all it has to offer you.

8. Paquita Wreck – Knysna Heads, Garden Route

Situated in the small touristy town of Knysna, found on the Garden Route, this dive (to depths of up to 20 meters) promises to be one of the best wreck dives you will see around these parts. The Paquita, a 460 ton German vessel, ran ashore in 1903 when she struck the Knysna Heads en-route to Barbados. This dive is all about timing as it is located on the mouth of a large lagoon where tides get pretty rough.

Seahorses, Steenbras and gorgeous corals are just some of the marine life you will see.

9. A Frame – Simonstown, Cape Town

Located 5km south of Simons Town, the A Frame area consists of 3 shore dives – one of which is also called the A Frame, said to be named after the small cave entrance shaped in an A. Entering this dive site is considerably easier than the other dives mentioned, as you make your way from the white beach sand into the water, which makes this location a perfect spot for a night dive. You can expect to see pipefish, lobsters, seals, several types of rays and some harmless sharks such as pyjama sharks and dogfish.

10. Clifton Rock – Cape Town

Situated in the Atlantic Ocean about 100 meters off the shore south-west of Cape Town, is where you will find Clifton Rock. It is a much “lighter” experience than the shark dives above and is still rated as one of the most popular sites for a its more independent approach and social atmosphere. Clifton Rock encompasses an area with a large number of boulders, creating wonderful swim-throughs and secret spots for marine life including nudibranches, starfish, soft sponges and crayfish.

This is a great intro for new divers still getting into their swing and a great activity to enhance your long summer days with some sunbathing on the beach and a new experience that is both fun and definitely refreshing!


With thanks to:

The SA-Venues.com Team


Photographs, posts and articles filed under "The SA-Venues.com Team" are either very old articles (this blog has been going since 2005!), are a combined effort or have been submitted to us by a third party, the name of which is/should be displayed in or below the actual article. Special offers and general event posts are also found here as they are generally a team effort.

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1 comment about Top 10 Dive Sites in South Africa
  1. February 2nd, 2012 at 21:28
    Daryl says:

    Hello. I just want to clarify a few things with regards to A-FRAME, The site was named after a wooden tripod navigation beacon which has since been removed, also it’s not a simple sandy shore entry, it has quite a long grass embankment and then some tricky rocks you have to negotiate before entering the water. There is however a cave with an A-shaped entrance and it is a stunning site. It is one of my favouries. There are two sites nearby, Windmill Beach and Long Beach that have easy sandy shore entries. Thanks for the article.