Tuesday, 17 June 2008

More Than Just Sharks - Scuba Diving in South Africa

Traditional perceptions of holidays in South Africa conjure up images of vast open plains, roaring lions and beautiful game lodges, names of regions such as the Kruger National Park immediately come into people's minds.

What is less well known is the incredible diversity of scuba diving that is on offer for visitors of all levels of experience. From the cooler waters around the Western Cape, up to the tropical waters around Sodwana Bay near the Mozambique border. South Africa undoubtedly offers some of the finest scuba diving throughout Africa, and in sites such as Protea Banks, Aliwal Shoals and Sodwana Bay, arguably some of the best in the world.

The nature of the scuba diving in South Africa tends to be dictated by its unique geographical location on the southernmost tip of Africa, the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The area around Cape Town and the Western Cape tends to offer diving in cooler waters, typically with lower visibility. Whereas further up the coast towards KwaZulu Natal, an increase in the water temperatures and visibility tends to offer diving more in keeping with more tropical locations.

Understandably, the large variation in the water temperatures, have resulted in a variety of different marine life inhabiting the coast line of South Africa, ranging from the notorious Great White Sharks found around the Gansbaai and Cape Town areas, through to the dolphins and manta rays of tropical Sodwana Bay.

The scuba diving in South Africa tends to focus predominantly around two main regions, the Western Cape and the Garden Route, and the almost legendary sites in Sodwana Bay, Aliwal Shoals and Protea Banks which are found further north within KwaZulu Natal. Whilst there is a great diversity of diving on offer throughout
South Africa, it would be safe to say that the standard of diving here is of a consistently high standard, with each site having something to offer the majority of divers.

Located within the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park, Sodwana Bay is arguably the pick of the fantastic dive sites in South Africa. Its warm, clear waters, and stunning reefs and rich variety of corals act merely as a veneer to what rich rewards lie within these beautiful waters. Huge Potato Bass, morays and manta rays are all regular inhabitants of sites such as Nine Mile Reef, Three Mile Reef and Antons.

Despite this rich variety of marine and coral life in the waters of Sodwana Bay, it is the opportunities for scuba diving with the large populations of sharks, and particularly the Ragged Tooth Sharks that people visit the region. Here in Sodwana Bay, as well as Protea Banks and Aliwal Shoals, are some of the finest shark diving locations in world. Alongside the Ragged Tooth sharks, large populations of Bull Sharks, Thresher Sharks and Hammerheads regularly inhabit the waters off the coast of KwaZulu Natal.

Diving in South Africa is available all year round, although the majority of visitors to the region tend to visit during the summer months of late November through to February. Water temperatures vary greatly with location, with the Atlantic Ocean cooling the waters off the Western Cape to around 10 - 14 degrees Celsius whereas the more tropical waters around Sodwana Bay tend to average around 20 - 21 degrees.

Throughout South Africa, large numbers of dive operators offer a variety of scuba diving courses across all the major accreditation agencies, and overall, the standard of dive operator tends to be relatively high. Good local knowledge, well maintained equipment and boats tend to be the norm in a region that is looking to attract an increasing number of scuba divers to its waters.
Overall, South Africa offers a wide range of unique diving experiences, and has something to offer scuba divers of all experiences. With South Africa becoming increasingly aware of its rich wildlife heritage, on land and in the water, it only bodes well for future visitors to this beautiful country.

Our partners at Offplanworld.tv, offer a wide range of off-plan property in South Africa.