Diving with sharks in their natural habitat is an exhilarating experience, sure to get your blood pumping. South Africa offers excellent diving opportunities with a large range of sharks from the infamous Great White shark to the gentle Whale Shark. Other sharks that make up the Big 5 that can be seen along the South African coastline include the Zambezi shark, the Tiger shark and the Ragged-tooth shark.
The Gansbaai area including Dyer Island and the legendary Shark Alley is considered the shark diving capital of the world, offering unparalleled opportunities to observe, encounter and cage dive with sharks, in particular the Great White Shark. The thrill of a close encounter with the most revered predator of the ocean, the Great White Shark is the ultimate adrenaline filled diving experience. Cage diving is a common way of getting up close and personal with these fearsome creatures. A cage dive usually begins with throwing a bucket of mashed sardines and fish oil, commonly known as chum, into the ocean to attract sharks to the boat. Once the sharks surround the boat a chunk of bait is attached to a buoy and the cage is lowered into the water. Cage diving does not require any dive experience and all equipment is provided on board, including a wetsuit. A dive can last up to 20 minutes and is usually done in the morning. If you’re lucky you may just get an opportunity to witness the formidable Great White hunting, as it explodes of out the water in an action known as breaching, displaying its sheer strength, agility and speed.
For the adventurous diver who prefers the thrill of diving alongside sharks in their natural habitat, without the security of a cage, diving off the coast of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa is the perfect destination, offering excellent opportunities for a face-to-face shark encounter. Besides the majestic Great White there are numerous other sharks that lurk beneath the surface, all of which can be found in abundance on Protea Banks and Aliwal Shoal. Lying 5 and 8km off the coast of KwaZulu Natal are two unique reef systems, both of which are blessed with the warm Agulhas current. Due to the large variety of sealife, including large schools of Kingfish, Tuna, Yellowtail and Barracudas, Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks are the perfect hunting grounds for larger predators with few other dive sites boasting regular sightings of Zambezi sharks, Hammerhead, Ragged-tooth, Back tip and Tiger sharks.
Protea banks is ranked as one of the world’s top shark diving destinations and is frequented by a large number of Zambezi (Bull) sharks, making it one of the few places in the world where these sharks can be seen on a regular basis. Aliwal Shoal, on the other hand, with its many caves and gullies is home to a seasonal residence of hundreds of Ragged-tooth sharks which are in their highest concentrations between June and November. Diving during the Ragged-tooth shark season provides excellent opportunities to see the crooked smile of the formidable Ragged-tooth shark up close. Other sealife that can be found on Aliwal Shoal include sting rays, manta rays, dolphins, turtles and even pods of whales during the months from June to December. Aliwal Shoal also boasts some exceptional wreck diving opportunities with three shipwrecks that lie dormant, resting along the sandy ocean floor just waiting to be explored.
Whale sharks can also be seen sporadically though the year along the coast of KwaZulu Natal, with frequent sightings at Aliwal Shoal and Sodwana Bay. Having been known to display inquisitive behaviour with divers, a close encounter with one of these gentle giants is sure to be a breathtaking experience. Since Whale Sharks are known to be migratory, following plankton blooms and changing water temperatures, sightings are more common during the summer months from October to April.
Although certain sharks can be seen more frequently at different times of the year diving can be done throughout the year with water temperatures ranging from 22°C to 28°C and outside daytime temperatures ranging from 20°C to 38°C.
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