In South Africa, they say ‘The dust of Africa never leaves the soles of your feet’…..

Once you have visited South Africa, you never quite leave it behind - Aliwal Shoal embodies that magic and if you are looking for wonderful scuba divers vacation spots, this is the place to take scuba diving vacations over and over again.

Visiting South Africa certainly fits into the category of adventure travel....

coastal map of south africa

It is along this coastline that the mighty Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet at Cape Agulhas. History abounds here, particularly maritime history - some of the most famous shipwrecks like the H.M.S Birkenhead are found in this part of the world. Others like the S.S. Waratah whose final resting place remains a mystery.

map of the aliwal shoal

Among the many spectacular scuba diving sites in South Africa is the Aliwal Shoal located about 45km south of the major port of Durban. It is ranked amongst the top ten dive sites in the world.

The closest seaside town to the Aliwal Shoal is Umkomaas, providing the launch site from where the majority of scuba divers get to the shoal itself. It is a great place for one to spend diving vacations.

RIB waiting in the surf to go out to aliwal shoal

Dives are launched from the Umkomaas River mouth in Semi-Rigid boats with twin 85Hp motors through the surf, the ride can be quite exhilarating at times!

white eyed moray eel

The Aliwal Shoal lies approximately 5 kilometers off-shore, parallel to the shore, and is about 5 kilometers in length at varying depths with a wide variety of reef structure including Sandstone outcrops, gullies and caves alongside sandy stretches which abound with Blue Spotted rays, Guitar Sharks, Potato Bass, Moray Eels, many Nudibranchs and lots of other species which are found in the waters of South Africa.

Depending on the season, Manta Rays, turtles, Dolphins, Whales, Ragged Tooth Sharks, Black Tip Reef Sharks, Tiger Sharks, Hammerheads (Rare) can often be seen.

A blue spotted moray eel at aliwal shoal

I have been on a dive where I have seen Ragged Tooth Sharks, Humpback Whales and dolphins on one dive and on the same day included in my sightings Black tip Sharks, Turtles as well as the expected huge variety of reef life.

No dive on Aliwal Shoal is ever the same or boring.

It has to be said the currents can be strong and on occasion visibility down to less than 10 metres, like many other dive locations in the world you are after all right in the middle of nature at its best. This doesn't mean you cannot dive there as an inexperienced diver, many people do their first sea dive there and the Dive Masters take this into account when planning the dive so don't worry!

Ok, down to some details! :

Water Temperature:

June to August 19 – 22 degrees Celsius
September to May 22 – 25 degrees Celsius


5mm (3mm is marginal and can get quite uncomfortable depending on the individual).


Varied from 5m to 40m

Types of Diving:

Shark Diving, Reef Dives, Drift Diving, Wreck Diving


June to November – Ragged Tooth Sharks December to January
Tiger Sharks and Hammerheads.
Whales passing through in June through to November are almost guaranteed to be seen


It is warm all year round, winter averages about 20 degrees, whilst summer is humid and reaches the low 30’s.

Wrecks to dive are:

The Produce - This was a Norwegian Molasses tanker which sank in 1974. She lies in up to 30m of water. There are a wide variety of species to be seen including very large Brindle Bass, Paper fish, Moray Eels, Batfish, Lionfish and the ubiquitous ‘Goldies’. Many sponges and soft corals to be seen.

The Nebo - A British Iron Steamer cargo ship which sank on Aliwal Shoal in 1884 lying in 25m of water, this is a wonderful dive in the right conditions. Species to be seen here tend to be similar to The Produce with the exception of Brindle Bass. Beautiful Sponges and Soft Corals are seen here.

The diving is varied and always interesting, if the visibility isn't great, the macro life more than compensates. The Dive Masters are, by and large great, and will vary the location according to conditions to ensure you get the best possible experience.

overlooking the beach near Clansthal

The dive resort of Umkomaas is a sleepy little town, the residents are friendly and always keen to help, advise or socialize! There are ample shopping amenities in Umkomaas itself, with wider variety of shops and restaurants within 10 – 20 kms.

Aliwal Shoal scuba diving sites richly deserve the praise heaped upon them by all who have dived there!

All in all a diving vacation to South Africa is a must.

Sodwana Bay is another great dive location in south Africa

The Greatest marine spectacle on earth!

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