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Dive Sites

The Underwater photography program’s SCUBA diving and snorkeling is centered around exploring the underwater reefs of South Africa’s Aliwal Shoal. The Aliwal Shoal is rated as one of the top ten dive sites of the world. 

The SCUBA dives of Aliwal Shoal

During your time at Scottburgh, accommodation, meals and diving facilities are provided by our partner company – Blue Wilderness Shark Adventures. Learn more about Blue Wilderness here Our students and staff are housed in the Blue Wilderness Shark Centre, that includes a number of dorms and shared rooms. The shark centre looks out over the sea and is a safe haven to relax in after a day of learning and fun out at sea.

The Blue Wilderness Shark Centre is two blocks from the edge of the ocean. The centre offers free tea and coffee for post-dive relaxing and has comfy seats and hot showers to make your relaxation time more enjoyable.  The shark centre offers a full range of gear. Cylinders, BCDs, regulators, weight belts, masks, fins and wetsuits are available for our students. the centre uses 2x8m rubber ducks for diving expeditions. There is also a compressor on site to fill cylinders.

Shark drift dive

The ‘Shark Drift Dive’ at Aliwal Shoal is one of the most famous and exciting dives in Southern Africa. The dive is a baited dive with a small chum drum that hangs approximately 6m from the surface. Divers drift along using the chum drum as a reference points. Attracted to the smell is a resident population of between 10 and 30 Oceanic back tip sharks. For shark photography, this dive is absolutely a sharky paradise.

Shark Snorkel

Alwial’s famous blacktip sharks offer free-divers and snorkelers and incredible opportunity to dive with them without being encumbered with SCUBA tanks. Over a course of 1 hour, students can drift down current surrounded by upwards of 20 oceanic blacktip sharks. An incredible opportunity to master photographing and filming on breath hold.

Raggies Cave

Raggies Cave, one of the most popular dive sites on Aliwal Shoal, boasts numerous species of fish, coral and sponge encrusted rocks in the area make for interesting critter viewing including various nudibranchs, eels, stonefish and much more. The main attraction, of course, is its namesake, the ragged tooth shark (grey nurse shark) hordes of which visit the reef and hang in the cave and surrounds during the mating season from late May to November. Maximum depth 18m.

Chunnel Cave

Chunnel Cave is the ideal dive site for Open Water Divers that want to experience sharks, turtles, rays and much more. The name comes from the formation in the reef of a large opening on either end forming a cylindrical swim through of around 10m in length, with a bit of a dogleg to the right. To the left of where the cave’s right-hand junction is, there’s a small cavern offering shelter to smaller plankton-feeding fish, such as pineapple fish.  Maximum depth 14m.

Nebo Wreck

The Nebo Wreck, having sunk in 1884 sits at a depth of 27m. She turned over and sank in heavy seas with her cargo of railway materials on the 20 May 1884 and is now a national monument. This wooden wreck is fairly intact, having broken into two parts and is an interesting dive especially the swim through at the propeller. On this wreck kingfish, salmon and tropical fish can be sighted. It is one of the few places on Aliwal Shoal where you can lose sight of your buddy because of the amount of small fish in the water. The reason for the wreckage has two rumours: The first being that on her Maiden Voyage from Durban to Sunderland she hit the pinnacles. The second rumour is that she was carrying a heavy load of bridge materials which was incorrectly packed. A rogue wave hit her in rough seas, subsequently pushing her over causing her to overturn and sink.

While the Nebo Wreck sits at 27m your average dive profile is around 17-19m. The wooden sleepers she was carrying can still be seen and they make a home for Natal catfish, harlequin goldies, scorpion fish, rays and much more. While diving, look up every now and then as you may see hammerheads passing or a bull shark chasing down a ray. The dive requires an Advanced Open Water Diver qualification.

Park Rynie Rockpool

On the program, a number of our training Dives and snorkels will be carried out in a huge natural rock pool located adjacent to the Scottburgh shore. The rock pool offers students the opportunity to master Marco photographic techniques and control over the cameras in a calm and controlled environment.

Northern Pinnacles

Northern Pinnacles is best for honeycomb morays and rays, shoals of reef fish and juvenile fish. This dive is on the northeastern end of the shoal, formed by a spine of rock formations that rise up from the sea bed comprising a series of gullies, caves and potholes. Look out for some of the well-camouflaged critters, including leaf fish, eels, paper fish and a school of resident batfish. This is also a good spot to see mantas during the season. This is a shallow reef, which was responsible for the sinking of the MV Produce in 1974 and is attributed to having had a hand in sinking the SS Nebo in 1884. Maximum depth 18m.

Cathedral

Cathedral is one of the most popular dive sites on Aliwal Shoal, known for being a haven for ragged-tooth sharks during the mating season. It’s a large amphitheatre structure with entrance either via the large front archway, through the roof or a swim through. A visually stunning rock formation leads to a crater-like centre forming an enclosed area that shelters divers from the currents and surges. Also look out for various other attractions such as cuttlefish, moray eels and schools of red soldierfish. Maximum depth 27m.

South Sands

South Sands offers great opportunities for spotting large groups of rays and dolphins, which enjoy playing in the openness of this site. It is a large sand patch with fragmented patches of coral reef, great for finding shark teeth. Look up and out into the blue for passing schools of game fish, and other large fish and white-tip reef sharks or even the occasional hammerhead shark. Look in the small ledges on the outskirts for crayfish and natal sea catfish and many colourful nudibranchs. South Sands is also the ideal location to start your drift dive from south of the reef, ending off at North Pinnacles getting yourself acquainted with multiple sites on a single dive. Maximum depth 17m.

MV Produce

The MV Produce is a wreck. It was a Norwegian bulk ship carrying molasses that sank on 11 August 1974 after colliding with the Aliwal Shoal. No lives were lost as local commercial fisherman rescued all the sailors. The true heroes of that day were Tony Janssen, Clive Homes, Piet De Jager and Ross Hitchins. The story goes that the Captain was “napping” at the time of the collision. These four heroes were among the first on the scene along with the SAS Oranjeland (saving 14 crew members) & a South African Airforce Helicopter (saving 3). Our heroes managed to save 17 crew members within 4 hours, about the same time it took for the MV Produce to sink. None of the crew members suffered any injury other than a mild case of shock.

The wreck has started to break up in the last few years and penetration dives are not advised. She is 119m long and lies on her starboard side at about 32m deep. Diving the MV Produce isn’t always entirely possible should the visibility be bad or if the currents are flying.  It is also not a site for Open Water qualified divers. The Produce is home to the mighty brindle bass, harlequin goldies, lionfish, salmon and kingfish as well as an abundance of other colourful tropical fish.

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