Aliwal Shoal - Shark Diving Destination

A mere eighty thousand years ago (estimated) the Aliwal Shoal was a long range of coastal sand dunes, extending from Umkomaas to the Protea Banks in Shelly Beach. Today we see a very similar type of dune configuration in Sodwana on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal. With continual rainfalls and moisture-laden sea air, the dunes compacted over time from their weight, forming a semi solid foundation. Calcium from sea shells eventually leached into the sand dunes forming large deposits of calcium carbonate that lithified the sand into a sandstone super-structure. Over a reasonably short period of geological time however the region underwent an unexpected and radical transformation when tectonic plates shifted resulting in the entire coastline lowering gradually into the ocean, eventually submerging the dunes entirely. The sand dunes continued to grow in size, helped by further sand deposits from wave and surge action, along with a multitude of organic material and seashells.

Large Coral colonies and sponges inevitably made their homes on top of the now solid sandstone creating the reef we see presently.

Aliwal Shoal Discovered!

The year 1849 marked an event that literally put Aliwal Shoal on the map. Captain James Anderson, who captained a vessel aptly named "Aliwal" discovered the northern pinnacle by chance and managed to avoid disaster. He submitted a report shortly afterwards in the Natal Witness in 1850 stating that he had discovered a previously uncharted pinnacle with large waves at times. In his news article he called upon the public at large to inform all captains and skippers of his findings. Three ships , the SS Nebo(1884), The Griqualand(1970) and Produce(1974) consequently sunk fairly close by. A lighthouse was commissioned and from that time period onwards the it has been faithfully guiding ships away from the danger zone.

A hundred years later the site was explored by scuba divers for the first time. Three decades later a thorough exploration of the reef was conducted to see if the Aliwal shoal had any commercial potential for a fast-growing scuba diving sport. The small town of Umkomaas became a scuba diving hotspot and is recognised worldwide as one of the top ten scuba diving reefs worldwide, primarily because of its unique structure, reef life, abundance of sharks and sub-tropical waters. There is no other dive site like it, with over 1200 documented fish species, many types of soft corals, some varieties of hard corals also thrive in cooler waters on the reef along with a variety of sea sponges, invertebrates, nudibranchs, cephalopods and a host of diverse sea life. The reef is also visited by pelagic fish species, dolphins, whales, and most importantly, sharks. Large groups of ragged tooth sharks trickle onto the reef in winter, bringing an attraction second to none.

Company Introduction

Aliwal Shoal Scuba has been operating since 1985 and is the First PADI Gold Palm Scuba Diving Resort in South Africa. We have all the amenities needed to make your stay a memorable one, with a tide pool, DSTV and tea/coffee available in all rooms. With some of the best diving in the world and a team of passionate staff, we will take you on a scuba diving adventure. We have accommodation for divers and non-divers, and a range of all-inclusive dive packages to choose from. Contact us today for pricing and availability!


Interested in learning more about Aliwal Shoal? Click here for more information.


Aliwal Shoal

Map of Aliwal Shoal with Dive Sites

There are many popular dive sites to explore on the Aliwal Shoal. We have however gone the extra mile and discovered new sites thanks to our skipper and able dive masters. Here are a list of well-knon dive sites.

Cathedral - One of most popular dive sites where we often take scuba divers. Read more for an in-depth look at the site.

Raggies Cave - Brilliant for ragged tooth shark sightings in winter, this is one of the best shark photography opportunities. At a maximum depth of 18 metres, this site is ideal for Open Water divers.

Produce - The most famous ship to run aground on the reef in 1974. The wreck teems with fish life and brindle bass.

SS Nebo - This British steamer fell victim to the shallow pinnacles of Aliwal Shoal. She sank after 15 minutes and lay quietly at rest for almost a century before she was first dived.

Chunnel - At only 14 meters depth, Chunnel and its small cave makes it ideal for Open Water diving.

Inside Edge - A magnificent wall that runs from north to south along the coastline and plunges some 10 metres from the reef plateau to the surrounding sand.

North Sands - There is more to North Sands than the scenery. Somewhat surprisingly, it is also one of the shoal’s most prolific dive sites in terms of marine life.

Beachfront Accommodation

Aliwal Shoal Scuba has ideal beachfront accommodation for all our scuba diving visitors. There are 4 Star Graded rooms that are of a very high standard and all have amazing sea views overlooking the Indian Ocean. Visit our accommodation page for more information.

Customer Transfers

We offer a comfortable shuttle service to and from the King Shaka Airport or any other port of call on request. Enquire about your travel requirements when booking with us and we will supply you with all the necessary information and pricing options.

Umkomaas Weather Report

Would you like to see the latest weather report? Visit our weather page for the latest data on wind, rain, sunshine, currents, waves and swell size. Bookmark the page for future reference! Local Weather Report

Aliwal Shoal - Underwater National Park

Let your adventure start! Learn more about what the shoal has to offer.

Summer and Winter Diving

Being in a sub-tropical border, we get the best of both climatic conditions with all varieties of tropical and sub-tropical fish visiting our reef all year round. 

Daily Cage Shark Dive Experience

We go out everyday, even if its for a small group. It's one of the best adventure activities available on the south coast. Non-swimmers also welcome!

PADI Open Water Courses

We train on a per person basis, so each student has one-on-one training, helping you each step of the way, to becoming PADI certified.

The Port St John's Sardine Run

Each year we go to Port St John's, well known as one of the best sardine / baitball diving in the world. 2017 was a cracker year with amazing dives.

Discover More About Aliwal Shoal


* We are available on + 27 (0) 82 800 4668 at all times

People who visit Aliwal Shoal Scuba come back time and again to experience the shoal, but also because they love to dive with us. With many years of experience and knowledge of the reef, we bring a unique experience into the equation, with the best dive sites mapped out and quality accommodation on the beach. Soon we are launching a new addition to the website - a comprehensive Aliwal Shoal Fish List detailing all the known species that frequent our reef. We invite you to take photos of as many fish as possible if you have a camera while visiting us and to please submit those photos so that we can display them in our growing list. There are numerous pelagic species as well as all sorts of reef fish and macro opportunities for the budding photographer.

Please join our community page on Facebook where we regularly post updates on sightings and events as they happen. We also have an Instagram page and often post interesting photos related to our shop and dives.

We would like to thank our loyal customers for many years of amazing scuba diving experiences and hope to see you back again soon!