There are many reasons why Aliwal Shoal is frequently lauded as one of the world’s top ten dive sites. There’s the incredible diversity of its marine life- a product of South Africa’s unique location at the convergence of three oceans, and more specifically, of the Shoal’s ability to accommodate both tropical and temperate species. Then, there’s the variety of its dive sites- on the Shoal, it is possible to experience many different diving environments all within the space of a single holiday. We have deep sites, shallow sites, wreck sites, reef sites- and of course, some of the best shark diving on the planet.

Another less obvious but no less important contributor to the Shoal’s reputation as one of the world’s top ten dive destinations is the fact that our reefs can be dived year-round. In many places, weather conditions make dive sites un-diveable for certain months of the year- or, alternatively, the species that make them famous are only seasonal residents. At Aliwal Shoal, we have the privilege of offering our customers unparalleled diving regardless of when they choose to visit. This article takes a look at the highlights of each of the very different (but no less incredible) seasons of Aliwal Shoal.

November- January

Summer on Aliwal Shoal (or winter, as our northern hemisphere friends know it) is simply magical. Topside, the weather is at its hottest and the days are long. Underwater, summer is a great time to visit the Shoal, too, for it is during these months that water temperatures are at their warmest. November traditionally sees the beginning of Tiger Shark season as a result, and these three months are considered the best time of all to see these apex predators up close and personal on our baited shark dives. The warm water temperatures of this time of year attract other seasonal visitors too, including large schools of Hammerhead Sharks.

February- April

This is the shoulder season between the South African summer and the cooler winter. Warm water temperatures prevail, increasing the chances of spotting tropical species including Manta Rays, Whale Sharks and Kingfish. Autumn on the Shoal also sees some of the calmest seas of the year, making this an excellent time to explore shallower dive sites like Chunnel and Manta Point. The Nebo also benefits from reduced surge, and this is a great time to visit the oldest of Aliwal Shoal’s recorded shipwrecks. Topside, this season is one of the most pleasant, as temperatures are slightly cooler and less humid than they are over the Christmas period, and rainfall is also reduced.

May-July

The cooler water temperatures of winter on Aliwal Shoal are a small price to pay for the incredible diversity of marine life at this time. The tigers are replaced during these months by tens and tens of ragged-tooth sharks, who use our dive sites as their winter mating ground. In June and July, the frenetic activity of the Sardine Run brings an abundance of visiting predators to our baited shark dives, including the magnificent dusky shark. Winter also marks the beginning of the annual Humpback Whales migration past our coastline and traditionally boasts the best visibility of the year. As such, this is a great time to visit our deeper sites, including the Produce wreck and Cathedral.

August- October

Spring on the Shoal is an exciting time, as it offers a selection of highlights from both winter and summer. Humpback whales are still hugely active during these months, and our dive sites often reverberate to the sound of their haunting song. The water is cool enough to attract a plethora of Rays, including round Ribbontail Rays and large numbers of spectacularly beautiful leopard rays. The Raggies are still in attendance, and the Shoal is often less crowded at this time after the frenzy of the Sardine Run has passed. August is also the month with the most daily hours of sunshine, meaning that divers can have the best of both worlds with summer weather and winter productivity.

Of course, there are some things that never change on the Shoal. Our charismatic oceanic blacktips are present year-round on our baited dives, and the reefs provide a permanent home to all sorts of fascinating marine creatures- including turtles, moray eels, potato bass, colourful reef fish and more. In our opinion, Aliwal Shoal’s greatest claim to fame is its ability to provide reliable fantastic diving conditions all year round. To find out more about the seasons of Aliwal Shoal, or to book a dive, please get in contact via Facebook, or send an email to umkomaaslodge@gmail.com

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