2015 is an important year for Aliwal Shoal Scuba, as it marks the thirtieth year of owner Bryan Vivier’s association with this legendary dive destination. Although the dive centre we know today first opened its doors in 1993, the concept for Umkomaas’ only beachfront dive shop was born many years earlier, in 1985. Back then, Bryan was living in Bloemfontein, where he opened his first dive centre, the Specialised Diving Academy. This shop would be Aliwal Shoal Scuba’s predecessor, and was also the first PADI dive school in South Africa. After becoming certified as an instructor, Bryan constructed a dedicated dive training pool at the Bloemfontein centre- a pool that at the time was the second deepest in the world. The novelty of the inland pool couldn’t quite compensate for the beauty and excitement of the ocean, however- a fact that Bryan knew firsthand having grown up at the coast in Hermanus, and later completing his own qualifying dives off Port Elizabeth. To ensure that his students had the best experience possible, therefore, Bryan decided that he would conduct the open water dives of his courses in the most exciting place imaginable- Aliwal Shoal.

At the time, Aliwal Shoal was still largely unknown, and on each trip that Bryan took, he discovered more and more about the reef that only made him fall further in love with the area. There was one problem, however, and that was that whenever he had a large group of students, he could never find a single accommodation option that could house them all. Instead, he had to put up one couple here, another three students there- and it was because of this inconvenience that Bryan started to look for a solution to the problem. He knew that the stunning shore and endless blue vista of the Indian Ocean beyond was Umkomaas’ most obvious attraction, and as such, was adamant that he would only buy property on the beach. Back then, as now, there was only one such property. The building that now houses Aliwal Shoal Scuba and Waves Restaurant was previously known as The Whaler tearoom, and at one time, there were three separate dive centres located in the same building. Bryan had a vision of a single, united dive centre that would cater to all the needs of its clients- by offering accommodation, on-site dining and a fully stocked shop in addition to the centre itself.

Buying the property outright was impossible, however, owned as it was by several different people. Instead, Bryan bided his time and bought the building flat by flat until eventually in 1993 he was the sole owner of his dream beachfront venue. That same year, he moved from Bloemfontein to set up shop permanently in Umkomaas, and a short time later Aliwal Shoal Scuba welcomed its first customers under its original name, Umkomaas Lodge Dive Charters. Since then, the dive centre has acted as a gateway to the magic of the Shoal for tens of thousands of divers from all over the world. It remains to date the only beachfront dive centre, and for the past two decades has helped develop and shape the Umkomaas dive industry so that in time, the region has become one of the world’s top ten dive destinations. Bryan and the rest of the Aliwal Shoal Scuba staff still pride themselves on leading the way for new innovations to the industry. In 1995, Aliwal Shoal Scuba was one of the dive centres that pioneered tiger shark diving on the Shoal- a phenomenon that now defines the town and that has seen Bryan complete more than 6,000 dives with these magnificent apex predators in the last twenty years.

Aliwal Shoal Scuba’s tradition of pushing the boundaries and establishing new standards continues today. As recently as 2013, our dive centre pioneered the first stainless steel shark diving cage in the area, thereby enabling non-swimmers to encounter Aliwal’s famous sharks in their natural environment. In the same year, Aliwal Shoal Scuba also initiated a tiger shark identification project- just one example of the centre’s commitment to conserving the incredible marine life that lives virtually on our doorstep. To celebrate Aliwal Shoal Scuba’s long history as one of South Africa’s most innovative and experienced dive centres, we are offering a series of specials to divers in this, our 30th year. Throughout the month of May, all divers that book a course through Aliwal Shoal Scuba will be entitled to a Nitrox course for the hugely discounted price of R399(Computer Usage). In addition, those divers that book a three night/ five dive package or a four night/seven dive package will automatically receive a 10% discount. We know that it is our customers- whether they are one-time visitors from overseas or loyal friends that return time and time again- that have enabled us to reach our thirtieth anniversary. Because of this it seems only fair that they should reap the benefits of our landmark birthday, too.

To find out more about our thirtieth anniversary specials, please get in contact via Facebook, or send an email to umkomaaslodge@gmail.com

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