If there’s one universal truth that binds all divers, it’s the knowledge that there’s no such thing as too much time underwater. That’s why we jump at the first opportunity to go diving, why we spend so much time and money planning for our next trip to the ocean, and why we’re always reluctant when the divemaster tells us that time’s up at the end of a spectacular dive.
For those that have been craving the opportunity to take some time off and indulge in a few days diving, the perfect opportunity is just a few weeks away. With the upcoming public holiday on 9th August, you can cash in your leftover holiday time, take the Monday off as well and suddenly find yourself with a four-day window just long enough for an impromptu dive trip to Aliwal Shoal.
There’s no better time to do so, as the cooler winter water temperatures have caused an explosion of life on Aliwal’s reef sites. In particular, shark lovers and underwater photographers will be thrilled by the abundance of ragged-tooth sharks currently in residence across the reef. Every year, the sharks arrive in great numbers to use the Shoal as their annual mating ground.
Sites like Cathedral and Raggie’s Cave are especially popular with these impressive-looking sharks, whose needle-like teeth and piercing golden eyes are offset by a surprisingly docile nature. Although we are careful not to disturb the sharks, we are often fortunate enough to encounter them close-to, giving divers a high-adrenaline thrill that lasts long after the dive is over.
Those that take the time to scratch through the sand whilst diving at this time of year are likely to find themselves the perfect souvenir, in the shape of the teeth that the raggies shed throughout their lifetime. These teeth are the only thing that divers are permitted to take from the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area, and there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of finding your first one.
Of course, ragged-tooth sharks aren’t the only star of Aliwal’s winter show. Exposed sites like North Sands and South Sands are frequently inhabited by giant leopard and round-ribbon tail rays at this time of year, both of which often gather in large groups. The season also coincides with the annual migration of the humpback whale, causing the ocean to resound with their echoing song.
Although we have seen the whales during our dives, we get the best view of them from the boat. Our winter surface intervals are often made infinitely more interesting by a leviathan acrobatics show, with the whales breaching, fluking and slapping their giant pectorals just a few hundred metres from where we sit.
With so many seasonal highlights to get excited about, it’s easy to forget the aspects of Aliwal Shoal diving that remain consistently incredible all year round. Our world-famous baited shark dives offer the chance to get up close and personal with our resident oceanic blacktips, with more than 40 sharks sometimes spotted on a single dive.
For those that prefer wrecks, Aliwal delivers yet again. Winter conditions often result in fantastic visibility, allowing divers to experience our two wrecks at their very best. Both the Produce and the Nebo are unforgettable dive sites, and both provide a home for their fair share of rare species. Highlights include the harlequin anthias and the enormous brindle bass.
With so many incredible dive sites to choose from, it’s easy to see why a weekend is never long enough. Even a four day holiday offers only enough time for a taster, but at least it gives you the chance to double your time underwater – and to enjoy a few extra evenings relaxing with a beer around the dive shop’s beachfront braai.
To find out more about spending the long weekend with Aliwal Shoal Scuba, get in touch via Facebook or send an email to email@example.com