Rising from the sand in a fantasy landscape of pinnacles, gullies, swim-throughs and caverns, Aliwal Shoal offers some of the best diving on the African continent. The incredible variety of marine life that calls the Shoal home is thanks in large part to the diversity of the reef’s topography, and nowhere is this more in evidence than at the dive site known as Inside Edge. As its name suggests, this site constitutes the entire shoreward side of the Shoal; 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.
Maximum Depth: 25 metres
Minimum Qualification: Open Water (with restrictions)
Lots of Shark Sightings
It is one of only two true wall diving sites on the Shoal, and therefore offers some spectacular drift diving during strong current. The direction of the current is irrelevant – because whether the wall is traversed from north to south or vice versa, flying above Inside Edge is an unforgettable experience. Despite a maximum depth of 25 metres, this dive site is within reach for visitors of all certification levels, assuming that they are confident in their ability to level off at their maximum depth. At 18 metres (the maximum depth for entry level divers) there is plenty to see in the caverns and overhangs that pock the wall’s face.
These crevices provide an ideal hiding place for a myriad of interesting species, ranging from photogenic honeycomb morays to preening red-striped lionfish. The larger caverns towards the base of the wall are a great place for finding potato bass, turtles and (especially in winter) large round ribbon-tail rays. The rays also often found buried in the sand of the sea floor, which provides an equally good hiding place for Aliwal’s prehistoric-looking guitar sharks. Macro lovers will find a plethora of smaller species on Inside Edge, including an incredible variety of multi-hued Nudibranchs.
Inside Edge is also home to several large anemones, which in turn provide shelter for a collection of tiny animals as fascinating as they are hard to spot. Clownfish hover protectively above the anemones’ fleshy fronds, and at their base, dainty porcelain crabs hold their pincers aloft in a caricature of miniature aggression.
Pelagic Encounters Possible
Commensal shrimp no bigger than a fingernail are a macro-photographer’s dream, posing prettily in a variety of kaleidoscope colours and patterns. Less common species including pineapple fish and peacock mantis have also been spotted on Inside Edge.
Of course, Inside Edge also caters to those of us who prefer our marine life at the other end of the size spectrum. Like many wall sites, it’s a good place for chance pelagic encounters – which is why it’s always worth keeping one eye on the blue. In the past, we’ve been fortunate enough to spot everything from great white sharks to humpback whales cruising by on their way past the Shoal. Ultimately, whether you’re a macro enthusiast or have a soft spot for larger species, there is something for everyone on Inside Edge – making this one of the Shoal’s most versatile dive sites.
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