Aliwal Shoal is famous for its big animal encounters, many of which take place on baited shark dives. However, there are certain areas of the reef that provide excellent opportunities for organic sightings of bucket list species, including sharks, dolphins, whales and gamefish. Outside Edge is one such site, making this one of the most popular spots on the Shoal.
Outside Edge is the seaward counterpart of the Shoal’s Inside Edge. Extending from just north of Northern Pinnacles to just south of Bay of Caves, the Outside Edge wall is the boundary between the shallow reefs of the Shoal, and the blue expanse of open ocean. The wall is pockmarked with overhangs, caverns and swim-throughs, and punctuated by recognisable landmarks like Cathedral and Shark Alley, both of which are famous Aliwal dive sites in their own right.
Maximum Depth: 27 metres
Minimum Qualification: Advanced Open Water diver
Drift Diving Possible
With so much to explore along such an extended stretch of reef, Outside Edge is the perfect choice for days with a strong current. Although the south-to- north current makes for a better dive profile with a natural gradient from deeper waters to the shallow reefs around the Pinnacles and Manta Point, the reverse current can be equally rewarding for experienced divers with plenty of discipline. Exploring Outside Edge under these conditions is an incredible way to see a lot of the Shoal while expending very little effort.
There is plenty to see along the reef wall, ranging from exciting macro species (including cuttlefish, nudibranchs and the rare Hawaiian red lobster) to larger animals (including turtles, rays and potato bass). During the winter months, divers can also expect to see ragged-tooth sharks gathering in large numbers around key sites like Cathedral and Shark Alley. The top of the wall offers a riot of colour in the form of a landscape of hard and soft corals interspersed with tropical fish and framed against a background of blue.
Many of Aliwal’s dive sites provide stunning panoramas like these, and all of them provide a home for a wealth of reef species. What sets Outside Edge apart is the sense of anticipation that comes from diving on the edge of deep water. While the reef wall promises colour and life on one side, the uninterrupted blue on the other boasts the potential for the unexpected. One never knows what might appear – perhaps a visitor from the cold waters of the Cape, or from the warm northerly waters of Mozambique.
In summer, hammerheads, manta rays, whale sharks and tropical gamefish are amongst the most likely sightings. Dolphins, bull sharks and resident oceanic blacktips are frequent visitors throughout the year, while the colder winter months bring with them the excitement of South Africa’s annual Sardine Run.
At this time, predators converge upon the coast in their thousands, and possible sightings include dusky sharks, great whites and copper sharks.
Whale Spotting in Winter
Winter also coincides with the annual humpback whale migration, and this is one of the best sites on the Shoal for encountering one of these magnificent creatures on scuba. Impossibly huge and simultaneously full of grace, the thrill of seeing a whale underwater has to be experienced to be fully understood. Even those that aren’t fortunate enough to see the whales underwater will likely spend their time on Outside Edge listening to the sounds of the males’ song reverberating through the ocean around them.
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