One of just two predominantly sandy dive sites on the Shoal, South Sands offers the opportunity for close encounters with a surprisingly diverse collection of marine species. Located to the south of the Aliwal Shoal reef system towards the seaward side, this dive site is a popular choice on days with a noticeable south to north current. On days like these, South Sands offers the best of both worlds – the chance to spend time drifting over a dreamlike landscape of silvered sand, before moving on to the more conventional reef sites further north.
Maximum Depth: 17 metres
Minimum Qualification: Open Water Diver
Perfect for Entry Level Scuba
Even on days without any current, South Sands is a spectacular dive destination. With a maximum depth of just 17 metres, divers that devote their entire dive to this site can expect an extended bottom time and longer-lasting air. South Sands’ shallow depth puts this site well within the reach of entry level divers, while its large expanses of uninterrupted sand make it a natural classroom for Open Water students. Here, new divers can settle on the bottom to practice skills without worrying about harming the marine environment.
That’s not to say that there is nothing to see at South Sands. The sand itself provides the perfect home for several bottom-dwelling species – including guitar sharks, sand sharks, and an endless list of different-patterned rays. The patch’s perimeter reef and the isolated rock outcrops littered across the sand are teeming with life, perhaps because they provide an oasis of food and shelter in an area that is otherwise relatively exposed. Underneath coral overhangs and in secret crevices, divers can expect to find crayfish, nudibranchs and cuttlefish.
Juvenile fish congregate at the edge of the sand patch, seeking protection from the jutting reef ledges. White tip reef sharks are commonly seen dozing during daylight hours, waiting to be galvanised into action by the inevitable arrival of darkness.
Frequent Sightings of Hammerhead Sharks
Other sights typical to South Sands include schools of inquisitive red fang triggerfish (which must be given a wide berth during nesting season), and passing pods of bottlenose dolphin. The dolphins’ arrival is almost always heralded by the alien sound of their sonar clicks.
In winter, round-ribbontail rays aggregate on the site’s sand patches in great numbers, while the warmer waters of the African summer bring frequent sightings of hammerhead sharks and passing schools of gamefish. South Sands is one of many great places to spot ragged-tooth sharks during the cooler months, and they can often be seen hanging out there in groups of ten or more. Throughout the rest of the year, sifting through the sand for sharks’ teeth is a popular South Sands pastime.
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