Aliwal Shoal is a place that offers countless opportunities for excitement, from our sharks to our nearby wrecks. There is one wreck in particular whose very name is synonymous with adventure and boundary-pushing exploration, and that is the wreck of the Griqualand. Sunk in 1970, the Griqualand finally came to rest off the coast of Amanzimtoti and is now one of the South Coast’s most legendary wreck sites. In her heyday, she weighed in at 499 tons and operated as a coastal steamer for a Dutch cargo company, the Green R Line. She met her fate in November 1970 on her way to Port Elizabeth from Durban, when a fire broke out in her forward holds. She carried onboard a fatally flammable cargo of bitumen, liquid chlorine, calcium hypo- chloride, and the fire continued to rage unabated for twelve hours, despite rescue efforts from the crew and two other nearby vessels. Eventually, on the afternoon of the following day, the decision that she could not be saved was made and she was sunk by a Royal Navy frigate, the H.M.S Dido.

The Griqualand now lies with her bow facing the shore, in fifty-plus metres of water. Although her upper deck lies at 39 metres, the maximum depth for this dive is 52 metres, making it only suitable for divers with an exceptional amount of experience and confidence when it come to wreck diving. Conditions have to be suitable- strong currents can make this dive unacceptably dangerous, and we will only conduct dives to the Griqualand if the weather makes it safe to do so. We dive on air, meaning that we have a limited window before no-decompression limits are reached, and the dive is conducted using a multi-level profile to maximize our time underwater. On the right day, the Griqualand makes for an unforgettable dive- the wreck itself is still largely intact and though we do not allow penetration dives, she is quite something to behold. She now provides a home for wide variety of creatures, with possible sightings including (but by no means limited to) Geelbek, Kabeljou, Prodigal Sons, passing Sharks, deeper water Rays and many other species of marine life. There is a considerable amount of mystery surrounding the Griqualand- the legend goes that there were many other ships also sunk by the Navy in the same area, and many divers have told tales of seeing the ghosts of those other wrecks while scuba diving on the Griqualand!

To discover the wreck’s secrets for yourself, there are several steps that we ask you to complete before taking on the challenge. Because this is no ordinary dive, and because it is so deep, we require divers interested in taking part to complete a series of preparatory dives first. To be sure that you are able to dive to depth safely, we usually begin with a dive on our local wreck, the Produce, then on the Sappi pipeline. On the first day of your Griqualand adventure you will dive to the top of the wreck, saving the maximum depths for the second day. The Produce is a stunning wreck in its own right: lying at a maximum depth of 31 metres and sunk just four years after the Griqualand, she is one of the highlights of Aliwal Shoal diving. Once measuring 168 metres in length, her bow and stern are still impressively intact and now serve as a living memorial rich with vibrant biodiversity. She fell foul of the Shoal’s pinnacles whilst carrying a cargo of molasses from Durban to England in 1974 and is now home to a resident population of rare brindle bass. These huge fish reach staggering proportions, weighing up to 400kg.

Sappi pipeline is another special dive site, and not one that we usually travel to during regular dives from Umkomaas. Thanks to the effluent pumped out by the Sappi-Saiccor paper mill, the water downstream from the pipe often suffers reduced visibility; however, on the pipeline itself the water is typically very clear. The heat given off by the pipe makes for a unique microcosm with its own special inhabitants, including a variety of exciting macro- life. This includes the rare Pineapple Fish, long nose Hawkfish and Frogfish while sharks and other interesting pelagic’s can also sometimes be spotted in the vicinity. The maximum depth on the pipeline is 38 metres, making it comparable to the top of the Griqualand wreck and a natural stepping stone between the Produce and the 52 metres you can potentially reach on the second day of your Griqualand dives. Together, this series of dives makes for an adrenalin-fuelled few days filled with spectacular sights, combining in an adventure that will take you places few other humans will ever go. This is life on the boundaries of recreational diving, and it offers excitements you will find in few other places.

The minimum certification level for these dives is Advanced, although you must have proof of significant experience to be accepted onto this dive. If you are interested, please contact us either via Facebook or at info@aliwalshoalscubadiving.com for more information.

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