Aliwal Shoal – A Love Affair With The Unknown

Affairs don’t start in the bedroom… 

What do you do when you stay over in Umhlanga on your way to your best friend’s wedding in Hilton? Well, you wake up an hour – or 3 – earlier to dive/ live an hour or 3 more!

The day I received my best friend’s wedding invitation I literally jumped for joy. They were tying the knot in beautiful Hilton. I was overjoyed that my best friend was finally getting his happily ever after, but more importantly, I was pleased that he chose a venue close –  well, close enough – to Umkomaas, home of the Aliwal Shoal Reef! I couldn’t wait to fall into its depths of a site famous for being one of the top ten dive sites in the world.

Umkomaas
Umkomaas

Throughout all my spontaneous African adventures rumors found my ears about how diving Aliwal Shoal is a bucket list must, offering some of the most exciting scuba diving in the world!

I had to find out for myself if, for once, the rumors were true. My dive with Aliwal Dive Center was booked. What really stood out was the ease with which I booked my dive and the friendly assistance from Lelanie.

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What a beautiful morning for a dive!

The morning I arrived the sweet fresh Kwa-Zulu Natal air filled my lungs as I watched the sunrise over the sea. I entered the quirky dive cave and Andries was waiting for me, gear set up and all – the royal treatment! I met Andries as a divemaster while diving in Sodwana. It was great bumping into him again. He told me all about the shoal and how it was the first PADI Gold Palm Diving Resort in South Africa. It has been running in Umkomaas (South of Durban) since 1985 which is more or less 33 years. I was in good hands.

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Andries and I
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Best place for a surface interval.

Aliwal Shoal is made up of one huge reef with quite a few different dive sites like manta points, Raggie caves, sand shark paradise, lionfish hole and many more.

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Map of the Aliwal Shoal Reef

If I had my way I would have dived both Raggie Cave and Cathedral. Unfortunately, I only had time for one dive and Raggie Cave won. It is an extensive overhang you can swim-through and is eminent for the Raggies (ragged-tooth sharks) that dwell here during winter and spring. In front of the cave lies a large sand patch known as Raggie Sands. Raggie Sands and Raggie Cave are covered with brown sponge and make for a fine view of sharks in the cave. It is also where I found my tooth and saw a huge manta pass by.

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Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but bubbles – unless you find a shark tooth, that you can take!

Aliwal is best described as the texas of South African reefs. It is as if everything is bigger here. From the nudies to the turtles to the mantas. It was an absolutely exquisite dive despite a very strong current that pushed us along.

I switched boats, sucker in the mouth, after the dive jumping into the boat with all the shark cage divers heading back to shore. Half of this Irish group of divers were speaking really fast with so much wonder in their voices. The second half was feeding the fish.

As I sat on the boat feeling all fulfilled and stuff one thing became abundantly clear. If Sodwana is my significant other, Aliwal Shoal is my mistress. Unfortunately, time only allowed the one dive, despite Andries almost persuading me to do another. My next dive is booked for the 30th of March. I will be doing the baited shark dive, so watch this space.

XOXO

A Dive Addict

PS. Until my next dive end of March, The Shoal and I will always be unfinished business.

PPS. I made it in time for the wedding! Even the bestie was impressed. Bestie is the groom, I have known him since he was five years old – when he was still only ore and sproete.

 

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