A L I W A L S H O A L
Aliwal Shoal has become internationally recognized as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. Aliwal Shoal is mainly dived from the seaside town of Umkomaas. It can also be reached from the town of Scottburgh. Divers flock to Umkomaas to experience the incredible diving that Aliwal shoal offers.
Umkomaas is a sleepy seaside town which serves as the gateway to the Aliwal Shoal. The Zulu name is Umkomanzi, which was given by King Shaka Zulu on one of his royal processions. He saw a number of whales and calves that were basking in the shallows a short distance from the river mouth. The name Umkomanzi means ˜The watering place of the whales.
Umkomaas is approximately 50km south of Durban and Scottburgh a further 20km south. In 1849, a 3 mast vessel called the Aliwal almost collided with the shoal, giving the shoal its now famous name.
EARLY YEARS ........
Aliwal Shoal was first dived in the 1950s, and was extensively explored in the 1980s by dive operators. Umkomaas provides the launch site to the shoal from the river under the Umkomaas bridge. This can be an exciting adrenaline rush as the experienced skippers weave their boats down the river under the bridge and through the waves. Aliwal Shoal is on the inside edge of the warm Mozambique current, and the warm water often provide excellent visibility.
A huge array of reef fish species as well as rays, turtles, sharks and mantas inhabit the shoal, and schools of dolphins and whales are frequently spotted. The shoal is approximately 5kms in length, and lies in a north/south direction. The shoal is approximately 5 to 7km from the launch site. The shoal attracts over 1200 species of fish, as well as turtles, rays, sharks and whales.
Aliwal Shoal is home to two shipwrecks frequented by divers. The Nebo sank on her maiden voyage in 1884, and the Produce sank in 1974.
ACCOMMODATION IN/AROUND ALIWAL SHOAL
In this area you can choose from camping to lodge and hotel accommodation. Self catering and full board is available in the area of Umkomaas and nearby Scottburgh. The area also offers a wide range of restaurants and fast food outlets.
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Aliwal Shoal activities
Wreck diving: The following shipwrecks are frequently dived at Aliwal Shoal. These wrecks are advanced dive sites and ideal for the wreck diving speciality.
Nebo This 2000 ton steamship sank on 20 May 1884 just north of the Aliwal Shoal. She was on her maiden voyage from England to Durban, carrying a railway bridge. Although there is no certainty, it was officially reported that she had struck an uncharted pinnacle maybe Northern pinnacle on nearby Aliwal shoal. Some experts also believe that the weight of the railway bridge upon the deck could have caused her to be capsized by a large wave. There is credibility to this story, as the Nebo is lying upside down in 24m of water.
Produce The Norwegian bulk carrier, of 15000 tons ripped open her hull on Northern Pinnacles on 11 August 1974. The crew made a brave attempt to get to shore, but the ship was doomed and sank shortly afterwards. The crew was rescued, and there were no fatalities.The rusted framework now provides an residence for varied fish species, and makes for very good diving. The bridge of the vessel lies 18 metres under the surface, and the ship lies on a sand bed at approximately 30 metres.The ship is home to large brindle and potato bass and has broken into two separate sections to dive.
There are numerous fantastic dive spots on the shoal itself ranging from 12 to 30 meters.Some of the top dive sites on Aliwal shoal are:
Northern pinnacles 10m
Raggies Cave 14m
South Sands 16m
Outside Edge 24m
Inside Edge 16m
Eel skins 12m
All diving in South Africa is best done early as the wind tends to get stronger later in the day causing larger swells and choppy conditions. Diving is most dependable in the winter months from May to October. The visibility is generally good and the migratory ragged-tooth sharks are in residence.Raggies are to be found on the reef, from the end of July to the end of November. The best view point is Cathedral at 22m deep a rock arch forms the entrance to a large amphitheater where the raggies congregate during the winter months. The raggies move slowly in and out through this arch. Shark alley and Raggie cave are two other places on the reef to enjoy this spectacle.
OTHER ACTIVITIES IN THE AREA
Umkomaas offers plenty aside from the main focus - diving. Horse riding, white water rafting, fishing, golf, tennis, and much more is available close by.
DIRECTIONS TO UMKOMAAS/ALIWAL SHOAL
From Pretoria/Johannesburg take the N3 to Durban about a 6 hour trip with a couple of tollgates. On reaching Durban take the Southcoast highway past the airport. After passing the Shell Ultra city turn of at the Umkomaas offramp for Umkomaas or the next one for Scottburgh.