|Andy Cobb uses Sea Fever Lodge and Dive Centre based in Umkomaas. Graham Powell, PADI Course Director runs the centre, lodge, restaurant and bar with his partner Bronwin. They are fully equipped with training pool, compressor, 3 Rigid Inflatable Boats and professional Skippers showing an impressive knowledge of the local dive sites and sometimes challenging sea conditions. They can also provide Trimix and Nitrox fills. See website for more details.
Aliwal Dive Charters,You can’t miss Swinny and Sonje’s place. Its the one with stunning murals of the reef painted all over the building. Swinny and Sonje have the longest running operation in Umkomaas which has maintained a good reputation over the years. Using freelance instructors, they cater for all training associations (PADI, NAUI, CMAS, SSI). The courses offered range from beginner through to instructor levels as well as shark and wreck specialty courses but their main focus is on the diving charters. Cost per dive on the shoal is R90, inc. Air fill after the dive. Aliwal Dive Charters will soon be opening operations from Rocky Bay and Umzimai areas.
|Best dive sites||Raggie Cave, Cathedral City, The Produce|
|Water Temp||From (Celsius) 19 degrees , 17 degrees bottom temperature in winter up to 24 degrees mid Summer.|
|Time to dive||Aliwal Shoal gets incredibly busy at weekends so go mid-week if you want to avoid bumping into other dive groups underwater.|
|Best time for Raggies||August to November|
|Exposure Protection||5mm 2 piece was adequate, with hood if you feel the cold|
|Possible Marine Encounters||Main attractions are Spotted Ragged Tooth Sharks, Dolphins, Zambezi Shark, Hammerhead Shark, Potato Basse, many rays including Eagle Rays, Stingrays, Moray Eels, Humpback Whales, varied Wrasse species, Some tropical reef fish, colorful nudibranches, anemones and soft corals.|
|Comments from initial dives:
Up with the lark each day, we were in the water by 6.30am. Boat ride – in a Rigid Inflatable, professionally skippered by Graham Powell of Sea Fever, Umkomaas (see above) – was accompanied by grand low flying Albatross and the broad rays of the sunrise shining through the cumulus cloud cover. The weather, choppy and chilly added to the excitement for our first dive in South Africa.
Andy’s Briefing re-iterated the need to respect the sharks’ space, to let them behave naturally and get accustomed to our presence. Negative entry limited the surface movement which would excite any sharks in the area.
Although visibility had been reduced by the recent high winds, the sharks were visible as soon as our eyes accustomised to the light.
Raggie Cave lived up to its name and we were surprised to see that the sharks moved so calmly under the divers. As long as we behaved in a relaxed manner, breathing normally, allowing ourselves to move back and forth with the surge, then the sharks were not interested in our presence.
Throughout the course, we were gradually able to distinguish male from female, recognise certain sharks by their markings, notice the particlar marks left on female pectoral fins after mating. These learnings enhanced the enjoyment of the dives so much more and gave us a thirst to learn more about the behaviour not only of sharks, but also the rest of the marine animals. Although we will never be fully accepted in the ocean realm, knowledge and respect is naturally the first step.The Produce
This superb wreck, 176m long, is a glorious dive. The Norwegian Bulk carrier sank on 11th August, 1974 after hitting Aliwal Shoal. She now lies on her starboard side in a divers heaven.