Diving at Protea Banks

Location Protea Banks, off Shelly Beach, near Margate – Hibiscus Coast
Dive Centre Recommendation African Dive Adventures is the longest standing dive centre in the area. Started in 1994 by Trevor Krull (who has now moved to Barra Lodge, Mozambique) the dive operation has now been taken over by Roland, Beulagh and Spike (Roland has incidently moved from Barra Lodge, Mozambique!). All dives are led by experienced guides. Highly recommended. See website for details or email: afridive@iafrica.com – or Tel. 082 456 7885 from SA.
Best Time to see Sharks Due to the Sardine Run, there are no sharks on Protea Banks or Aliwal Shoal during June. The Ragged Tooth Sharks begin to arrive July time and by August and September there are sometimes hundreds of them. Late September sees the arrival of Scalloped Hammerheads and by October/ November, they are schooling in their hundreds. Little Zambezi sharks can also be seen around this time of year. The large shoals of gamefish come in January and from then on the life is abundant, including big Zambezis, until May. April/ May are the best months for diving Protea Banks however try and avoid the easter weekend. Diver soup images spring to mind.
Water Temp Between 17(September) – 24 (April) degrees celcius with a few icy thermoclines.
Exposure Protection In September, we were wimps and got out our dry suits after seeing our computers reach a chilly 14 degrees from one thermocline. However, obviously hardened up a bit after diving around Africa, we managed a one piece 5mm with hood for all dives in April. Well OK, we’re not tough, the water was in fact a very warm 24 degrees.
Max diving depth 40 meters but the average depth of the reef is between 29 – 35m.
Possible Marine Encounters Spotted Ragged Tooth Sharks from July to September, Zambezi Shark from Oct (little ones) through to May (biggies), Schooling Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks in late September/October, Potato Basse, Gamefish arrives January through to April/May. Large Sandsharks and Black Spotted Ribbontail Rays are common in April/May; Eagle Rays and Manta Rays also seen.
Comments:
Dive Briefings here are most thorough we have ever heard. As the diving is much more challenging than your usual reef dives, the briefing made us feel very confident in our dive guide’s ability and control of a group. All the dives are to 30+ meters so the bottom time using air is minimal. A Nitrox qualification is highly recommended as extended bottom time means you’ll be able to hang out for longer in places like Sandshark Gulley where we saw up to 20+ sharks at one time. Most of the action usually happens mid water on the gradual ascent. If you are going to dive here, make sure you are very comfortable about hanging around mid water on the lookout for passing traffic.We did 10 dives on the Banks and our regular dive buddies were 2 meter Zambezi Sharks, schools of adult Scalloped Hammerheads mid-water and large Shovelnosed Rays (some call them Guitar or Sand Sharks) cruising just above the sandy bottom. A large Manta Ray surprised us on one dive and Mark just happened to be in the right place to take a lovely shot of it during it’s 10 second inspection of us. Also spotted at this time of year are large Black Ribbontail Rays and Eagle Rays on and around the reef.The reef itself is not all that barren but the dives you do here are specifically to look for sharks. You’ll get a slap from the DM if you start staring at angelfish or nudibranchs and rightly so because you’ll have just missed 30 Hammerheads trotting past your fins!A mind blowing dive spot if you’re lucky enough to bump fins with the big stuff. Recommended that you do not visit here for just one or two dives. Maybe one is enough but to give yourself a better chance of meeting sharks, prepare for at least 4 or 5 dives.Budget Accommodation

As usual looking for the cheapest places to pitch our tent, we came across Margate Backpackers in Collis Road, Manaba, between Shelly Beach and Margate. A lovely spot to chill out after diving, only 10 minute drive from Shelly Beach and 2 minute walk from Margate Beach. Large garden with huge advocado trees to camp under; fires built most evenings, braai when the mood takes you; swedish hostess Ulrika is very welcoming and offers the first beer on the house. Internet access and bar on site. Clean kitchen and bathrooms; Ulrika has never had a problem with security. Just take a couple of ear plugs to shut out the dogs barking! Dorms, double and single rooms available.

 

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