Scuba diving in South Africa – Why is it so popular?
By the time I arrived in sunny South Africa I was so desperate to get into the water. I hadn’t been diving for two years which suddenly felt like an eternity. I was itching to strap on my wet-suit, cylinder and trusty diving regulator and descend into the scuba diving haven of South Africa.
On my previous vacations to this rainbow nation I went diving on Aliwal Shoal which is situated on the south coast of Kwazulu Natal but the well renowned Sodwana had eluded me. This time that would change.
My journey started in the spicy coastal town of Durban where I hired a car for my four hour journey north towards the wetlands of St. Lucia and eventually the sleepy diving town of Sodwana. Upon arrival I was warmly met by my suntanned and passionate diving guide ‘Doodle’. I had heard rave reviews about South Africa Adventures from friends who had been diving with them the previous year and I hoped they would live up to the hype.
After an incredible evening with awesome food and company, my first day of Scuba diving in South Africa had dawned. And I was so excited. On the beach I met up with fellow diving tourists who would be my SCUBA buddies for the next few days on Sodwana. After we had kitted up our dive master took us through a briefing which included the reef we would dive, safety protocols and marine species we would likely see.
Sodwana is situated in a subtropical marine sanctuary and is rated in the top 10 dive sites in the world, so I could not wait to submerge into the SCUBA diving capital of South Africa. The dive site for the day was determined on qualifications, diver preferences and of course conditions. Our dive master had suggested we head on out to one of the further reefs known as ‘7 mile’.
Scuba diving in South Africa is way different to anywhere else in the world. One of the highlights is the boat launch. Wow. Once the dive gear has been loaded, the boat is pushed into the ocean with a tractor. All the divers then turn the boat to face the waves jump in and strap in for the ride out.
And did I mention that South Africa has waves. Big ones. Yip, and our skipper did an incredible job of punting through the relentless onslaught 4 foot waves until we made the safety of the back-line. I must admit, it is a truly exiting experience!!! This is South African style SCUBA diving at its best. And what else did I expect? I mean Africa is wild and exiting country, so why should the boat ride out be any different?
After a 15 minute boat ride, we had reached our dive site. We kitted up, did a final safety check and finally descended into the SCUBA diving realm. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a familiar fin flickering not far away. Curious, I finned to the small overhanging cave and found a pair of beady eyes staring back at me-a white tip reef shark. As I stared mesmerized into the cave I sense movement behind me. I turned around and dodged another shark that that swam nonchalantly past me onto the cave. I had dived with sharks before and I knew that White tips are totally harmless.
“SCUBA diving in South Africa is incredible”
On my numerous dives in the next few days I was treated to several first time sightings of marine species I had file away in my mind to ask Doodle about back on the boat. The vast array of reef fish and corals was out of this world.
From clown fish to moray eels, South Africa had it all. And of course Scuba diving in South Africa wouldn’t be diving without a turtle or two. In our case it was five turtle on one dive. Old leatherbacks of the sea they were. Swimming with them I could see why their characters were so accurately portrayed in ‘Finding Nemo’ as chilled out surfer type creatures.
My friends were right-I couldn’t have been happier with the crew from South Africa Adventures. And I can’t say enough about my diving guide Doodle. He was amazing. He handled the group dynamics and truly impressed me with his passion for the ocean and his incredible knowledge of the marine creatures.
One of the best diving vacations I have ever had. If SCUBA diving is your thing then South Africa must be on your bucket list of destinations.
Samantha Ryans- SCUBA Diving enthusiast and adventurer.