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Diving in South Africa

In South Africa you can dive with tremendous sharks and explore astounding reefs. Extensive visibility paired with abundant marine life makes South Africa the place to be.

Diving in South Africa

Quick facts

Capping the southern tip of the sprawling continent of Africa is a diverse, multicultural nation with a 2735-kilometer/1700-mile coastline on two oceans. South Africa’s waters beckon scuba divers to enter its wild and wooly realm. The dive experience here is as varied as the people, running the gamut from big sharks to throngs of tiny sardines. You’ll find tropical reefs in the northeast and temperate rocky reefs in the west. Some of the best diving here involves colder water, strong currents and launching from the surf – bring your appetite for adventure and reap the rewards of marine life encounters you’ll remember for a lifetime. Some of the very best dives in the world are found in South Africa. If you’ve ever been interested in diving with large creatures in epic seascapes, you’ve come to the right place. Off the coast of Gansbaai you have the opportunity to cage dive with massive great white sharks. Near False Bay you can enjoy warm water and vast kelp forests. Cape fur seals and sharks dodge and weave through the expanse of seaweed, making for an exhilarating and dreamlike dive.

Be prepared for a range of water temperatures during your dives. Water temperatures range from around 57°F to 80°F (14°C – 27°C) in various locations throughout the year.

There are a great deal of regulations for dive shops in South Africa, especially if they do cage diving. This is good for the consumer (you), because you know that the dive shop you are going with is reputable and responsible. This not only protects you, but it protects the wildlife, as well.

Recommended training

Take the AWARE – Fish Identification course to help identify local marine life. The PADI Enriched Air Diver and PADI Digital Underwater Photographer courses will help you prepare to capture great images and get the most out of your dives.

When to go

With a varied topography, South Africa has several climate zones that range from desert to subtropical. The Cape Town area has a Mediterranean-like climate with wet winters and hot, dry summers. Winter temperatures can get down near zero and summers can reach 30ºC/100ºF

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

  • KwaZulu-Natal

    With 83% of the world’s marine fish families, an alluring mix of shipwrecks, reefs and pelagic species, and one of the top five dive sites in the world, KwaZulu-Natal is a diver’s paradise.

  • The Northern Cape

    Vast and sparsely populated, Northern Cape welcomes visitors to South Africa’s frontier. The diving here is as wild as the landscape and features one of the deepest cave dives in the world.

  • The North-West of South Africa

    While South Africa may be surrounded by oceans, some of its most exciting diving occurs inland. In the North-West Province, training opportunities abound in sink holes, lakes and former mines.

  • The Western Cape

    South Africa’s Western Cape is as thrilling as it comes. Dive into heavy currents with giant sharks in the southwest. Or enjoy a little less danger in the calm and colorful reefs of the south coast.

Gansbaai – East of Cape Town, this area is world-famous for its shark whisperers and cage diving encounters with great white sharks. The Dyer Island Group, just south of Gansbaai, is home to a massive Cape fur seal colony and has vast numbers of African penguins and sea birds. No wonder hundreds of great white sharks have decided that this is where they belong as well. A short boat ride puts divers in the midst of the great whites attracted to these waters by the rich feeding. False Bay – False Bay is just south of Cape Town and relatively speaking, the water is warmer than the nearby Atlantic coastline. Here you’ll find kelp forests, rocky walls and sandy bottoms. Inhabitants include Cape fur seals, leopard cat sharks, puffadder shysharks, as well as red and orange sea fans, feather stars and nudibranchs. Mossel Bay – This small harbor town in the heart of South Africa’s Garden Route has several dive sites that range from shallow (about 7 metres/23 feet) to deep (30 metres/100 feet). Look for big fans, sponges, small reef fish, stingrays and rock cod. The region is also one of South Africa’s best places to spot great white sharks. Santos Reef – Santos beach, in the northern corner of Mossel Bay, is home to a small, well-sheltered reef that’s protected from the incoming swell. Marine life includes stingrays, cuttlefish and a variety of local reef species. Visibility is generally good during the summer months but can drop during the winter. Innerpool – Around Mossel Bay’s point is a surf spot called Innerpool. While it offers some of the area's best waves, you’ll find divers flocking to it when the surf allows. You can spot creatures ranging from nudibranchs to dolphin or sharks. In addition to the sea life, the tidal movement in the area rubs rocks together, resulting in some interesting formations. The Sardine Run – The world-famous sardine run typically takes place each year between May and July, when billions of sardinops sagax spawn off Agulhas Bank then high-tail it up the eastern seaboard. Naturally, this convoy attracts predators looking to satiate their appetites. The numbers vary, but try to wrap your mind around a cloud of sardines up to 6.5 kilometres/4.0 miles long by 1.6 kilometres/1.0 mile wide by 30 meters/100 feet deep, closely trailed by sharks, dolphin and other pelagic species. It’s a major spectacle and perhaps one of the planet’s greatest dives.

What to see

Massive sharks of many different varieties can be seen on dives in South Africa. Once a year, the sardine run along the shoreline, bringing with them shoals of ravenous marine life. During the sardine run you can see sharks, dolphin, tuna, and even humpback whales feeding. The variety of marine life on the reefs is astounding, so be sure to take a closer look.

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Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

Country

Officially the Republic of South Africa, this nation lies at the tip of the continent of Africa. Because of its location, South Africa has always held a place of importance in the global community. In the 1400’s, making it around the Cape of Good Hope from Europe to Asia was an incredible feat.

Between Table Mountain and the beautiful beaches you can find the capital city of Cape Town. Much of the history of the country is held in this beautiful and diverse city.

South Africa has a troubled past, but the nation has made huge leaps and bounds with the help of the former president, Nelson Mandela. The country’s struggle with apartheid has brought everyone in the nation closer together, as a rule, though tensions can still run high.

Other attractions

South Africa is an expansive and diverse country, so be sure to explore inland from the coastline. There are mountains to be climbed via epic switch-backing roads, and gorgeous rivers that cut through rugged landscapes. Indulge in the fantastic cuisine, and don’t miss out on Cape Town, with its colonial architecture and endless opportunities for discovery.

Getting there

You can arrive in South Africa by air or by land. Most divers enter the country via Cape Town International Airport, but Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg is also a major international hub. There are taxis scattered across the country, and an extensive bus system. Or, you can rent a 4x4 and really get to exploring.

UTC+02:00

Time zone

ZAR

Currency

27

Calling code

230 V

Electric volt

C, 

D, 

M, 

N

Plug type

CPT

Main airport
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