Along the East coast of South Africa, just south of Durban lies a subtropical stretch of coastline known as the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) South Coast.
Visitors to the coast are greeted by warm, welcoming waters of the Indian Ocean and fine stretches of sandy beach set against a backdrop of rolling sugar cane hills interspersed with islands of indigenous bush.
Umkomaas, (“the river of cow whales”) a small town about 45km to the south of Durban, forms part of this magnificent coastline. Renowned for the spectacular dive opportunities created by ALIWAL SHOAL – a large sandstone reef lying 5km out to sea – the town is a buzz with divers and for the most part, the locals enjoy a quiet and tranquil “small town” existence.
“a first class shipping menace”. In 1849 a three-mast vessel, the Aliwal, under the command of Captain James Anderson, almost came to grief on the Shoal and he warned other ships of the dangers of this shallow and unchartered reef. The “shoal” later became known as Aliwal, named after the ship of this conscientious mariner.
Aliwal Shoal itself is an untamed underwater wilderness, filled with the adventure of rugged topography and abundant marine life. Aliwal is best known for its “big stuff” such as bottlenose dolphins, manta rays, game fish and a variety of sharks (most notably the “ragged-tooth and tiger sharks). If you are able to turn your back on all the “big stuff” and put your nose down to the reef you may also be surprised by a number of small and challenging finds. For the smaller fish lovers, pineapple fish, frogfish, paper fish and pipefish are also resident.
On a good day, Aliwal effortlessly lives up to its status of being one of the top ten dive sites worldwide and provides a world-class, unique and exhilarating dive experience. Be warned though that diving at Aliwal can also be disappointing as it does have the odd day of poor visibility and strong currents.