The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Aliwal Shoal

Afrikaans name: Aliwal-bank

Aliwal Shoal diving site

Aliwal Shoal

Photo © Adobe Stock


The little town of Umkomaas, on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, is the base for access to one of South Africa’s best known natural attractions. This is where divers gather from all over South Africa and many overseas countries to visit Aliwal Shoal. The dive site is about 5 km offshore and slightly south of Umkomaas.

There are many things that attract divers to Aliwal Shoal, but the conditions are not always favourable nor are they predictable. The rivers flowing into the Indian Ocean along the south coast bring with them a lot of silt, especially when in flood. If the sea is rough it picks up this silt causing murky water conditions.

So, I have mentioned the negative side of Aliwal Shoal, so what is the attraction? The reef has some spectacular underwater scenery and, during winter, is the gathering place for Raggedtooth Sharks.

The water depth varies from 9 metres to 30 metres and the water temperature is normally in the high teens to low twenties. The reef runs for approximately 3 km and is 300 metres wide in parts.

The marine life includes a variety of hard and soft corals, invertebrates, turtles, fish of all sizes including the massive Whale Shark and the sharks. As mentioned above there are at times large gathering of Raggedtooth Sharks, but you may also see a Zambezi Shark. Care should be taken around the sharks, in particular the latter species which is more aggressive than the former.

Have you dived at Aliwal Shoal? What was it like?

References and further reading

The Dive Sites of South Africa - Author: Anton Koornhof - Published: 1992 - Page: 114

Getaway - Vol 28 No 11 - Author: - Published: 2017 - Page: 60

Getaway - Vol 32 No 03 - Author: - Published: 2020 - Page: 104

Conollys Guide to Southern Africa - 2nd edition - Author: Denis Conolly - Published: 1982 - Page: 190

Country Life - Issue 251 - Author: - Published: 2017 - Page: 82


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