Best for: Shark diving.

Dive site: Protea Banks - 8km off-shore, depth 28 to 45m, advanced divers only. Launch from Shelly Beach ski boat club not for the faint-hearted

Best time of year: June to October - ragged-tooth shark breeding season, bull shark, reef tip and tiger. Also dolphins and humpback whales. November to May -bull sharks, tiger sharks and schooling hammerheads.

Average water temperature: 20 deg C (winter), 24 deg C (summer)


Dive Centres:

Aqua Planet, African Dive Adventures

Reviews:

Aqua Planet: Friendly and professional, this dive centre is situated in town where you park your car, kit up and then hop on their transport for a quick 5-minute transfer to the ski-boat club.

If you are doing two dives, you return to the ski-boat base where you can buy a cool drink or coffee, before your next dive.

Return to the dive centre after diving where kit is washed for you and you can enjoy a hot shower and coffee.

Our skipper Jaco was on the ball and our dive master Michelle was helpful and knowledgeable.

Contact details:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 082 877 3966


Accommodation

Backpackers to self-catering and 3 to 5-star guest house/B&Bs.

Reviews:

My Den B&B: Situated right on Oslo Beach, this three-star guest house offers single to family accommodation in comfortable, spacious rooms with bed and breakfast or self catering options.

Features: Braai facilities, swimming pool, TVs in rooms and tea/coffee-making facilities, air conditioning, wi-fi in public areas.

Note: If you are diving, don’t go for the B&B option, as breakfast is only served from 7.30pm.

Contact details: email: mydentelkomsa.net, call 039 682 6096

Tropical Beach Boutique Guest House: Definitely one of the south coast’s best-kept secrets, Tropical Beach offers four-star luxury and five-star service. The décor is an eclectic mix of European, African and Asian traditional and contemporary, and each double-room has its own unique style. All offer TVs, air conditioning and ceiling fans, a writing desk, crisp percale linen, toweling gowns, wifi, a bar fridge and tea and coffee-making facilities.

Rooms surround a pool and a lovely garden which lures visitors to the private beach, where breakfast is served when the weather permits.

Breakfast is served to suit you and offers everything from fruit, yoghurt and muesli to full English or omelettes.

The staff was very accommodating, even setting up a dinner table in the dining room where we could enjoy our dinner takeaways. Couldn’t fault it!

Contact details: Call 0393150573, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Shelly Beach Lodge: Owner Martie was there to meet us with a warm welcome before showing us to our spacious and comfortable rooms. The lodge is situated off Shelly Beach’s main road within walking distance to the shopping centre.

The double rooms are decorated with a sea theme and have en-suite bathrooms (showers only), air conditioning, ceiling fans, bar fridges, tea and coffee making facilities. We loved the fresh roses in the room and the complimentary shampoo and body wash.

Used to accommodating divers and business travellers, Martie was only too happy to serve us and early breakfast, which was delicious. On good days, you can also enjoy meals on the sun terrace which has a sea view.

Contact details: Call 0790481357, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Other rated activities:

Oribi Gorge and Wild 5 Adventures: Offers hiking and five different activities for adrenaline-junkies, including the daunting 84m suspension bridge, 120km zip line, river rafting on the Umzimkulu Rapids and the world’s highest gorge swing.

Take a picnic or enjoy refreshments at the Oribi Gorge Hotel.

Contact details: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 082 566 7424

Pure Venom Reptile Park: Meet some seriously slithery snakes from all the over the world, as well as crocodiles, alligators, a variety of iguanas and lizards. There is also an adjacent animal farm with goats, duck and bunnies and a kid’s play area.

The Viper tea room offers basic breakfasts and light lunches, including hamburgers, boerewors rolls, toasted sandwiches, cakes and milkshakes.

Contact details: 0396850704, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(Photo Credit: Ivan Van Heerden)

Best for: Reef and wreck diving.

Dive site: Southern gateway to Aliwal Shoal, rated by Jacques Costeau as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. Top dives on good days are Landers and Howard’s Castle, Umzimai Wall and also wrecks Nebo and Produce.

Best time of the year: All year round diving, but expect raggies and humpback whales from May to October and tiger and hammerhead sharks in summer.

Average water temperatures: Winter 19deg C, summer 24 deg C


Dive centres:

ScubaXcursion, Crystal Divers, Blue Wilderness Shark Adventures, Shark Cage Diving

Reviews:

ScubaXcursion: Situated in the Cutty Sark hotel car park, the team, headed by Maaike and Nicho Boers, is incredibly professional, welcoming and helpful. Nothing was too much trouble, from helping with kit to showing us around the well-appointed dive centre.

A short walk from the dive centre along the beach gets you to the boat which launches through the surf for the 4km trip to the shoal.

Top marks went to the attention to detail, which included cups of filter coffee before and after diving, warm showers, towels, shampoo, change rooms, dry macs for the chilly boat trip back to the beach and bags to transport wet kit back home. Kit is also washed for you.

DM Muller was relaxed and informative and skipper, the boat was spacious and user friendly and skipper Malcolm was always on hand to help out wherever possible.

Contact details: 0845567903, email diving@ scubaxcursion.co.za


Accommodation:

Ranges from backpackers, self catering, B and B to holiday homes, apartments and hotels.

Reviews:

Rocky Bay Resorts: Situated right on the beach, this rustic resort offers caravan and camping sites as well as self-catering accommodation in log cabins. Our six-sleep cabin set amongst trees was comfortable and cosy, but could be a bit challenging with one shared bathroom.

Rooms have ceiling fans and the lounge has air conditioning. Nice outside braai area and well-stocked kitchen and DSTV for those so inclined. The resort also offers a shop, laundry facilities, a swimming pool, games room and kiddies area and the Sugar Baron restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Great for a family or group of friends.

Contact: Call 0399760336, website www.rockybay.co.za

Cutty Sark Hotel: This three-star hotel has lost none of its retro appeal, which includes the décor and old-school friendly staff. All sea-facing rooms are spacious with TV, ceiling fans, coffee and tea facilities, a bathroom (with shower and bath). Views over Scottburgh beach are stunning.

The hotel is set in lush gardens with private access to the beach and has a swimming pool, kiddies play area and splash pool, bar, games room, lounge with free wifi access and a dining room which offers hearty breakfast and dinner buffets.

Contact: Call 039 9761230, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Best for: Reef dives

Dive sites: Aliwal Shoal – Raggies Cave, Cathedral, Northern Pinnacles, South Sands, Chunnel Cave, Manta Point. You can also dive Produce and Nebo wrecks from here.

Best time of the year: All year round diving with abundant game and reef fish, dolphins and turtles. December to May tiger sharks, December to February whale sharks, May to November ragged tooth sharks and humpback whales.

Average water temperatures: Winter 19 deg c, summer 24 deg C.

Dive centres: Aliwal Dive Centre and Lodge, Aliwal Shoal Scuba, Agulhas Dive Resort, Blue Ocean Dive Resort, Buddy Scuba Dive Adventure, Calypso Dive and Adventure Centre, Diving in Africa, Scuba Addicts Dive Centre and Lodge, The Shoal Dive Centre.


Reviews:

Agulhas House and Diving: A treat for serious divers, Agulhas House offers accommodation and a dive centre in the heart of the village and just minutes from the launch site at the Umkomaas River mouth.

There is a main house offering single and double rooms and outside rooms overlooking the pool and thatched gazebo, all set in a lush, tropical garden. Rooms offer four-star, air conditioned luxury, complete with ceiling fans, TV, tea and coffee-making facilities and fridge, and are all en-suite. A bonus for our team was the excellent free wifi connection.

With an in-house chef, breakfast is ordered before your first morning dive and ready to enjoy al fresco when you get back. A delicious lunch and dinner is also part of the package.

With 25 years combined experience owner Brett Louw sees to it that the dive centre is highly professional (make sure you have all your necessary certification and dive permits!) and, as a bonus, offers double tank dives with unlimited dive times and free nitrox.

Friendly manager Michelle is on hand to help with all your diving requirements, which includes kitting up and washing gear after dives.

Great for groups or divers wanting more R&R.

Contact: Call 0399731640, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(Aliwal Shoal, Photo Credit: Brain Sellick)

Blue Ocean Dive Resort: A majestic colonial-style house built in 1934 with views over the Indian Ocean is the hub of Blue Ocean, which offers accommodation, a dive centre and fully-licensed bar and restaurant under one roof.

Rooms vary from single to double and family, all en-suite, and are spacious and comfortable. A bonus for single travellers is that they do not charge a single supplement and kids under five stay free.

The buffet breakfast on weekends is legendary and, to accommodate divers, is open until lunchtime. The restaurant, with its own wood-fire pizza oven, serves hearty, very reasonable meals throughout the day.

The resort also has a sundeck, swimming pool and offers free wifi in public areas (but this can be a little slow). By prior arrangement it is also pet friendly. Owners Nicki Gibson and Gary Snodgrass always go out of their way to accommodate your every need.

The dive centre team is friendly and helpful and after diving your gear is washed, packed away and ready for you the next morning. After kitting up, it’s a short drive to the beach for the launch to the shoal. We did three dives with experienced dive master Rae (also known as the Shark Whisperer), all of which were spectacular, packed with everything from the small stuff like paper fish and nudibranchs to the big boy raggies, turtles and rays.

Best for sociable groups, friends or family looking for great diving, a fun all-round experience and a home away from home.

Contact: Call 039 9730456, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Other rated activities:

Mnini Dam: If the boat rides through the surf are not enough to get your adrenaline pumping, then you can visit the Mnini Dam for a speedboat ride and picnic, or a spot of bass fishing and bird watching.

Owned and run by Mlu and Sphiwe Shezi, the Mnini Dam resort also has a kids playground and a bar and grill where, by prior arrangement, they will prepare you a great shisa nyama lunch.

Contact: Call 083 5141685, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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