Deciding on where to dive the first weekend in September, I realised I’d gone through the entire winter diving season without encountering my favourite Ragged Tooth (raggie) sharks. It was time. A quick call to Dean Channon from Underwater World sealed the deal. We rounded up some of the old crew, including Durban Green Corridor’s “larney” Gary Cullen, and set the dive for a civilised 10am launch from Blue Ocean Dive Resort in Umkomaas.
This is the gateway to the KZN East Coast’s famed Aliwal Shoal, where on a good day, you could be diving in an aquarium and a bad day is better than none at all.
We arrived the allocated hour before, giving us plenty of time to grab a coffee, say hello to old friends – including Blue Ocean’s resident canine Nitrox and his new mate Trimix - and kit up before the quick ride to the beach.
With our DM Josh we decided we would head for Cathedral as it is one of the best spots to hang out with the gentle giants we were hoping to see. For the uninitiated, while raggies look ferocious, they are quite harmless and generally don’t mind having us humans in their space.
June to November is their mating season and the shoal is their happy hunting ground. If you don’t get in their way, they’re quite content to share their piece of the ocean with you.
The drive to the shoal can be rather tedious when the sea is rough, but we were blessed with a calm, flat Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, if you get the one right, the other might not be and we had been warned of bad visibility.
The warning was correct and it was a rather murky descent to 27m, although having the resident and very inquisitive potato bass accompanying me on the way down, made up for it.
And then there it is – the natural amphitheatre with its sandstone arch “viewing window” where you can literally chill out and watch the world go by. It’s an underwater paparazzi’s wet dream.
On this visit, there were about eight of the sharks swimming around the cavern, three of which decided to give us a show by beating an exit into the big blue right above our heads.
A slow ascent took us over a rather boring patch, although we did have some raggies in attendance, along with a turtle, until we reached around 15m where the sun came out, the sea cleaned up and we were back in diving heaven.
With a bottom temperature of around 21 deg C, it warmed up closer to the surface and out came all the critters … a swimming moray eel, an octopus and all the usual bright and beautiful coral fish.
So, I had my raggie fix, and a pretty, relaxed ending to the 50-minute dive.
The 15-minute ride back to the beach was a breeze, with our savvy skipper even managing to get us through the river mouth for an easy transfer to the transport back to the resort.
With the Blue Ocean team unpacking and washing our kit, it was time for a very welcome hot shower and lunch.
The dive centre is right next to the restaurant, so while your kit is drying, you can enjoy a cold beer, steaming cappuccino and a slap-up lunch. Their pizzas are highly recommended (you can make up your own from a long list of ingredients) and you can’t go wrong with a prego steak roll or a house burger.
After sharing pictures and dive stories with the rest of the crew, who had also packed our kit in the car, it was time to reluctantly head home.
Next up is the Sodwana “Octoberfest and Potjiekos” competition next month. Can’t wait!
For all your dive planning, bookings, logistics and fun things to do between dives, get hold of us to help plan and book your dive package here
- Debbie Reynolds