ROAD TRIP – SODWANA BAY (9)


Shark Diving (Umkomaas, South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal)

Welcome to our road trip of December 2021. We are travelling by car across South Africa (from the west coast → north coast → KZN south coast → back to the west coast). The distance we will cover, will be around 5,000km (3,106 miles).

Our main purpose for this trip, besides seeing places we have not seen before, is for Berto to scuba dive in Sodwana Bay and then to be a little more adventurous … diving with sharks in the ocean in Umkomaas on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal. We hope to share lots of pictures to show you our beautiful country.

Accommodation – Day 12 to Day 18:

Aliwal Dive Centre

And finally, here we are … at the highlight of our road trip (at least for Berto) 😉 … diving with sharks in the open ocean!

Brace yourself for an overload of shark images – this will be our post with the most pictures thus far … we hope you enjoy these dives (while staying dry)!

Come on, let’s go diving – it’s going to be very exciting!

Preparing for the dive:

Before each dive, it’s a very busy time. The two boats are prepared with all the diving equipment, divers get into their wetsuits, signing indemnity forms (ah, those sharks …) … in short, there is a high anticipation from the divers of what they will experience!

One of the two boats are prepared for the dive
Yes … sign those indemnity forms
A map of Aliwal Shoal – a rocky reef which is the remains of an ancient sand dune – this is where the divers are heading to

Depending on the weather conditions, the divers will either enter the ocean from the river’s side or directly into the sea. This is one of the most difficult launch sites into the ocean and it’s probably true that the skippers here at Umkomaas are the most capable of them all!

For this particular dive, the skipper preferred to launch from the river
The boat is launched into the river
The skipper gives a briefing before the dive … in short, hang on to the boat at all times when going through the waves!
Ready, steady …

Baited shark dive:

Except for the normal diving excursions, Berto also booked one baited shark dive. Aliwal Shoal is one of the few places in the world where divers can enjoy the extreme thrill of diving with both Blacktip- and Tiger sharks … that is in the open ocean with NO cage.

At first, when arriving at the reef, frozen fish are thrown overboard … and the sharks appears immediately!

  • The following photo’s are taken with a GoPro 6 Black. Keep in mind that the visibility at Umkomaas are not as amazing as at Sodwana Bay … and everything is happening at a much faster pace …
Oh … that’s a big mouth …
That fin reminds me of a very scary movie I saw years ago …

The bait ball, filled with chum, are now thrown overboard and the divers jumps in to hang at 10m to watch an amazing spectacle.

The bait ball attracts many fish
The dive master makes sure the chum gets out of the bait ball to lure fish (and sharks)
And then fish of all shapes and sizes starts to appear to enjoy an easy meal

After a while, somewhere from the deep dark shadows, sharks start approaching the bait ball (and divers) … I’m sure it’s then when divers think to themselves “Am I totally crazy?”

Yep, it’s a shark
It’s definitely a shark!
Oh, that’s a bit too close for comfort!

Let’s breathe for a moment … and focus on the other fish!

But it’s not long before the focus goes back to those sharks … they are after all circling the bait ball (and the divers).

You can’t miss them
No, not his bodyguards, but fish swimming with the shark to feed on the food that is falling out of his mouth
Uh-oh, he’s coming right towards Berto
Swinging away on the last second

North Sands:

With the bait ball dive over, the boat moved over to the next diving spot. On the reef, is North Sands and there you will find a cave … and more sharks. The photo’s are a bit dark (it is a cave after all, approximately 15m underwater), but I’m sure you’ll be able to see what the divers came for …

Divers on their way to the cave at North Sands
A shark hanging in front of the cave – is he the only one there?
No, he’s got many buddies inside the cave
A shark blocking off the entrance to the cave
Uh well … who’s got right of way here?
Not a pretty face … and I’m being polite here!
And divers leaving the cave … only to find a white-tipp shark now in the open water

Did I mention there are other creatures, except for sharks, in the ocean as well? Berto saw a lobster hiding under a rock – they look a bit different than those on the west coast of South Africa.

East Coast lobster under a rock

Taking a break:

The divers normally do two dives per day (depending on the weather). In between dives, they will rest for a while on the boat before they commencing on their next dive of the day.

We had really bad (diving) weather for the week we stayed in Umkomaas. When we saw the perfect weather conditions on the day we were supposed to leave, we instantly decided to stay an extra day – this would be a great dive at Cathedral to see more sharks … and it turned out to be exactly that!

Cathedral dive:

Cathedral is another huge cave where sharks gets together … and the perfect place to lay on your stomach and just watch them hanging around.

Getting closer to Cathedral
Meeting a shark outside the cave
So many sharks in one spot
While looking inside the cave, another shark came from behind and swam very close pass Berto to enter the cave
Divers having the time of their lives
Berto: “Is he looking at me?”

Oh yes, and once again … there are other fish in this part of the ocean. The coral reefs are also colourful, and so are the fish.

Colourful fish

It was time to greet the sharks and leave the amazing waters of Aliwal Shoal at Umkomaas.

What an absolutely amazing experience

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, it was THE highlight for Berto on our road trip. An experience to never forget and definitely recommended to any serious scuba diver!

And what did I get from this part of our road trip?

Two shiny and razor-sharp shark teeth

We hope you enjoyed this post (just as much as Berto enjoyed his dives and me watching all the multiple video’s and photo’s while putting this post together).

This is not the end though of our road trip, in our next post, we are staying with animals with sharp teeth … and pay a visit to a crocodile park. Can’t wait to meet you guys there!

PS: No animals (or divers) were hurt during these excursions! This post is an illustration of how sharks are miss-represented by movies and the media as being dangerous creatures.

Categories: South African Break Aways

62 comments

  1. I know sharks aren’t as dangerous as they’re portrayed, but I still don’t think I’d be brave enough to do this. Sounds like an unforgettable experience though, and I enjoyed seeing the images from the safety of my living room.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you Diana … I’m definitely not that brave! But Berto are of the opinion this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and not to be missed (I’ll take his word for it 😉). Thanks for stopping and reading our (lengthy) post – much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Baie bly julle kon daardie mooiweerdag benut. “Neewat, haaitjie, skuif maar aan…Ek bly op my klippie staan!”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Incredible underwater photography Corna. Berto must be a very accomplished diver to be able to do all this. I’m not even a very strong swimmer, but good for him for grasping the opportunity to participate in this incredible once in a lifetime activity!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I actually like seeing sharks when we dive, but I’m not sure about having them swim around so close when they’ve come for dinner! Great pictures! Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Maggie 🌸. Yes, I agree with you … that is a bit too close for comfort! But I suppose, in all these years that they’ve been doing this with no incidents, it’s safe for the divers to “hang around” the bait ball 😉.

      Like

  5. Wow, what a fun adventure, especially being so close to sharks! I’ve never been on a diving tour but I believe that diving, in general, broadens the mind and gives you a better quality of life as well as offers an opportunity to be more aware of the environment and have a different understanding of man’s place in the world. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading Aiva. I can assure you Berto definitely thought it was one of the most fun and extremed things he has ever done in his life! And yes, you are 100% about better understanding of the environment. May you also have a great day, take care. Corna 🌸.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What an unforgettable experience this must have been. I’m terrified of sharks, and yet I think I would like to do this. To get that close to those incredible creatures and live in their world for a short time. There are some amazing photos here, I particularly love the shot of the other fish trailing Mr. Shark with food falling out of his mouth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Berto agrees with you Leighton … absolutely unforgettable! Like I’ve said to another blogger, there were never any incidents in all of these years, so I believe it’s pretty safe. It was really difficult to choose between literally 100’s of photo’s, but I was sure about that one of the shark and other fish following him – it makes the shark look really important 😉. Thanks for still following our road trip (even though you and Sladja must be pretty busy with all of your excursions in the UK).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Breathtaking. I wish I could too. Thank you so much for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow wow wow. For a diver like Berto this must have been just about the pinnacle/best ever! What a fabulous experience, and fantastic photographs to remember it by. Brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. All I can say is, “NOT IN A MILLION YEARS”!!! I have done some pretty crazy things in my time, but never that! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow; what an amazing opportunity and crystal clear photos to boot! Berto is certainly brave!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. That is an amazing experience and so well documented with stunning photos! Berto is very brave. It is hard to imagine being in the open water with so many potentially lethal sharks. I did a cage “dive” with the Shark Team at Shark Alley near Gansbaai. They call it a dive but it was actually just getting in a cage that is attached to the side of the boat. We saw a number of great whites in the max 3 – 4m size range. The 4m+ sharks seem to know they won’t get the bait so don’t waste energy chasing it. For something like Berto’s dive I’d need some substantial assurances of protection. I saw reef sharks on a resort dive in the Maldives but only two and at a distance. Thanks for sharing these fantastic photos. They provide a taste of what swimming with sharks is like. It is about as close as I’ll ever knowingly get. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind words John. Oh yes, we know about the shark cage diving at Gansbaai … I’m not so sure whether you would like to dive “free” when there are some great whites around! Here at Umkomaas you can also snorkel between the sharks when the bait ball is out (with or without a cage) – I’ve met some of the guys that done that and they found it quite amazing. However, I do think the ultimate is to actually scuba dive with them … but I’m with you on the “substantial assurances of protection” (like maybe a submarine 😁).
      Thank you for reading yet another post on our road trip – it’s much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Just Wow! What a phenomenal adventure!! I adore sharks but don’t know if I would be brave enough to swim among them! Glad Berto got a chance to do this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m definitely not in that bravery queue, but Berto assured me it was one of his best diving experiences ever … and I could see it on his smile every time he returned from one of his dives 😊. Thank you for reading and your comments. Take care, Corna 🌸.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow, this is amazing! When you mentioned sharks earlier I assumed a cage would be involved, but so much better to see them this way! A bit unnerving however? But wonderful photos as a record of the adventure 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow – incredible dives! I was lucky enough to see black tip reef sharks during a dive in Sodwana, but the plethora you have seen is just incredible!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Lyk of Berto se drome dubbel en dwars bewaarheid is!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Sounds like an incredible and incredibly terrifying experience to dive with the sharks in the open ocean without a cage! I can see why this would be the highlight of the trip for Berto. I’m glad you were able to extend your trip by an extra day as the Cathedral dive looks amazing! There’s so many sharks!! And how neat to find some shark teeth as souvenirs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like your description of “incredibly terrifying” 🙂 … though Berto thought it was a lot of fun! And yes, to stay that extra day was absolutely the right choice – the Cathedral dive delivered it all! I will have to frame those two shark teeth – it’s such great souvenirs 🦈.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow, dit moes ‘n ongelooflike ondervinding vir Berto gewees het! Die haaie is so groot! En daai tande! Nee, dankie ek sal maar na die foto’s kyk en dit waardeer. Berto is baie braaf, Corna! Sal sowaar weer ‘n hoed moet gaan soek om vir hom af te haal!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Signing the indemnity paper might make one hesitate but I doubt anyone ever changes their mind at that point! I don’t do well under water, so I wouldn’t be a good diver, but I certainly understand the thrill this must be…like jumping out of an aeroplane and free-falling….I couldn’t do that either! Wonderful pictures and a great way to show a different, more realistic view of sharks. They are beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, yes I think you’re absolutely right about those indemnity papers Carolyn! I’m not that crazy either to do all those thrill seeking things – call me boring, but rather that than living on the egde! I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures, to be honest, it is quite astonishing to watch the video’s and see they are not even remotely interested in the divers.

      Like

  19. How exciting and what an adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Oh wow!! I’d be toooo terrified, but what an adventure 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you Hannah! But I suppose some (like Berto) like the thrill seeking adventure, while others (like me) like to enjoy the beach while having a cocktail 😄.
      Thanks for reading and your comments. Have a great day (and weekend that’s just around the corner) 🌸.

      Like

  21. Jinne, julle is brawe avonturiers. Ek is bly julle het die wonderlike ervaring met ons gedeel. Groetnis

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Thank you for sharing such an amazing post Corna 💕🌸 I’m so grateful that I could experience this through your writing and of course we needed Berto, he is so brave. I will soon read your next post

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Wow!!! Glad that Berto had a lot of fun, though I don’t really understand.. the little colourful reefs and fish are so much nicer😉
    An experience hard to forget – for him – for sure😊

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Oh my, you couldn’t get me out on that shark dive! How courageous, and an amazing experience.

    Liked by 1 person

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