Durban is situated in the centre of all the dive sites on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, with Umhlanga Rocks just 17km north of Durban.
The climate on the north coast is mostly subtropical to tropical and it is usually mild in winter and hot in the summer. Rain is frequent during the summer months. Summer land temperatures are 17-30˚C while winter land temperatures are 11-25˚C.
Durban and its surroundings have never been a popular diving destination and as a result, dive operators have come and gone over the years. But today the dive spots still offer a variety of reefs and wrecks and some of the best dives that you can ﬁnd in the area. The art of diving here lies in choosing the right time - the conditions are reasonably good throughout the year but the best time to dive here would be between November and February.
Durban seems to be a halfway house between Sodwana Bay and Aliwal Shoal and only divers that are looking to dive something different come to this area to dive. A number of deep and shallow wrecks as well as reefs at different depths are to be found in this region. Almost every dive and dive spot is planned according to the weather.
Tropical reef ﬁsh in the area includes razorﬁsh, paperﬁsh, tiger angels and schools of coachmen are now observed on almost every dive. On the wrecks and on the deeper dives one tends to encounter the pelagic ﬁsh such as cuda, shad and various types of tuna. Ragged-tooth sharks are also commonly found in the area with some making themselves at home on a number of the reefs.
With the annual sardine run, many of the larger ﬁsh species start making an appearance and a number of shark species can be seen. There are always bigger species to be found if you choose the season well, including whale sharks, dolphins and the humpback whale. Summer water temperatures are 20-25˚C and winter water temperatures are 15-20˚C.
The main attraction for scuba divers at uShaka Marine World is the fact that you are allowed to dive in the aquarium. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to dive in a fish tank with tropical fish and get up close and personal with Eagle rays, Guitar sharks and Pompano to name just a few. Whether it’s your 1st or your 50th, a dive in the aquarium is a dive that will awaken or reignite your passion for diving.
There are two tanks in which you can dive, the Lagoon and the Open Ocean Tank: The Lagoon has an abundance of fish from rainbow wrasse to a large shoal of batfish. All in all, there are 67 different species to keep you entertained. Scuba diving here, you have the opportunity to explore the nooks and crannies of the man-made wreck of the 1920s cargo ship – there is a vintage World War II Willy’s Jeep, an old, rusty treasure chest and a small hound shark amongst other reef fish.
The Open Ocean Tank is your second option. Here you will encounter, amongst others, guitar sharks and rays - the giant round ribbon tail named Marilyn weighs in at 270kg - and eagle rays, ranging in size from the adorable to the breathtakingly huge, peering into your mask! One thing to remember is that for your safety, as well as that of the inhabitants of the tank, the Open Ocean Tank is reserved for certified divers only.
For those interested in experiencing the underwater world without having to take a scuba diving course, uShaka Marine World offers the Ocean Walker – a dome shaped ‘hat’ that rests on your shoulders with an oxygen supply from above. You walk like an astronaut on the ocean floor in the Open Ocean Tank as the fish swim past you, undisturbed by your presence. It is a safe method for non-divers to experience the underwater world. Remember: no currents, no waves and loads of fun.By Johan Boshoff