Top Diving Destinations in SA

South Africa is well-known for its exquisite dive sites scattered along the picturesque coastline of the country.

©Jean Tresfon

The powerful clash of the Benguela and Mozambique currents allows the waters of SA to support a huge diversity of marine life, so there is always something new to see while exploring the big blue.

You can opt for the shore as your entry point or go by boat - it’s up to how deep you want to go. Diving companies are very accommodating and will tailor the experience to your needs. All you have to do is take a deep breath and - splash! - you are on a marine safari.

Dives can be done both from a boat and from the shore. Depending on your budget, you can opt for either. Here are the top diving destinations in Mzansi:

KwaZulu-Natal Treasure Trove

©Jean Tresfon
©Jean Tresfon

The KwaZulu-Natal coastline is a treasure trove of dive sites, with many reefs, shipwrecks and rocky underpasses to explore. The warm waters are inviting and home to an array of tropical species and coral reefs. You’ll also spot an array of shark species, which is always a combination of fright and fascination. 

Aliwal Shoal is home to world-famous dive sites, each with unique features to see. Huge rock formations, caves, gullies, overhangs and shipwrecks await divers, so this site is for the adventurous who want to explore the secret underpasses, swim-throughs and haunted sunken ships.

Expect to see marine life like stonefish, scorpionfish, sharp-nosed stingray, squid and tuna. Shark fanatics will be happy to know that ragged-tooth sharks, hammerhead sharks and sand sharks frequent the waters at Aliwal Shoal. 

Sodwana Bay is another favorite - the dive spots mostly consist of coral reefs and the scenery includes gullies, swim-throughs, and pinnacles. It’s more of a technical dive, suite to advanced divers. Between October and February, migrating whales and whale sharks frequent the area, and other species include tropical reef fish and pelagics.

Durban has great spots for diving, with a variety of reefs and shipwrecks. Although it’s not the most popular, you’ll be able to see interesting species like sea turtles, various kinds of sharks and tropical fish. 

Protea Banks is a renowned dive destination, which consists of a unique reef system with schools of Yellowtail, Kingfish, Tuna and Barracuda.

Wild Coast & Garden Route

©Marinda Louw

The Wild Coast marks a fascinating transition from tropical to temperate waters. If you can handle cooler waters, then the reefs at Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape will not disappoint. There is a fantastic wreck dive at Haerlem Wreck, as well as an array of coral reefs. 

The Garden Route is a popular diving destination with a fascinating aquatic landscape. Mossel Bay has colorful reefs with an impressive array of fish, and shark cage diving with white sharks here will appeal to all adventure lovers.

A night dive is also highly recommended with plenty of weird and wonderful creatures emerging once the sun goes down. Knysna has a few good spots too, like the Paquita Wreck, which is great for technical diving. You’ll see seahorses, steenbras and gorgeous corals.

Cape Coast

©Jean Tresfon
©Jean Tresfon

The Atlantic might be cold, but there are various nice spots to dive along the scenic Cape Peninsula coastline. It has spots suited to beginner divers, that will help ease you into the world of oceanic exploration. 

In the Overberg region, Gansbaai is a great destination for shark cage diving. Going out by boat and interacting with the curious sharks of the Atlantic is a fun experience for thrill-seekers.

Simon’s Town has various reefs which can be explored, and is an easier dive to complete - great for beginners. You can expect to see pipefish, lobsters, seals, several types of rays and some harmless sharks such as pyjama sharks and dogfish.

Clifton’s dive spots are located about 100 meters off the shore south-west of Cape Town, which offers a lighter diving experience than the shark cage diving in the area. There are a large number of boulders, which creates swim-throughs and secret spots where you’ll see marine life such as nudibranches, starfish, soft sponges and crayfish.

False Bay allows divers to interact with playful seals while exploring the underwater treasures of the area. There are a few kelp forests to navigate through, where cuttlefish and shy sharks roam. 

By Carla Lottering