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Hard-core diving in South Africa – Szilvia Gogh of reports

(DiverWire) Contributing Writer Szilvia Gogh recently returned from an exciting adventure in South Africa. Here’s a portion of her trip report posted in its entirety on Buckle Up! I am about to usher you through some of the most exciting destinations in South Africa.  If you are keen on taking an adventure to a country that is cutting edge and offers an untamed wilderness, then this is the place for you.

Growing up I read so many books on South Africa and was mesmerized by the stories and pictures that captured its wildlife and rugged terrain.  The authors of these stories were living the life I yearned for.

Africa Tour is the leader in travel booking throughout this region.  Their providers offer you everything from shark diving, to wine tasting, to safaris.  They were kind enough to host us on an adventure of a lifetime.

Our journey began in Umkomaas, along Aliwal Shoal, a scuba mecca that draws not only the international traveler, but also the local weekend diver. During our first dive with Blue Vision Dive Center we hung out around the Cathedral, an offshore rocky reef with coral, with approximately ten Ragged Tooth Sharks (also called Sand Tigers).  Although they look incredibly spooky, these sharks are very docile.  I spent several minutes searching the sand and collected a handful of fallen teeth to create necklaces upon my return for memories and scuba diving related shark jewelry.

The baited shark dive in the afternoon was off the hook!  Tyler, our divemaster, bare handedly fed fish to Black Tip Oceanic and Dusky Sharks from an old washing machine tub that was suspended by a rope.  He wore no gloves, no hood, not even boots!  I was convinced that he was either crazy or he was a “Shark Whisperer”.  He ended the one hour dive with not a scratch on his body.  Tyler maneuvered between the sharks elegantly and directed them my way for perfect photo ops.

I have to tip my hat to South African scuba divers!  I thought California and U.K. divers were hardcore, but diving in cold waters from big comfortable boats is nothing like riding the rubber duckies (zodiacs) through the crashing surf.  It is not for the diver who demands luxurious boats offering hot chocolate.  But it surely was a ton of fun!  Every dive was a true laughter filled adventure.  The locals proved to be not only great divers, but also super friendly and helpful.

The following day was a different type of adrenalin rush.  As the wind picked up, the waves grew to 8-12 ft. and the swell was 20-30 ft.  To be honest, it was borderline intimidating and quite scary.  We wore orange life vests for our beach launch on the zodiac.  Our skipper read the waves like a scholar and timed our launch through the surf perfectly.  The crossing through the surf zone became a joy ride after the initial shock.  People were screaming and jumping (mostly me) while trying to hold onto the camera gear and tanks.   I ended up wearing my mask for the 10-minute ride to the dive spot; otherwise I would not have seen anything with the seawater crashing into my face.

Upon diving underwater our surroundings became serene and I became entranced with the sound of whales singing off in the distance.  On this dive we swam over purple and pink hydro coral covered reefs.  It looked like a colorful spring flower field.  A giant marble ray swam around us for a while posing for our cameras.

Our next stop, Protea Banks, was about as “on the edge” as it gets for a scuba diver.  Once again, heart-pumping rides on the local zodiacs took us out to see a variety of sharks just outside of Shelly Beach.  As we headed out in the morning our black wet suits absorbed the morning sun, thus banking warmth for our 100 ft., hour-long dive in the 70 degree Fahrenheit (21 C) water.

This stretch of the Indian Ocean has become a world-renowned scuba diving haven for shark-lovers.  Protea Banks is the place for blue water divers.  You have to keep your eyes open and constantly scan the waters 360 degrees. If you do, you will spot a wide variety of sharks including Hammerheads, Duskies, Tigers and Black Tips. During our dives there we once again were entertained by whales singing.  It was that time of the year (October) when it happens on almost every dive.


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