Of all the fantastic diving in South Africa, Aliwal Shoal counts as some of the very best. The shoal lies within a marine-protected area, running in a north–south direction on the inner edge of the Mozambican current. The remains of an ancient sand dune, the shoal sits at an average 64 feet (19.5 m) of depth, is about a mile (1.5 km) wide, three miles (5 km) long, and approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) offshore from Scottburgh. Aliwal formed when sand and other deposits washed into the ocean from area sand dunes. Over time, this runoff formed the calcium-carbonate compound that laid the foundation of this sandstone reef. Heavy rainfall later drowned this sand-rock structure, and a variety of coral species moved in to colonize it.
The reef itself has a pinnacle ridge and gradually drops off on both edges until it hits a sandy bottom. The reef’s uneven structure is bursting with gullies, cracks and overhangs, and is home to at least 1,200 tropical and sub-tropical fish species. Divers will also see eels, turtles, rays and a variety of sharks.
Diving Aliwal Shoal with Crystal Divers
Crystal Divers is my go-to operator when it comes to diving in Aliwal Shoal. The shop is conveniently located at the newly renovated Blue Marlin Hotel in Scottburgh, South Africa. Crystal Divers is a PADI Five Star IDC Center, which offers all sorts of dive training as well as fun dives. In fact, I took part in their PADI IDC in 2015.
Crystal’s impeccable service, knowledgeable staff, and experienced skippers leave you feeling comfortable and in safe hands. You’ll dive all around South Africa from beach launches, meaning that you’ll have to hop onto the skiff on the beach, wade the boat into deeper water, and then head out through the surf. So a great crew and experienced skipper can make a huge difference during any South African diving experience.
When your dive day is done, the Blue Marlin offers guests an incredibly comfortable stay. The food is fantastic and the rooms are newly renovated. Perched on top of a hill and offering panoramic views of the Indian Ocean, the hotel offers a spa, private walkway to the nearby beach, and onsite swimming pool. Blue Marlin will take such good care of you that you won’t feel a need to leave the hotel, which is fine as Scottburgh is very quiet at night.
If you are looking for a fun, safe, comfortable and affordable experience while diving Aliwal Shoal, you can’t go wrong with Crystal Divers South Africa and the Blue Marlin Hotel.