Need a place to start? Try Aliwal Shoal off the coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Regularly rated as one of the top 10 dive sites on the planet, this remarkable spot has something for everyone, from The Pinnacles (at just 15 metres) for the novice to the wreck of The Nebo in a more challenging 30 metres of water.
Speaking of challenging: Protea Banks is one for advanced divers looking for excitement. Plunging down to 40 metres, this site is famous for its sharks: expect to find Zambezi, Tiger, Hammerhead, Dusky, Ragged Tooth and Black Tip sharks hunting on the Banks. If you’re lucky you may spot manta rays and whales cruising past. It’s a deep dive with a strong current, so it’s for experienced adventure divers only.
Sodwana Bay is more forgiving, and home to the southernmost coral reefs in the world. The pristine coral teems with a huge variety of marine life and, if you’re lucky, you could spot turtles, dolphins or even a whale shark.
Sharks of a different sort are the drawcard at Gansbaai, just two hours’ drive from Cape Town. Billed as the Great White Shark capital of the world, the 60 000 seals resident on Dyer Island and Geyser Rock just offshore from Gansbaai draw in these impressive Apex Predators. There are a number of cage-dive operators in Gansbaai, but White Shark Projects is one of the best. In False Bay, closer to Cape Town, Apex Predators offers responsible cage-diving excursions.
If you’re feeling brave, you can leave the cage behind and roll into the warm(ish) False Bay waters in just a wetsuit. Experienced divers should hop on a charter boat and head for the wrecks of Smitswinkel Bay. The five ships scuttled here were sunk in the 1970s to form an artificial reef, and are today covered with marine life.
Not far from “Smits”, A-Frame and Windmill beach are great options for novice divers. Easy shore entries and shallow waters allow you to relax and search for the resident dogfish and pyjama sharks. Close by, the dives with seven-gill cow sharks are also memorable.
If you’re feeling brave Whittle Rock in the middle of False Bay is an outstanding site, but is also popular with great white sharks so a quick descent is essential!
In the summer months you’ll want to dive on the icy Atlantic side of Cape Town, where the prevailing south-easterly wind ensures crystal-clear waters. Add a dash of glamour to a day of diving by suiting up at Justin’s Caves, an underwater playground of jumbled granite. The 12 Apostles Hotel across the road is perfect for an after-dive drink.