Umkomaas is a small town situated roughly 1 hours drive south of Durban, on the south coast of KwaZulu Natal. The town has gained international recognition from the fact that it is the best area to access Aliwal Shoal from. Aliwal Shoal is a reef system located approximately 5km off the coast of Umkomaas. The reef is host to many kinds of hard and soft corals and a variety of tropical and subtropical fish species, and is a well-known shark diving destination.
Where to Stay
ScubaAddicts Lodge is located in the town of Umkomaas. Every room at the Lodge has ocean views from the bedrooms and balconies, overlooking miles of sandy beaches and the Indian Ocean. The Lodge also boasts an on-site dive centre, enabling guests to easily walk from their bedrooms to the dive centre. The Lodge has a swimming pool area, a chillout area, and easy access to the beach for leisurely afternoon walks.
More about ScubaAddicts here.
Things to Do
For the Dive Adventurers
Aliwal Shoal was once rated by the famous Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world, so it has a big reputation to live up to! The reef itself stretches in a general north to south direction, and is approximately 5km in length. It ranges in the depth from 5 metres at its shallowest to over 40 metres in depth at its deepest. This wide range in depth provides great opportunities to see just about anything you can imagine, ranging from a large variety of reef and pelagic species, to mantas, turtles and rays. The main attraction, however, is the shark diving. The Shoal is home to a large population of Ragged Tooth sharks who migrate here annually in order to rest up. This migratory visit lasts from early July to late September during which divers can experience these amazing and scary looking fish in their natural environment. The other sharks which can be seen on baited shark dives include oceanic black tips, tiger sharks, bull sharks and dusky sharks. There are two wrecks to dive, the MV Produce (1974) and the Nebo (1884) which are also great dive sites with loads of marine life including Ragged Tooth sharks, huge brindle bass, ragged scorpion fish, lesser guitar sharks, turtles, butterfly rays, ribbontail rays, moray eels and many species of reef fish. Aliwal Shoal should not be confused with resort diving, as conditions and boat launches are demanding and not for the faint hearted, with strong currents and swell often experienced. This does add to the sense of adventure!
For the Colourful Mixtures
Although the Umkomaas area is primarily a diving destination, it is possible to take part in various other activities if diving is not your cup of tea, or if you would like to take a day off from diving. Tala Private Game Reserve is an hour’s drive from Umkomaas, making it possible to take part in a half or full day safari while staying in Umkomaas. uShaka Marine World is the 5th largest aquarium in the world and is also a one hour drive away.
Did you Know?
Aliwal Shoal gets its name from a 3 mast vessel called the ‘Aliwal’, which nearly collided with the shoal in 1849. The captain of the ship, James Anderson, wrote a report of the encounter in 1850. Luckily, he managed to avoid the shoal, unlike the captains of the MV Produce and the Nebo!