Who can skip better than a skipper? Probably a young kid. But nobody can drive a boat quite so well! Here at Aliwal Shoal our launches and beaches are unique from other dive destinations around the world because of the entry and exit style into the water. We do not have a sheltered marina or any bays to hide in, each day we launch our boats on the beach here in Umkomaas.
To launch we have two options: In the Umkhomazi river, or on the beach. The river tends to be our first option as it is a much less eventful ordeal, though the beach launches offer an additional sense of adventure as the divemasters and willing divers alike brave a little water to push the boat through shore break to get off the sand.
From here we begin to admire the skill required for a skipper to navigate a RIB (Ridged inflatable boat) past waves of a size appreciated by surfers. The divers on the boat all hang on with both feet and hands in straps as the boat plays a game of cat and mouse with hungry waves.
On a calm day this involves no more than a skip and a beat over a few rolling humps, yet a talented skipper with perfect timing can guide us through breaking waves and swell of a couple of meters with nearly an equally comfortable journey. On the way out to the site we have a chance to enjoy the wind in our hair and the salt on our lips for a relatively brief 15-20 minute ride.
You can always sense the excitement mounting as we near the beginning of our dive, and the dive masters hustle together to sort weights and gear.
Once again the importance of the skipper is made apparent as they count down the synchronized back roll entry into the water. As the divers enjoy the reef below, the skipper then follows the bubbles and buoy strung along by the dive master until the dive has ended and the whole process is reversed for the way back home.
With decent swells, we’re able to surf our way back in. Then the beaching procedure begins with divers donning life vests and skippers arranging the engines to remain intact while the boat carves up through the sand. It is easy to forget how lucky we are to access our dive sites through such a short and enjoyable journey, and it’s important to appreciate the people who make it all possible.
So here’s to the skippers!
More information about our Shark Diving, Aliwal Shoal and Southern Reefs diving adventures.