Wreck Diving In Aliwal Shoal, South Africa
The Produce is an old cargo vessel that was reportedly carrying molasses. The Produce struck the Northern Pinnacles on Aliwal Shoal in 1974, while traveling from Durban. Thanks to a rescue party there were no lives lost as a launch from the Umkomaas River managed to reach her and saved everyone on board.
The produce is facing north and is a mere of 119m long. When she sank she landed on her starboard side and her back is broken, leaving her mid-ships very flat and scattered (she is facing the Umkomaas River). Her spare prop can be seen on her bow, although her propeller has been salvaged. The produce ship wreck a little way before the Shoal at a depth of approximately 32 meters. She sank in August 1974 and is hence a fairly new wreck, far more so than the Nebo. This dive can be the crowning jewel of the Aliwal.
The vessel is home to a host of Giant Brindle Bass, which are a fish that is about 3 metres long, and 1.5 metres wide. Harlequin Goldies can also be seen by divers all around the wreck; they are endemic to wrecks and can only be found on her and the Nebo at times. Scorpionfish are regularly found on wrecks, camouflaged and blended into the scenery. Manta rays and gamefish can also be spotted in the blue waters around the wreck, if the visibility allows it. The coral on this wreck consists more of soft coral than hard coral. Some of the Soft coral includes: fire coral, whip coral, green fern coral, polyp coral and yellow turret coral.
Beware though, this dive is a deep dive that can be complicated by high currents and poor visibility should the SAICCOR effluent be drifting over the wreck. It is also advised that you wear gloves when diving any wreck as the presence of Fire Coral can make a good dive a painful one should you accidentally touch this coral. The openings on the deck, can be quite strong and have been known to upset a lot of diver’s buoyancy, so beware!
The wreck is in 3 sections on the sea bed, all of which can be dived on the same dive, provided conditions allow. The stern section is the largest of the three, with the smaller bow section lying some 20-30 meters in a northerly direction away from the stern; the third part is the centre of the boat. Both the stern and the bow are home to huge brindle bass.
There are about two swim-through’s (one on the stern and one on the bow) for the more experienced and adventurous divers and it is advisable to take a torch on this dive as light does not penetrate all the swim-through’s.
This 2000 ton steamship sank on 20th May 1884 just north of the Aliwal Shoal. She was on her maiden voyage from Sunderland to Durban, carrying the Van Standen’s (Amanzimtoti) railway bridge, although there is no certainty; there are two stories of how Nebo became a wreck. Some experts reported that she sunk due to incorrect loading and she was very top heavy, when she confronted rough seas, she simple tipped over and sank. There is more credibility to this story, as the Nebo is lying upside down, 24-27 metres below sea level. Other experts reported that she hit the Northern pinnacles of Aliwal Shoal.
The wreck, which is over a century old, is broken into two main parts. If the visibility allows you, or there is a very experienced dive master with you, it is a simple navigation exercise to get from one part to the other.
The Nebo is home to a huge variety of fish life. One very regular fish species found swimming in and out of the wreck on this reef is the Natal catfish. Harlequin Goldies, which are endemic to this area, are also seen on the Nebo. Round ribbon tail rays, sharp nose stingrays and grey spot guitarfish are just a few local in the sand around this wreck. Squid and scorpionfish are also found around and in this wreck with some fusiliers, tuna and Hammerhead sharks. Soft coral like Green Fern coral, different colours of polyp coral and green and yellow turret coral are also found on this wreck.
The NEBO is also the closest dive site to the shore in this area which means that this wreck can be subject to poor visibility conditions from the nearby Umkomaas river when it is in flood. On shore conditions make this a challenging dive, but on a good calm day, it can be a great dive indeed, especially if you have a fascination for history and the age of the wreck.