Shark Diving – Aliwal Shoal
If you’ve always wanted to get up close and personal with these predators of the deep, why not go about it the way god intended, naturally, by diving or snorkeling among these majestic, streamlined beauties; no cage required!
The South African coast is home to almost a dozen unique species of shark, and, if you’re lucky, you could encounter about half of them just by diving different spots in The Aliwal Shoal!
Whether you’re keen to do a baited shark dive at Howard’s Castle, in the hopes of spotting some Tiger Sharks, or are hoping for a more casual, chance encounter with a Raggie or two at a site like Outside Landers, ScubaCo has the inside scoop and can help you become one of the privileged few who can say they’ve seen these creatures unobstructed and up close!
Come diving with the sharks where there are no cages and no limits to what you can achieve!
Diving The Aliwal Shoal
The Aliwal Shoal is home to a wide variety of shark species. Throughout the year our waters are home to Oceanic Blacktip Sharks, Dusky Sharks, Bull Sharks, and the famous ever-present but shy Tiger Shark.
The Aliwal Shoal offers up some of the most exhilarating shark diving or snorkelling opportunities in the whole world. Furthermore, ScubaCo is uniquely capable of offering such shark dives in a relaxed, safe, and controlled environment.
Whether you want to plan your dive around our seasonal Ragged Tooth Shark (Grey Nurse Shark) visitors’ timeline, or are hoping to dive when the stage is set for a Hammerhead Shark encounter, diving The Aliwal Shoal with ScubaCo is one of the most life-changing shark diving experiences on offer the world over.
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Getting To Know Your Dive Companions
Depending on whether you’d prefer to stay dry on deck with one of our Shark Watch launches, snorkel, or get wet and wild on a shark dive with the ScubaCo team; you’ll need to know the shark you’re keeping an eye out for! When you’re diving The Aliwal Shoal, these are the usual suspects you can look forward to meeting:
Not to be confused with the Blacktip Reef Shark, the Blacktip Shark, Carcharhinus limbatus, is a species of requiem shark.
Requiem sharks are sharks that live in warmer waters, give birth to live young, and that are migratory. Absolutely gorgeous to behold, the Blacktip Shark is a ballerina of the deep; known for executing graceful and deadly twisting leaps out of the water when attacking small schools of fish.
A smaller member of the requiem shark family, the Blacktip Shark is best described as timid, and they can vary drastically in size; ranging from about 1.5m, which is more typical, to a maximum documented length of 2.8m. Most Blacktip sharks are found in waters not more than 30m deep, and they are not oceanic sharks, preferring the relative safety and comfort of drop-offs near coral reefs and the like.
These sharks are also very tolerant of low salinity and have been known to enter estuaries and mangrove swamps; expertly navigating the brackish, muddy water.
The Dusky Shark, another member of the requiem shark family, is an apex predator, known for, and easily identifiable by its sickle-shaped first dorsal and pectoral fins; with the former positioned over the rear tips of the latter.
Commonly reaching around 3.2m in length, and weighing in at about 160-180kgs, the longest Dusky on record measured a whopping 4.2m and weighed 347kgs! The Dusky Shark can be found in waters as shallow as 400m, and they migrate toward the equator in winter, and toward the poles in summer. Because the Dusky Shark has a very slow reproductive rate, Duskies are at increased risk of population depletion as the result of human interference.
Duskies, which have long been overfished, and are considered a vulnerable shark, are viviparous and litter sizes range from 3 to 16. Despite the possibility for seemingly large litter sizes, the Dusky Shark matures and grows at an alarmingly slow rate, and only reaches sexual maturity at around 20years of age! These sharks are believed to have a lifespan at least double that.
The Bull shark, also known as the Zambezi shark, is another requiem shark, and is found in warmer waters world wide.
The Bull shark is known for its aggressive and predatory behaviour, and is capable of surviving and even thriving in both saltwater and freshwater! The Bull shark is actually known for venturing far out into rivers and estuaries, although few freshwater Bull shark interactions with humans have been recorded. Bull sharks always favour warmer, shallow water, and larger Bull sharks are probably responsible for the majority of near-shore shark attacks, even when those attacks are mistakenly attributed to other species.
Despite its ability to thrive in a freshwater environment, the Bull shark is not a true freshwater shark, and they seem to be more common in oceanic waters, despite their predilection for wandering up rivers. Bull sharks are named for their large and stout build; they can be up to 81cm in length at birth! They do not, however, typically get much longer than 3m, with females being slightly longer and heavier than the males, and they are typically shorter and wider than other requiem sharks.
Bull sharks are carnivorous, and also cannibalistic – they have been known to eat smaller Bull sharks when the opportunity presents itself.
The Tiger shark, also of the requiem shark family, is a massive macropredator capable of growing to more than 5m in length!
The shark gets its name for the dark stripes down its sides that resemble tiger stripes, but the stripes fade significantly as the shark matures. A primarily nocturnal, solitary hunter, the Tiger shark is known for its ability to, and love for, eating almost anything! It has a bit of a reputation for being the “garbage can” of the sea as many inedible, man-made objects have been found in their stomachs along with the more predictable crustaceans and partially digested fish.
Though apex predators themselves, pods of Orcas have been known to pick off a Tiger shark if they’re particularly hungry or in the mood for a bit of fun. The Tiger shark is considered a near-threatened species as the result of overfishing, but is not yet as vulnerable as the Dusky shark.
The Tiger shark is second only to the Great White when it comes to recorded attacks on humans, though experts suggest that title might actually belong to the Bull shark.
Ragged Tooth Sharks
The Ragged Tooth Shark, also known as the Sand Tiger Shark (not to be confused with the Tiger Shark, the Sand Shark, or the Nurse Shark) is a cousin to the Great White shark; but don’t fear, although it looks fearsome, Raggies are actually very placid, docile, slow-swimming creatures – as a result, they are the most frequently kept large shark in aquariums such as the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town.
They may have a high tolerance for captivity, but the species is still vulnerable, and we wouldn’t want these beauties to die out in the wild! This fascinating shark, which can even gulp air (!!!) to help it maintain its buoyancy, unlike other sharks, the Sand Tiger Shark can grow up to 3.2m in length, and they have one of the lowest reproductive rates of all sharks – a rate of less than one pup per year!
Sand Tiger Sharks don’t give birth to more than two pups at a time (as a result of intrauterine cannibalism; in which the strongest embryo eats all its siblings), and they only breed every second or third year. When pups are born, however, they are already 1m in length and fully independent.
Sand Tiger Sharks have been shown to be affected by the presence of divers who stray too close to them, but the effects were proven to be short term. Once the divers retreat to more than 3m away again, the sharks resume normal activity.
Fun Fact: A group of Sand Tiger Sharks is called a Shiver!
There are actually a number of different kinds of Hammerhead shark in the family Sphyrnidae.
They are named for the highly unusual shape in which their heads grow. Their heads, which are flattened, and laterally extended, form a hammer shaper – known as a cephalofoil. There have been many proposed reasons for the shape the sharks’ heads grow into include increased maneuverability, sensory perception, and prey manipulation. Unlike most sharks, these sharks usually swim in large groups during the day, but hunt alone at night.
The known species of hammerhead sharks can range in size from less than a meter in length to a whopping 6m in length! Interestingly enough, Hammerheads have disproportionately small mouths, but that doesn’t stop the males from violently biting the females during mating season until the females give in to mating with them. This ritual takes place only once a year, and Hammerhead litters are usually about 15 pups strong – with the exception of the litters of the Great Hammerhead shark.
A Great Hammerhead can have a litter of up to 40 pups! In 2007, it was discovered that the Bonnethead shark, a particular type of Hammerhead shark, is capable of asexual reproduction! This was the first shark that was confirmed to be capable of this kind of reproduction.
Here at ScubaCo, we pride ourselves on our 100% safety record, our eco-friendly compliant baiting methods, and our staff selected from the cream of the crop in the South African diving industry. With ScubaCo Diving & Travel, you are assured of personal, high quality service, small groups, and attention to detail.
With excitement, adrenaline and adventure being the order of business here at ScubaCo, we look forward to welcoming you aboard any one of our predator interaction excursions! For more information on our diving packages, or to create a custom package of your own, click here!
Importance of Shark Conservation.
Shark conservation is of paramount importance, and we here at ScubaCo are dedicated to helping in any and every way we can. That’s why we use only eco-friendly compliant baiting methods, and strictly enforce a hands off policy on our dives – that means hands off the coral, hands off the wrecks, and hands off the sharks! Our sharks are being threatened not only by deliberate overfishing by humans of their food supplies, but also by deliberate overfishing of the sharks themselves – they are sold for their fins, hides, and more! It is of vital importance that we prioritize shark conservation efforts in South Africa if we are to:
Maintain The Balance
Sharks are apex predators, and if they die out or their numbers become drastically reduced, those species lower on the food chain will no longer be naturally curbed, and the entire ecosystem will be negatively impacted. The ecosystems in which our sharks live and thrive are delicately balanced, and even decreasing shark populations are already wreaking havoc on the finely tuned ecosystems.
Maintain The Biodiversity
Marine biologists and other experts suggest that sharks are actually key to marine biodiversity, and that we could stand to lose more than just our shark species should they begin to go extinct! As their ecological roles are not yet fully understood, it is actually impossible to tell how devastating the results of their extinction might be; but if the effects of their decreasing numbers are anything to go by, the effects could be of epic proportions.
Maintain The Gene Pool
Because predators, by nature, pick off the sick and or weak animals in their preferred species of food first, apex predators like sharks help weed out the bad genetic material among their prey populations; thus directly, positively impacting the survivability of their prey species in the future. In other words, sharks help other prey species breed only genetically superior offspring – thus helping in the cycle of “survival of the fittest”.
So if you’ve always dreamt of swimming with sharks, why not head down to Durban to take us up on one of the many and varied shark diving packages we’ve got on offer? Don’t love what you see? Make your own package! Start planning the shark diving trip of a lifetime today, with ScubaCo!