Towards the end of October 2010, I will be heading over to South Africa to prepare for an epic land and scuba diving safari. The trip is being organised by a friend of mine who runs a dive school on the Gil Islands, near Bali.
The trip begins on 01 November 2010. We will be visiting some major national parks, travelling through South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland. If anyone would like to join, please get in touch with me directly and I’ll see if I can wangle a discount for you.
Here is the basic itinerary.
Day 1 Johannesburg – Blyde River Canyon
Leaving the city of Johannesburg behind, we travel along the Panorama Route, one of South Africa’s most scenic drives, where we will visit the Blyde River Canyon, God’s Window and Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world and the view is dominated by the Three Rondavels, huge rocky outcrops at the end of the canyon. The Burke’s Luck Potholes are very impressive rock formations that were shaped millions of years ago by erosion. The bizarre swirl holes developed when the once rapid river carried masses of sand and debris. We then travel to the Ilkley Game Ranch, a private game park on the outskirts of the Kruger National Park. The evening is spent camping in the park enjoying your first open air meal in the African bush. Later your guide will give a full briefing on the tour.
Day 2 Kruger National Park
Today we start the day with an early morning game walk in Ilkley Game Ranch before visiting the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, where injured or lost animals are re-educated so they can be released back in to the wild. After a full tour of the Moholoholo facility we travel to the world famous Kruger National Park for an afternoon game drive before settling into our campsite at Skukuza Camp.
Day 3 Kruger National Park
After breakfast we will pack up camp and load everything on to our truck, however the day will be spent in open 4×4 vehicles in order to truly appreciate the Kruger. Your 4×4 vehicles will be driven by specialist Kruger guides and by using these smaller vehicles we have a better chance of viewing the wildlife. The whole morning will be spent driving, at mid day we will stop at one of the well appointed camps where you can buy lunch and relax before the afternoon game drive that will bring us to the our overnight stop.
Day 4 Kruger to Praia Do Tofo
A very early start will see us crossing the Mozambique border and driving north to the famous Praia Do Tofo, home to the largest Whale Shark and Manta populations in the world. We will have a late arrival into Bamboozi campsite where we will set up camp, prepare an evening meal and have a full dive briefing for the following morning.
Day 5/6/7 Diving Praia Do Tofo
The following three days will be spent diving the reefs of Tofo. Each morning we will depart early for a double dive trip, returning in time for lunch at the beach. The afternoons will be free for you to enjoy any one of the optional activities or just lazing on this truly beautiful beach.
An evening during this stay we will have the honour of meeting Dr Andrea Marshall and Dr Simon Pierce, who will give a talk on the Manta and Whale Sharks around Tofo, the threats facing them and the research being conducted. Both of these experts are extremely well respected in their fields. The Manta and Whale Shark Research Foundation is the first of our conservational contributions and you will be informed of the work that is being achieved with your contributions.
Diving Praia Do Tofo
Tofo offers spectacular diving with a huge variety and abundance of sea life, from the amazingly graceful manta rays and curious whale sharks for which Tofo is famous to a myriad of benthic, macro reef life as well as pelagic species. There are 16 reefs of which we will dive a selection based on conditions and desires.
Dive sites range from 10m to 37m catering for all experience levels, visibility varies between 10 and 30m and temperature is usually between 24 – 28 degrees.
Day 8 Hlane Royal National Park Swaziland
Today we head south again and cross the border into Swaziland, entering the Hlane Royal National Park, a huge nature reserve, home to lion, elephant and white rhino. We will camp near a water hole where game can be seen coming to water and we will be entertained around the fire that evening by traditional dancers.
Day 9 Hlane – Sodwana Bay
After an early morning game drive we leave Hlane, cross the border back into South Africa and enter iSimangaliso Wetland Park. We arrive in Sodwana in the late afternoon and check into our bungalows at Triton Dive Lodge. That evening we will meet our dive guides and have a briefing of the upcoming diving.
Day 10/11 Sodwana Bay Diving
The following two days will be spent diving a selection of the Sodwana Bay dive sites.
Diving Sodwana Bay
Sodwana Bay is a small town on the northeast coast of South Africa, south of the Tropic of Capricorn. It hosts one of the most southerly and beautiful hard and soft coral reefs in the world. The dive sites are situated in the Marine Protected Area within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage site.
Day 12 Sodwana – Protea Banks
We leave the wetland scenery en route to the KwaZulu Natal Coast. The bustling city of Durban is South Africa’s largest port and a popular surf destination. It is also home to the famous dolphin coast and some of the world’s best Apex Predator shark diving. An hour and a half south of Durban is the small beachside resort of Shelley Beach, launch point for the infamous Protea Banks, our diving destination for the next few days.
Day 13/14 Protea Banks Diving
Over the next two days we will have 3 dives on the Protea Banks Reef where we hope to see some of the worlds largest marine predators. Diving both North and South Pinnacles we will have the chance to collect Sand Tiger Shark teeth and explore caves, swim-throughs and tunnels. An optional Tiger and Bull Shark baited dive at Protea Banks will be offered during our stay. This dive takes place in open water, hanging in the blue whilst possible Tiger, Bull, Hammerhead and Oceanic Black-Tip sharks come in to investigate the scent trail around us. A full safety briefing and training session is included and this is a breathtaking experience.
Here we will receive our second conservational talk, regarding the sharks in the area, the threats to them and the work that our donation will be helping towards.
Diving Protea Banks
Protea Banks has been rated by many divers from around the world as the best shark dive. Many divers are scared of sharks due to horror stories and myths created by the movie world, but their fears are totally unfounded. Sharks are intelligent animals, do not recognise us as a food source and generally tend to be shy and respectful towards the divers
Day 15/16 Aliwal Shoal
The following two days we spend diving the equally famous Aliwal Shoal. Renowned for Raggie Tooth Sharks congregating in their hundreds, dolphins and the baited shark dive.
Each morning we will travel the hour from our Dive House in Margate to the town of Umkomas, launch site for Aliwal Shoal. Over the two days we will do 3 recreational dives on the Aliwal Shoal, including the famous “Raggie Cave”. The optional baited shark dive is well worth it, with Oceanic Black-Tip Sharks gathering in large numbers and Tiger Sharks investigating the bait. The baited dive is accompanied by a photographer/videographer for a permanent record of your shark encounter.
Diving Aliwal Shoal
The World Famous Aliwal Shoal was formed thousands of years ago from fossilized sand dunes during the times when sea levels were much lower than they are today. The Aghulas Current that runs south along the east coast of Africa brings with it warm water and a huge diversity of tropical sea life.
Day 17 Margate – Cape Town – Hermanus
We travel this morning to the Durban airport where we will say goodbye to our truck and fly south to Cape Town. A new truck will meet us and drive us 2 hours north to the beautiful town of Hermanus, home to the best land based whale watching in the world. The flight is with BA (British Airways) and if you are carrying dive equipment with you please make certain to contact us for the sports equipment policy before you depart, you do not want to end up paying more than you should for excess luggage!
Day 18/19 Gansbaai Great Whites
These two days will be spent with optional Great White Cage Diving. One opportunity per day to look for the Prime Apex Predator of the ocean. If an encounter is not made on the first day, a second day has been set-aside for you to try your luck again. During this stay we have our final conservation talk regarding the threats to the Great White and the purpose of your final donation. On the final night we will enjoy a meal out at the wonderful Bietangs Cave Restaurant. http://www.bientangscave.com/
If you are lucky and encounter Great Whites on your first day, you may like to experience the kayak trip into the whale sanctuary and visit the permanent seal colony along the coast of Hermanus.
Diving with Great Whites
Nestling at the foot of the Dynefontein Mountains is Gansbaai, an unpretentious village situated between the towns of Hermanus and Pearly Beach on the most magnificent coastline of the Western Cape.
Named after a flock of wild Egyptian geese alleged to have settled at the freshwater fountain near the harbour, Gansbaai offers natural, rugged and unspoilt beauty. From the spectacular cliffs of De Kelders to the miles of white sandy beaches of Pearly Beach, you will find one of the most unique and astonishing land-based whale watching spots in the world.
Dyer Island, just off the coast of Gansbaai, is the breeding ground of the Jackass Penguin and home to a wide variety of marine bird life. It’s close neighbour, Geyser Island is home to some 60 000 Cape Fur Seals! It is no wonder that the passage between these two islands forms the infamous ‘Shark Alley’ and creates an obvious feeding ground for the endangered Great White Shark!
Day 20 Hermanus – Cape Town
A leisurely start in the morning and a short drive will bring us back to Cape Town and the end of our tour.
Full trip details can be found at http://www.nomadtours.co.za/sads_south_african_dive_safari_20_days_2010.html.
I don’t really know what to expect, so if anyone has done this kind of thing before, it would be great to hear about it in the comments section.