INFO ABOUT DIVING IN PROTEA BANKS
Protea Banks is located 7.5km from Shelly Beach, in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province. The reef lies at a depth of between 27 and 40 meters, and is essentially a fossilized sandbar that rises from 60 meters, and is approximately 6 km long and 800 meters wide.
It is one of the richest tuna grounds in the world, which explains why bull shark sightings are so frequent almost all year round patrolling the reef in search of food.
The reef distinguishes the South Pinnacle and the North Pinnacle. We usually dive in the South during the warmer months (December - May), and it is here that bull sharks, known locally as “Zambezis”, are seen with great frequency.
up to 40 m depth
8m semi-rigid boats
The hammerhead shark often appears in groups of hundreds as they swim up and down with or against the current, and even the luckiest get to see the giant hammerhead shark.
The oceanic blacktip shark and the dusky shark are also regulars on this side of Protea, and topping the list is the magnificent tiger shark, a creature of perfect build and spectacular striped beauty. One of the most sought after species by divers around the world.
At Sand Shark Gulley, one of the South Pinnacle's most visited dive sites, up to 60 guitar sharks can sometimes appear. A great variety of rays and the potato groupers are also residents in this corner.
The North Pinnacle of Protea Banks is where we usually dive the most during the winter months (June - November), and it is on this side that the common ragged tooth shark, known locally as “Raggie”, comes to mate. Here we find two caves and many times it is almost impossible to see the entrance due to the large numbers of raggies that congregate, reaching 100 or even 200 individuals sighted in the same dive.
The bull shark, the oceanic blacktip reef, the tiger, the hammerhead and the dusky are also regulars on this side of the reef. There are some resident potato groupers who love to get up close to divers, and a wide variety of reef fish that bring them to life.
Thanks to all these species of sharks, Protea Banks has deservedly been ranked as one of the best destinations in the world to dive with these wonderful predators. If you are considering the possibility of coming, do not come looking for colored reefs and prepare for encounters and strong and unexpected emotions. As the locals say, Protea is not for sissies!!
DAY OUT DIVING
After breakfast at the accommodation, we go to the diving center where we check and prepare the equipment. From there, we get back into the vehicle and head to the boat launch area where the boat awaits us with all the equipment already stowed. It is here, in a "beach bar", where we put on the diving suits and get briefed before launching..
All dives at Shelly Beach involve entries from the shore with the boats, so the excitement is guaranteed from early morning. After a very exhilarating entry through the surf, the Protea Banks reef is about 20 minutes away.
Depending on the environmental and meteorological conditions, and the number of divers on board, we usually make a dive and return to the base, where we change the cylinders, eat some snacks and leave again approximately 30 minutes later.
After a surface interval of 1h30 'we go for the second dive. At the end of the latter, we return to the dive center where we usually arrive around noon, the perfect time to go for lunch and plan the afternoon activities.
We have located the various dive sites through GPS. Once above the point, we prepare for the entry, and during this time we calculate what the boat has moved and in what direction, which gives us information about the type of current that we can find. We never anchor the zodiac, so we always drift.
The currents are usually strong, and although we always plan the dives to go with the current, the dive profile in the deepest points requires a descent as fast as possible following the reference line, and after the pre-established bottom time, we ascend to surface in a multilevel profile.
The dive sites are deep, up to 37 meters, and it is very important to strictly follow the guidelines during the briefing, especially when we dive in the North Pinnacle since we usually explore the first cave for a predetermined time and then go to the second cave, and if someone stays too long with the sharks in the first one, they will probably lose the group due to the, sometimes, strong current.
The shark baited dive is a shallow dive since it does not exceed 10 - 15 meters, and depending on the schedule, it is the first dive of the day. The bottom time is basically unlimited, since the bait ball is dropped at about 12 m, where we spend up to 90 minutes.
On the round trips to the dive sites during the winter months (June to November), depending on the weather conditions and the state of the sea, we cruise in search of humpback whales.
If luck is with us, which is usually very common, and the conditions are favorable after evaluating the behavior of the animal, we enter the water using only the mask, snorkel and fins. Gearing up with the scuba equipment and a tank is not usual in these cases.
WEATHER & SEA CONDITIONS
Protea Banks is a destination for advanced level divers, not only because one must feel comfortable surrounded by, sometimes, hundreds of sharks, but also because the currents we encounter are usually strong, the dive sites are deep and the divemaster's buoy line is usually the only visual reference during descents and ascents.
On average, Protea Banks offers 15 meters of visibility. In summer (November-April) there are usually days of visibility up to 40 meters, like the days when the southwest current is the predominant. The water temperature ranges from 19 ° C to 21 ° C in winter (May - October) and from 22 ° C to 25 ° C in summer (November - April).
We recommend anti-seasickness pills for those who are prone to seasickness.
Mozambique Experience is partnered with one of the most experienced Shelly Beach dive centers in the area, located very close to the port where the boats launch from. The center has a small shop where one can buy basic diving equipment and merchandise.
We have four semi-rigid boats. The Southern Comfort is the smallest of all with 2 x 90hp engines. The other three, Avatar, Twilight and Spitzbuble, with lengths of 8.2 meters have a capacity of up to 16 divers each, although we prefer to keep smaller groups and we usually go with a maximum of 8 divers per boat. Each boat is equipped with 2 Yamaha / Suzuki 100 hp 4-stroke engines, emergency oxygen, first aid kit, life jackets, radio contact and emergency plan.
For those who feel the chill on longer dives or during the winter months, we recommend minimum 5mm wetsuits, or even 7mm semi-dry. During the summer, when the water temperature is usually between 22 ° C and 25 ° C, a 5mm is usually enough. For those who prefer to rent, we have 5mm Scubapro suits, as well as a selection of closed fins and masks. The scuba tanks are made of steel and / or aluminum with capacities of 12 lt.
The available nitrox is 32% and up to 40% for those certified. For those who still do not have the qualification and prefer to do it here with us, it can be arranged with Robert and Lacin.
One of the best countries in the world to see sharks is undoubtedly South Africa, and one of the best dive spots in South Africa is Protea Banks. The following is a list that can be taken as a reference, but like everything in nature, nothing is guaranteed.
Guitar shark (from November to March), dusky shark (from June to October), hammerhead shark (from October to March), tiger shark (from October to November, and from February to June), bull shark (from October to July ).
The ragged tooth shark, which uses the Protea Banks reefs as a mating site, is seen, and sometimes in its hundreds, from May to December.
The oceanic blacktip shark is often seen throughout the year, along with dolphins and turtles. The humpback whale between June and November.