Road Trippin' South Africa: diving Protea Banks

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August 10th 2013
Published: August 12th 2013
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Next stop after Umkomaas was Shelly Beach. To do some more diving. This time, in Protea Banks.

Protea Banks is one of the most famous spots in South Africa to do shark diving, just like Aliwal Shoal. Before arriving there, I asked a few contacts and I was recommended "Aquaplanet Dive Center". The dive center is owned and run by Kym Pollard. And so far, it's been the best dive center I've been diving with in SA (out of a total of 5 dive centers in the past month).

For the whole week I stayed in a place that they recommended to me at Aqua Planet: "Cathy's Cove". This place is in a town called Margate, which is just 5km from Shelly Beach.

Cathy's Cove is managed by a couple, Cathy and Patrick. They have 2 houses that they rent: one in Shelly Beach (for about 10 people) and another one on their property in Margate, which is smaller and is rented per person. So it's perfect if you're solo traveling.

There are two big rooms in the house, a shared bathroom (big one), living room, dining room and big, fully equiped kitchen. No one else stayed while I was there, so I had the whole place to myself for only 150RD a day. Best deal I've had so far in SA. And Cathy and Patrick are lovely people.

In the end, the place I was staying in was so good, I didn't mind spending a whole week. It was the perfect place to relax for a week and recharge batteries. After Shelly Beach I think I'm going to be picking up the pace a bit more.

Shelly Beach is a town along a long strech of beach that connects several towns. It's all about fishing, diving and all sorts of water related activities here, including whale watching, boat rides, spear fishing, etc.

The coast itself is beautiful and it strongly reminded me of my home town (Viña del Mar, Chile and specifically where I live, in Con Con) and of the adjacent towns and cities, where the coastline is very similar.

I especially liked the beachfront of Margate. There are several fishing piers, being the biggest one in Margate. Complete with stations to clean the fish and all. One of the days I went to take photos of the beachfront. There was a strong swell and when I was standing on the edge, a wave nearly covered me and soaked me along with my DSLR camera, so I had to go back home to dry it and change my clothes.

Concerning the diving, I wasn't that lucky with the weather or with what I was hoping to see, but such is life.

Out of the 7 days there, I could ony dive 3 of them, due to the wind conditions and the swell.

Just like in Aliwal Shoal, in Protea Banks it's also possible to spot Oceanic Blacktip sharks and when in season, Tiger Sharks and Hammerheads. More rare sightings include the Dusky sharks, Great white sharks and Bull sharks.

Going to the dive sites, we usually spoted whales and dolphins from the boat.

The typical dive in Protea Banks is going out on the boat and when on the site, doing a "negative entry" (backward roll from the boat and immediately staying underwater) and then diving down to around 30-35m at the beginning of the dive. There's usually a strong current there, so the divers must stay within sight of the Divemaster (DM) that's holding the buoy. Otherwise, the chances of getting lost and being swept away are high. And good luck being spotted form the boat afterwards.

There are 2 sites in Protea: the southern and northern banks. I put up images of the sites in this entry.

At the bottom, there's alway the chance of seeing various types of reef and game fish. And then it's multilevel diving up to about 10m. The dives lasted for about 1 hour. Most of the dive is "blue water diving", meaning you feel like you're floating in the middle of nowhere.

And while you're floating you're looking out for stuff and hoping you'll catch a glimpse of sharks or whales. More or less like looking out for animals in Kruger Park. With the difference that you're not "inside the car" here.

Unfortunately, in all three dives we saw 2 or 3 Oceanic Blacktips. If this was somewhere else, maybe 3 Oceanic Blacktips would be an outstanding dive. But for "Protea Banks standards", it's pretty dull (this said by the people at the Dive Company, not me). We did hear whales underwater. And very loud as well. We kept looking, sure that we would see them any time. But it wasn't the case.

Still, a dive is a dive. Glad and grateful to just be in the water blowing bubbles. And diving in these conditions is not common for me, so additional experience. Plus, like I said, the people from the dive shop were just awesome.

So I have good reasons to come back and dive. Especially in summer months where they get 100s to 1000s of Hammerheads in one dive. Or when Tiger sharks and bull sharks are more common sightings. I'll have to dive this place again in my life.

All in all, it was a very relaxed week and I also had plenty of time to update the blog (4 entries in 2 days).

I also went to the movies a couple of times. Something I hadn't done in a while and that I really enjoy. I watched the latest "Wolverine" movie and "World War Z". Both good fun. And I also started working out everyday. After 2 months of not doing anything I finally started. Hope I can manage to keep it up.

But enough relaxing and procrastinating for now. It's time to hit the road and pick up the pace. Next stop: Port St. Johns.

Additional photos below
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12th August 2013

saludos desde Lonquen
Hola Dani, que bueno que has vuelto al agua. Debe ser una experiencia fantástica bucear entre tanto tiburón. Por acá todo bien. La novedad es que nació Joaquín el hijo del hermano de Mónica. Ayer fuimos a ver con los niños a su nuevo primo así es que estaban todos felices. un abrazo,Andres
13th August 2013

Hi, sorry for the small amount of things you saw during your week. Specially as they had serious sighting of whales underwater not long ago. Protea is a lottery...and sometimes we simply don't win. I try to get there 2 to 4 times per year...just to increase the chance. Each time, planning minimum 2 days of diving...but it did happen that we couldn't go to sea for 3 days becaue of the waves. My last time there was end of May...and we got many black tips...zambezis....hammerhead, even if it was way out of the season...and a whale underwater.... The best seasons to me seems to be November....with walls of hammerheads. But there is something to point about Protea...when the visibility is good....there is less life...meaning boring dives in the blue....when you see a lot, the vis is generally least for the pics...and these hammerheads are shy... Now you need to head to Rangiroa and Fakarava...not that far away from Santiago actually! Nice to follow your blogs!
13th August 2013

Thanks for the comment!
Hi Pierre, thanks for the comment. Not having seen much gives me an excuse to come back sometime (hopefully during November - December). Anyway, it was a good week, good time to relax. And thanks for the dive center recommendation, certainly a good one. Happy travels and diving!

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