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Published: November 15th 2014
November is the hammerhead season on Protea Bank. Last year, exactly same dates, we had up to a thousand hammerheads per dive. This year, not a single school of hammerhead....but the dolphins.
By now you should now that I love this place. I left Kinshasa on a late Tuesday to land at 5am in Joburg. It was raining, it was 14 degrees...what's happening, isn't supposed to be summer in less than a month. My next flight was landing at 9am. The original plan was to drive to Shelly Beach straight on to catch the second dive of the day by 11am. But Kym told me it would be windy, and that a second dive would not happen. So I took my time and went first to shop for wine at La Lucia, a nice neighborhood of Durban. As of today, the best ration quality/price in term of wine is easily find in South Africa and Argentina, and I love both of these countries. Imagine, a top range wine in South Africa is actually close in price to an entry level crappy wine in Bangkok. What Am I doing in Thailand?
South Coast weather is way
nicer than the weather in Joburg. Once I landed at 9am, it was already 21 degrees, and we would have few drops of rain the all day. I drove 50km south of Durban to Umkomaas to play the local golf course. I already went to Umkomaas few time, as you can dive here too, Aliwal Shoal. There is more diversity in for diving, but way less sharks than in Protea Bank. This won't stop me to come back and dive Aliwal Shoal again in 2015. The golf course was a pretty nice local affair. Glad I finally play it. I than made my way further south to Shelly Beach.
Next morning...well...I was supposed to dive. The weather was gorgeous....but the wind was there...and wind is not good to launch the boat...so I went to play golf again...this time, the amazing Wild Coast golf course, south of Port Edward. That course is simply amazing, and at 37usd including a golf cart, it's just one of the best bargain to play golf, anywhere on the planet! But I didn't only play golf, I went "house-shopping" also, more on this further.
Finally on my third day...we dived!
I came here in May...no blog...was too windy for three days and we could never go out, so this is my last chance to put at least a dive, or two on Protea Bank this year. I wanted my hammerheads! Well...the water is just south of 20 degrees....the visibility on the first dive around 10 to 15 meters, and it dropped to 5 meters on the second dive. The sharks are there...they are just impossible to spot!
So on the first dive...but forget about the pics, way too bad....we had a huge grouper...a nice eagle ray...a lobster...I saw the shade of the tiger shark...and couldn't spot the oceanic black tip. If you are not on them...forget about it. So when we speak of "on them"...well, I had the bull shark, here call the Zambezi...chasing the dolphins and coming right on me. On the posted picture, he is something like 4 meters from me....but he continued and came from just under...he must have been at 32 meters, I was at 28 meters...and he came right at me before moving nervously away...no picture of that moment, but it was fun!
Than there are the dolphins. I
need to check, but I think I saw my first dolphin underwater at round my 350th dive. So trust me, it doesn't happen often. But since than, it seems that it has turned into a regular occurrence for me. Saw them in Mexico, Belize, Sudan, French Polynesia, and even in Protea Bank...more than once. But this time it's a little different. We are at 30 meters down, the water is cold, and visibility is crap. We are all looking for a school of hammerheads, that we would never found. We hear the dolphins, but let's be honest, we are too deep. Wrong, these guys came to check us...shall I say they came to check me as I had 20 of them coming right on me. I turn to take more pictures....the moment last maybe 20 seconds. Right than, I say to myself...well, this is another moment, welcome back to Protea Bank. Than I turn...and guess what....way mre dolphins are around me, all around....even stopping to say high...we drift, they drift in the other direction. There was something between 50 and 80 dolphins...trust me, these moment are rare, and they are magical!
Safety surface interval during an hour
on the zodiac before going back to the water. The waves are forming, next dive should be interesting. A last lollipop...and down again we are. This time, the water is even more milky....cold again and 5 meters visibility maximum. For the first time, after I don't know many dives on Protea Bank, I say to myself...this is it, it's going to be my first dive here without seeing a single shark...impossible but true! My dive computer even hit the 15 minutes deco time...so the dive lasts....but no shark. And at 3 minutes before surfacing, an oceanic black tip cruise in full speed just below us...my camera was not even ready....30 second later a second passed us a little lower...and it was time...to go back to land.
My afternoon was spent playing nicely with the little white ball at the Margate Golf Club...and I took the road to Umhlanga, next to Durban. That's the place where I spent my last night before getting on a early flight from Durban to Joburg before connecting to Asia. I just have one more nice routine now, I stop for dinner at the Oyster Box hotel. The hotel has been voted as
one of the best in the world by people like CondeNast Traveller...but guess what, a nice glass of wine and a superb steak béarnaise will be...less than 25usd. That's expensive in South Africa, but for the place, great dinner!
I'll be back to the South coast middle of March. But more important, we are getting ready to have the kids visiting South Africa in July 2015....yes, that's mean diving with the sharks for them too! But it will be a lot more, as I'll drive with them all over South Africa for a dream trip! And in a few years...and I mean in just a few years...I may too be able to blog from the place where I live...because trust me, today, I would love to move here right now...it will happen...in a not so far future...
Next blog coming in around 10 days...don't even try to guess from where...
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