With over 1,860 miles of coastline, there’s no wonder that South Africa is a hot spot for diving. Each diving site has its own specialty that makes it stand out from the rest. From coral reefs to getting up and close with marine life, there is something for every diver.  Even the beginners!

South Africa is known for its large Great White Shark population. So, if you are an adventurous spirit, diving in South Africa is a must! Don’t worry, not every dive site is filled with sharks. But most of them have an array of marine life from small seahorses to dolphins. There are so many great diving spots, but this post is going to cover the best 8 dive destinations in South Africa.

Best Time to Scuba Dive in South Africa

The best time to go diving in South Africa is during the summer months, October to February. Since the dive destinations in the country are so diverse, expect the water temperatures to differ as well. Waters can be as warm as 80°F (27°C), or as cold as 57°F (14°C).

For the diver that is visiting South Africa specifically for the sharks, it is best to go during November through June. Most other marine life can be seen at any time of the year, so try and choose a time that fits your wants and needs. Regardless of when you go, there will be many dive resorts to guide you in your diving process. 

The Best Places to Dive in South Africa:

Cape Town

Likely one of the most well-known dive destinations in South Africa, Cape Town is a unique blend of marine life. Due to its location, the warm currents of Agulhas and the cold currents of Benguela collide here. This creates rich and diverse ecosystems like the famous Kelp Forests in False Bay. Similar to its name, the Kelp Forest is an underwater area that has heaps of different kelp species. Together, they form an area that looks like an underwater forest.

The Kelp Forest is not all you will find diving in Cape Town. While swimming around, you may catch a glimpse of the pyjama shark, the Cape fur seal, or even old shipwrecks. Water temperatures here tend to be around 57°F to 68°F (13.8°C to 20°C).

8 Of The Best Dive Destinations in South Africa
Seven gill shark swimming among the kelp forests of False Bay, Cape Town | 8 Of The Best Dive Destinations in South Africa


Only two hours from Cape Town, you can find another one of the best dive destinations in South Africa, Gansbaai. This diving spot is especially known for its cage diving, so divers can see the Great White Shark up close and personal. Cage diving may differ from scuba diving, but it is much more accessible for beginner divers. It is a great way to safely see the Great White Shark in their natural habitat.

Try to find a dive tour that takes you to Shark Alley. This narrow gap is known to house a plethora of sharks. If you’re a shark lover, you have to check out Shark Alley. Some other marine life you may encounter are: copper sharks, Cape fur seals, African penguins, and more!

Great White Shark photographed from a cage diving experience | 8 Of The Best Dive Destinations in South Africa

Port Elizabeth 

As the largest city in the Eastern Cape, Port Elizabeth boasts some exceptional dive sites, particularly in areas like Algoa Bay and Cape Recife. Although the waters here can be chilly, the diving experience in Port Elizabeth remains unparalleled. The marine biodiversity is a diver’s dream, offering a chance to observe a plethora of sea life in its natural habitat.

The diving experience in Port Elizabeth varies with the seasons and specific locations you choose to explore. From November to April, divers often encounter Sand Tigers, known locally as ragged-tooth sharks. Winter months bring the majestic sight of migrating humpback whales, adding a thrilling element to journeys between dive spots. Additionally, around April and May, divers can witness the spectacular Sardine Run, a natural phenomenon that attracts a wide array of marine predators and offers a breathtaking underwater spectacle.

Port St. Johns

Wanting a unique dive experience? Then head over to Port St. Johns and watch the incredible Sardine Run. Every year, large populations of sardines swim through the waters as they migrate from the Cape. Over a billion sardines swim through Port St. Johns attract lots of marine life like dolphins, whales, seals, and sharks. To experience this once in a lifetime event, you should visit Port St. Johns during late May to early July. 

Dive boats from all across South Africa meet up at the Umzimvubu River, hoping to see the sardines come through. This is a large migration that goes through many parts of South Africa. However, if you want to get the best view, then your best bet is at Port St. Johns.

Diver approaching a large shoal in the Sardine Run | 8 Of The Best Dive Destinations in South Africa

Sodwana Bay

For the beginner diver, Sodwana Bay is the best dive destination in South Africa. The water temperatures are quite warm, ranging from 68°F to 86°F (20°C to 30°C). But more importantly, Sodwana Bay has many areas with shallow waters for an easier diving experience. Visit the diving spots in iSimangaliso Wetland Park to see gorgeous reefs, manta rays, turtles, whale sharks, and more.

If that’s not enough, try diving at night in Sodwana Bay. It is one of the few South African dive destinations where you can have this experience. Depending on what season you visit Sodwana Bay, you may even be lucky enough to see turtles hatching on the beach.

8 Of The Best Dive Destinations in South Africa
Curious red grouper approaching divers at Sodwana Bay, South Africa | 8 Of The Best Places To Dive in South Africa

Aliwal Shoal, KwaZulu-Natal

Aliwal Shoal is a sand dune near Durban that has a variety of marine life – especially larger predators. Between the months of July and November, the Grey Nurse Shark (another name for Ragged Tooth Sharks) come to this area. This area is known as the Raggies Cave, and is filled with these sharks. Some other marine animals you may find in Aliwal Shoal are mantas, eels, turtles, stingrays, and coral fish.

The coastal region of KwaZulu-Natal is not only known for Aliwal Shoal. It is filled with gorgeous beaches and mountains. When you finish exploring the animals in the sea, try exploring the animals on land too! Some famous sites in Aliwal Shoal to explore are the North and South Sands, Manta Point, and Pinnacles. These are just a few of the hot spots in Aliwal Shoal, but there is much to explore in this dive destination in South Africa.

8 Of The Best places to dive in South Africa
Sand Tiger Shark in Aliwal Shoal, South Africa | 8 Of The Best Places To Dive In South Africa

Storms River Mouth, Eastern Cape

Exploring the underwater realms of Storms River Mouth offers an exceptional experience, not just for the remarkable dive sites but also for the beauty of the surrounding area. Nestled in the Tsitsikamma National Park, divers are greeted with historic forests, majestic mountains, stunning natural vistas, and an abundance of bird species. Yet, the true allure of Storms River Mouth lies beneath its waters.

Plunge into the river to behold a vibrant spectacle of coral, fish, sea anemones, and nudibranchs—a distinctly colorful and fascinating type of mollusk. As you navigate the waters, you might also encounter sand sharks, Grey Nurse sharks, and even stingrays amidst the diverse marine inhabitants of Storms River Mouth. With so much life teeming below the surface, take your time to explore and appreciate the myriad of marine creatures that call this place home.

Storms River Mouth in Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa | 8 Of The Best Places To Dive in South Africa

Mossel Bay, Garden Route

Mossel Bay stands out as a premier diving destination in South Africa, offering delights for everyone, including those in your party who might not be diving enthusiasts. The town’s beauty is undeniable, with numerous terrestrial sites worth exploring. Yet, if diving is what draws you here, Mossel Bay won’t disappoint with its diverse underwater adventures.

Dive into the vibrant world beneath the waves to marvel at the kaleidoscopic coral reefs teeming with an astonishing array of fish species. Opt for a night dive to witness the nocturnal marine life emerge in a spectacle rarely seen during the day. For thrill-seekers, cage diving presents an unparalleled opportunity to come face-to-face with the legendary Great White shark. Whatever your diving preference, Mossel Bay caters to all desires, ensuring an unforgettable underwater experience.

8 Of The Best places to dive in South Africa
Great White Shark breaking the surface of the water in Mossel Bay, South Africa | 8 Of The Best Dive Destinations in South Africa

Tips For Your Diving Trip

There is no need to be a professional diver to enjoy the amazing dives of South Africa. Look for a dive site or resort that helps beginners through the process of diving.

Think carefully about what diving suit to wear. As previously mentioned, the water temperatures can differ significantly between diving sites. Look ahead at what kind of diving suit will work best for each dive site’s water temperature.

These days, there has been some controversy with some diving tours. Search for companies that focus on preservation of the local marine life, especially of the Great White Shark population.


Thanks to South Africa’s extensive coastline, there are so many incredible and diverse diving spots. From seeing Great White sharks to sardines to coral, there is a lot of marine life to see while diving here. Whatever your level of diving expertise, South Africa has a place that fits your needs. There is no need to feel uncomfortable or worried when diving in one of these diving destinations in South Africa.

This list covers the most famous dive spots in South Africa, but there are many more areas to explore. So, grab your most adventurous friend and visit South Africa. You will not regret diving in one of these amazing 8 dive destinations in South Africa.