Words by Jill Langley, images by Bevan and Jill Langley…
For more travel stories and adventure guides, check out their travel blog Stray Along The Way.
Aliwal Shoal on KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast is one of South Africa’s premiere diving destinations, popular for its variety of dive sites, varied marine life that includes seasonal breeding aggregations of ragged-tooth sharks (Carcharias taurus), and scattered wrecks. Although diving is best in the winter months of May-July, Aliwal Shoal offers rewarding diving pretty much year round. Click here for a list of dive businesses operating in the area.
The best laid plans of mice and divers, however, can’t control the weather! There’s nothing worse than having your diving schedule interrupted by high seas or strong winds. Whilst some might be grateful for an excuse to sleep in, bad weather days can be a great opportunity to explore some of the fantastic attractions in the area.
Here are some of my favourite things to do when bad weather leaves you high and dry.
Get underwater at uShaka Marine World’s Seaworld Aquarium
Africa’s largest aquarium and one that subscribes to the highest accreditation standards in the world, uShaka Marine World’s Sea World Aquarium is the perfect place to get your fix of all things ocean. As well as fascinating exhibits characteristic of the different marine habitats around South Africa’s coastline, one of the aquarium’s main focuses is environmental education and there are a number of informative and interactive displays that are especially great for children and inquisitive adults!
Make your way slowly between the exhibits, taking care to notice the small details and then enjoy watching a feeding in one of the large displays (check ahead for feeding schedules).
There are also plenty of opportunities to get wet, and interact with some of the incredible animals in the aquarium. My all-time favourite is feeding the rays in the Open Ocean exhibit. Accompanied by staff, guests stand in waist deep water and hand-feed rays that congregate around the group to feed. Expect to have the occasional ray sucking onto your leg, and definitely lots of splashing! Other options include a snorkel session in the Snorkel Lagoon, or climbing into a cage in the shark exhibit to get a little closer to some of these predators.
As well as admission, all activities are charged at an additional fee. Check online for feeding and show times, as well as current costs and any specials that might be running.
Check out incredible Oribi Gorge
Just inland from Port Shepstone, the Mzimkhulwana River runs through the bottom of spectacular Oribi Gorge. This river gorge is lined with coastal bush and dense forest and offers breathtaking views from any of its viewing platforms or hiking trails. Home to an array of birdlife and smaller game, the occasional leopard still roams the gorge and can be spotted by the very lucky few. As well as hiking and picnicking, visitors can take on a death-defying gorge swing with a drop of 165 m – the highest swing of its kind in the world!
Indulge in a sweet (or savoury!) waffle treat
No trip down the south coast is complete without a stop at Ramsgate’s legendary Waffle House! The biggest question here is will it be sweet, or savoury? One of my guilty pleasures is their chocolate chip waffle – a crisp golden waffle with decadent chocolate chips baked into it. Don’t forget to add some ice cream! If that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other sweet and unusual savoury options on the menu too. The restaurant itself is situated on the banks of the Bilanhlolo Estuary and a short walk to the beach, and is a fantastic place to spend the afternoon.
Note: Due to its popularity, long queues can build up during peak holiday periods so be sure to get there early.
Explore some of the incredible beaches in the area
The south coast of KwaZulu-Natal has some incredible stretches of beach. Although areas like Margate and Ramsgate can get very busy during peak holiday periods, there are plenty of places to find long strips of golden sand all to yourself and a list of the 40 best beaches in South Africa has plenty of south coast contenders! Combine this with a rocky point full of pools to explore, clean blue subtropical water and world-class surfing opportunities and you have pretty much everything you need for a great day out.
Head to Kelso, one of my favourites closer to Durban, explore the south coast’s Blue Flag Umzumbe Beach or scramble over boulders and discover secret coves around Leisure Bay on the far south coast!
Get camera snappy with some equally snappy reptiles
Forget salt water for a bit and get to know one of the scariest predators of rivers and lakes at Crocworld Conservation Centre near Scottburgh. Home to an array of crocodiles including the dwarf (Osteolaemus tetraspis), slender-snouted (Crocodylus cataphractus) and fearsome Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus), and with weekly snake demonstrations, a walk-through aviary, landscaped gardens and a restaurant on-site, this is a great place to spend a day.
Check online for current prices, feeding and demonstration times, and specials.