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South Africa has lots to offer ocean-loving thrill-seekers of all levels of experience. Home to over 200 species of sharks, here’s a snapshot of the country’s top spots for cageless shark diving.

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Aliwal Shoal, Kwazulu Natal: Raggie Cavetiger-sharks

Located 50km off the Kwazulu Natal coast, this site in the warm Indian Ocean is made up of an ancient sandstone reef, and has been ranked as one of the world’s top ten dive sites. Beginner-level and pro divers alike should enjoy seeing the site’s community of sharks up close.

From June through to November, the relatively harmless Ragged Tooth Shark is the most common variety in these waters. But, visit during summer and you’re most likely to see Hammerheads and Tiger Sharks. Remember to be extra vigilant if you choose to dive around Tiger Sharks, as they’re generally considered dangerous.

Expect to dive depths of between six and 18 metres, with visibility varying from five to 40 metres. Water temperatures in these parts never drop below a relatively comfortable 19°C in winter, while average temperatures in summer are around 24 °C.

Simonstown, Cape Town: A Framepajama-shark

Situated a mere 5km from Simonstown, the A Frame site has a sand bottom with bedrock reef, and big boulders that break the surface in places. Visiting divers can look forward to a few swim-throughs among the boulder groups, and can expect to see harmless Pajama Sharks. A Frame is also considered a good site for winter and night dives.

Sardine Run, Kwazulu Natal: Protea Banks

Thrill-seekers should get a kick out of South Africa’s annual ‘Sardine Run”. The run begins in June or July when countless sardines migrate from the colder waters of the southern Cape to warm Kwazulu Natal. The purpose of this migration is to give birth.

Diving at depths of between five and seven metres, you’ll get to see this phenomenon play out cage-free, in the company of ocean animals looking to feast on sardines. Follow safety precautions faithfully, and watch dolphins, whales and sharks participate in one of the southern hemisphere’s great natural spectacles.

Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape: Harlem Wreckleopard-shark

Follow the country’s coastline south from Kwazulu Natal to the Harlem Wreck site in Port Elizabeth. The waters here are cooler, and the dive will take you to depths of between 18 and 21 metres.

The shipwreck offers many nooks and crannies to explore, setting up memorable encounters with the area’s shark population. Expect to see shy, relatively harmless Leopard Sharks, and bottom-dwelling Pajama Sharks.

Sodwana Bay, Kwazulu Natal: Hotspotbull-shark

Sodwana Bay lies about 100km south of Mozambique and is a heavily protected marine and coastal reserve. Expect to explore depths of between 27 and 30 metres, and to dive summer temperatures of around 25°C.

Sodwana Bay has dive sites that will suit beginners as well as experts, and many of them are famous for their shark populations. You’ll see Tiger and Bull Sharks in these waters, so be extra careful. They’re considered dangerous.

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