For a lot of travelers, scuba is among the main reasons to visit South Africa. The country’s famously beautiful coastline begs to be explored, and diving expeditions around the country are quite common. Indeed, on both sides of the country, touching the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, you can find plenty of starting points for incredible scuba trips.
While there are actually quite a few wrecks around the South African coast, these dives tend to be more about marine life, and often some fairly large ocean creatures. There are a ton of different animals you might see while diving South Africa, in fact, but these are some of the most interesting ones that you might look forward to.
As you may know, the waters around South Africa on all sides are actually fairly friendly to sharks of all different kinds. Great white sharks draw the most attention, and you may in fact see them scuba diving from South Africa. However, the main reason great whites are so commonly associated with the country is that there are cage diving opportunities in which they’re intentionally attracted for guests to see up close. On a more conventional scuba dive you’re just as likely if not more so to see other kinds of sharks, and zebra sharks are among them. A species of carpet shark, these intriguing animals dwell on ocean floors in shallower areas, and while they can give a nasty bite they’re a little less dangerous and nicer to look at than some of their cousins in the shark family. In fact, they’re sometimes described as docile.
Bluespotted Ribbontail Rays
As with sharks there are numerous species of rays that you may run into scuba diving in South Africa (and eels as well). There’s a good chance of seeing a few different kinds even in a single dive, but the ones to watch for are these bluespotted ribbontail rays, which are frankly beautiful sea creatures. They can be dangerous in that their tail spines cause a great deal of pain, but they’re not typically aggressive toward divers.
The lionfish is perhaps one of the more common prizes of scuba dives all over the world, at least among fish that aren’t rare. In fact, an expanding population of them across the Atlantic has made them downright common in some popular diving spots like the Caribbean. Still, they’re quite fascinating to look at, and they can always be somewhat thrilling to stumble upon underwater.
We tend to look at fish with teeth as something menacing. This comes from images of deep sea fish with long, needle-like teeth that look naturally sinister. It also comes from a few video games over the years in which fish can be more predatory than they actually are. Case in point, a recently released online game called “Cash Ahoy” that deals with marine themes features fish floating across the reels of a slot machine. And it includes a few fish with extremely nasty-looking teeth, even in cartoon-like animations. It’s easy to buy into the idea that fish like these are somehow bad, but the honeycomb grouper demonstrates that they can be gorgeous as well. Named for honeycomb-like scale patterns, they can blend into coral, but make for very striking fish if you locate them.
The common octopus is another relatively common sighting in South Africa scuba, and always a thrill. They can camouflage surprisingly well thanks to their ability to contort and practically shrink themselves, but they’re wondrous to behold in nature.
Oddly enough, this is another sea creature that somewhat like fish with teeth has been warped to some degree by video games. In particular, this is because of the Pokémon, Dewgong. This is a playful-look, seal-like creature described as loving to snooze on bitterly cold ice, and for this reason some might assume wild dugongs are effectively arctic seals. However, while the name of the Pokémon is clearly derivative of this sea mammal, the dugong is more like a manatee than a seal, and does not necessarily dwell in arctic regions. They’re not particularly common, but they can be seen while diving off of South Africa.
Peacock Mantish Shrimp
If you know the peacock mantis shrimp by name, it may be because a thoroughly amusing write-up about this odd little mollusk’s ability to see in a massive arrange of colors went semi-viral on the internet a few years ago. Unfortunately, there’s no way to see through their eyes and capture this range of colors (which the human mind is literally not equipped to comprehend), but the mantis shrimp is itself a very colorful and beautiful creature, and you can see them in these waters. Just beware that they’re not necessarily tame. While they’re small, they can use talon-like appendages to strike hard enough to break glass when trapped in aquariums.
Text and images provided by Samantha Atkins