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Margate, Shelly Beach and Grahamstown, January 2007

Submitted by admin on Mon, 03/19/2012 - 20:39

My next stop was Margate, further to the west. These South Africans aren't very inventive with their names. It turned out to be more upmarket than its English counterpart. I stayed at a B&B, with a swimming pool, double bed and ensuite bathroom for the princely price of 300 Rand a night. The breakfast was big enough to let you skip lunch.

I wanted to dive the famous Protea Banks, another top shark dive site. It's in nearby Shelly Beach, so I rang African Dive Adventures on 082 456 7885 to enquire about diving tomorrow. They said they weren't sure they were going out, but if I could get down there in an hour, they'd wait for me, so off I set.

Shelly Beach is just a few miles back east. The dive kitting up area was a bit rudimentary with a couple of sun shades and bins to wash the kit in, but it did the job. Again it was out through the surf and off to the Banks. On the previous dive they'd seen seven Zambezi sharks, also known as Bull sharks in other parts of the world, and a tiger. I must admit, the tiger part made me a little apprehensive.

I needn't have worried. My previous luck was holding out. We went to the bottom, which was a flat rocky reef in 35m. There wasn't an awful lot of life on it, though there was a rather tight swimthrough that I was the only one stupid enough to follow the guide through. There certainly weren't any sharks. As our computers hit a couple of minutes of deco, we started our blue water ascent, very slowly looking around for sharks in the open water. There weren't any there either. There were an awful lot of jelly fish of many different shapes and sizes. So with a bottom time of less than 20 minutes, we had a total dive time of 43 minutes.

It was disappointing, but that's diving. I decided to push on as I was a day or so behind my very loose schedule. My next stop was Grahamstown, which was a very long drive away. I must have been sitting in that car for the best part of 8 hours, which given it had no aircon and not exactly the most comfortable car seats, I was quite pleased when I arrived in Grahamstown for the night.

It's a big student town and home to the Rhodes university. It was before the beginning of term, so not many students were back yet. There was still a party vibe in one of the pubs in town. I stayed the night in the old gaol, which has now been converted into a backpackers. It wasn't as luxurious as the previous night, but it was also a lot cheaper, and I still had my own room.