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  • The Tigers of Aliwal
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    The Tigers of Aliwal
    Sharks evoke an unexplainable fascination in their human admirers. From their large gaping jaws, lined with rows of razor sharp teeth to their sheer strength and agility. It’s no wonder why these impressive creatures are the apex predators of the ocean.

    Lying 5km off the small diving town of Umkomaas in KwaZulu Natal is Aliwal Shoal, an underwater paradise blessed with the warm Agulhas current. Due to the warm Indian Ocean current that runs through Aliwal, there is a large variety of sealife attracted to the area, making it the perfect hunting grounds for large predators. Rated as one of the top ten dive sites in the world, Aliwal Shoal offers unparalleled opportunities to dive alongside many species of sharks, including the formidable tiger shark. The thrill of a close encounter with a tiger shark, known for its volatile and occasionally aggressive nature, is the ultimate adrenaline filled diving experience, sure to get your blood pumping.

    With its many caves and gullies, Aliwal Shoal is also home to a seasonal residence of hundreds of ragged-tooth sharks. Diving during the ragged-tooth shark season provides an excellent opportunity to see the crooked smile of the ragged-tooth shark up close. Other sealife that can be found on Aliwal Shoal include sting rays, manta rays, dolphins, turtles and even pods of whales during the months from June to December.

    For a change of scenery, Aliwal Shoal also boasts some excellent wreck diving opportunities. It is the final resting place for three shipwrecks that were ripped asunder, all of which now lie dormant as they rest along the sandy ocean floor, waiting to be explored.
  • The Dugongs of Marsa Alam
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    The Dugongs of Marsa Alam
    The paradise of Marsa Alam offers visitors a wealth of magical experiences, from sunset camel safaris across rugged desert landscapes to diving magnificent coral gardens with gentle dugongs.

    Marsa Alam is a town ideally located in the south-east of Egypt, between the expansive dry desert of the Sahara and the nutrient rich Red Sea. The National Parks of Gebel Elba and Wadi al Gimal are home to a large variety of desert wildlife while the lush coral reefs and green sea beds welcome many fascinating marine creatures. Marsa Alam houses three prominent diving sites, all with unique sealife specific to the area. These include the docile dugongs found at Abu Dabab, the playful spinner dolphins of Samadai reef as well as the large pelagics at Elpinstone reef.

    Marsa Alam is world renowned for its close diving encounters with the endangered “sea cow”, the dugong. This docile and gentle creature finds itself at home in the warm waters of the Red Sea due to the abundance of its favourite food, sea grass. Marsa Alam’s best diving site for diving with the dugong is off the coast of Abu Dabab where beautiful coral gardens set the scene for magnificent photo opportunities with these gentle creatures, along with giant turtles and inquisitive guitar sharks.

    Marsa Alam also offers excellent opportunities for diving alongside playful spinner dolphins at Samadai Reef, commonly known as ‘Dolphin House’ due to the large schools of dolphins that frequent the area. Witnessing their acrobatic displays as they playfully jump in and out the water is a unique experience, sure to leave you with happy memories.

    If you enjoy the thrill of a close encounter with large pelagics a visit to Elphinstone reef will not disappoint. The pristine reef at Elphinstone attracts a variety of large pelagic marine life from the solitary ocean tip shark and the odd looking hammerhead shark to schools of trevallies, barracudas and tuna fish.

    The magnificent underwater scenery correlates with the stunning landscapes and rolling sand dunes found on land. A camel safari or a kite surfing experience is the best way to take in the magnificent rugged landscape of Marsa Alam.
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    High concentrations of Green and Hawksbill turtles are a hallmark of this enchanting Island, yet that’s not the only reason the island of Sipadan is celebrated. Ideally located in the centre of one of the richest marine habitats in the world makes Sipadan one of the top diving destinations in the world, offering something for all divers, from pelagic lovers to critter hunters.

    In the Celebes Sea of the east coast of the island Borneo, lies Sipadan, an oceanic island created from lush corals growing on top of an extinct volcano. Situated in heart of the indo-pacific basin this marine paradise is ideally located in the centre of one of the richest marine habitats in the world. Celebrated for its rich underwater biodiversity, pristine reefs and strong currents, that welcome over 3000 species of fish and are home to hundreds of vibrant coral species. It’s no wonder why this pristine Island and its surrounding waters are world renowned for being one of the top diving destinations in the world.

    Recognised as one of the big fish capitals in the world, this magnificent island welcomes many pelagics, from white tip and grey reef sharks at Whitetip Avenue to scallop hammerhead sharks, eagle rays, and the occasional manta ray and whale shark, who make an appearance when oceanic currents bring in plankton from its depths. High concentrations of green and hawksbill turtles are a hallmark of the island with up to 20 turtles seen on one dive!

    Two of the best dive sites in Sipadan include Turtle Tomb and Barracuda Point. At Barracuda Point, visitors can delight in witnessing the resident barracuda, who gather in the thousands, as they form spectacular tornado-like formations and at Turtle Tomb divers can explore the myriad of weaving passageways where many turtle remains lie scattered across the sandy ocean floor, a sober reminder of those unfortunate souls who entered the cave and drowned before they could find the exit. The incredible geological formations of turtle cave are also home to some fascinating creatures that lurk in the shadows, having adapted themselves to the low light environment.

    If you peel your eyes away from the large pelagic action Sipadan boasts some excellent macro dive sites. The lush coral gardens and ocean floor is home to a dazzling variety of macro-life that would rival most destinations. If you look carefully you will find a wealth of macro life, from spotted garden eels and morays to hairy-squat lobsters, scorpion fish, lion fish and the occasional octopus.
  • Expedition Antarctica
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    Expedition Antarctica
    Antarctica’s winter wonderland landscape boasts breathtaking scenery with towering snow dusted mountains, glistening glaziers and sculptured icebergs.

    The icy continent of Antarctica is ranked the fifth largest continent in the world and recognised as Earth’s southernmost continent. Its frozen expanse of desert is pure and pristine, largely untouched by humans, providing the perfect opportunities for a voyage into unchartered territory. With extreme weather conditions from rough sea crossings to windswept landscapes, all in sub-zero temperatures an expedition to Antarctica, although challenging, is an exhilarating experience fit for adventure lovers and adrenaline junkies.

    Antarctica’s dramatic landscape, from the floating sheets of ice at Weddell Sea to the sunken caldera at Deception Island, offers many exciting activities. Weave on your kayak through an icy maze covered in icebergs or camp in a tent along the barren snow dusted landscape. Other activities include rock climbing, ice diving, as well as swimming in warm volcanic waters, with temperatures reaching 70°C in some places!

    From breath-taking underwater scenery with waving walls of kelp and sculptured ice bergs to a fascinating variety of unique sealife, including large colonies of penguins, pods of leopard seals and killer whales as well as flocks of migratory birds, diving in Antarctica is truly a magical experience that will leave you feeling in awe.
  • Magic of Muck
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    Magic of Muck
    Famous for muck diving, Lembeh is perfect for those who like to discover the small and strange looking creatures that conceal themselves in the many crevices, caves and sunken shipwrecks.

    In the island nation of Indonesia, between the city of Bitung, Northern Sulawesi, and the island of Lembeh, lie the magnificent waters of the Lembeh Strait. Renowned as the ‘muck diving capital of the world’ Lembeh Strait provides visitors with a once in a lifetime opportunity for seeing creatures and critters that are difficult to find anywhere else in the world. Protected by Lembeh Island and therefore void of nearly all currents, makes it the perfect location for muck diving. Lists are unavoidable when an area has such a vast array of unusual marine life. Creatures that can regularity be seen include the hairy frog fish, pygmy seahorse, thorny seahorse, mimic octopus, wunderpus, fire worm, peacock mantis shrimp, many nudibranchs and molluscs and even rhinopias.

    You will have to keep your eyes peeled as you patiently scan the landscape in search of the many fascinating species of critters. Remember to bring your camera as Lembeh makes the perfect setting for macro photography, making the time spent delicately searching, well spent. There are also thrilling night dives where you can spot many nocturnal creatures such as crabs, worms, cuttlefish and many others.

    Lembeh is also the final resting place for four wrecks. Relish in the nostalgia of diving sunken WWII shipwrecks as they lie dormant along the sandy ocean floor, now transformed into magnificent structures covered in corals and home to many creatures.
  • Leafy Sea-Dragons
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    Leafy Sea-Dragons
    With rugged coastlines dotted with sea lions basking in the sun, camouflaged Leafy Sea-dragons hidden amongst lush green sea beds, playful pods of dolphins splashing in the waves and thousands of pulsating cuttlefish to mesmerise you with their hypnotic display. Visiting Australia is a once in a lifetime experience sure to exceed your expectations.

    With spectacular coastlines blessed with remarkable landscapes from rugged cliffs to still lagoons and a large variety of endemic wildlife, Australia is a destination to be enjoyed by both wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. Below the water’s surface lies a magnificent underwater wonderland covered in brightly hued sponges, bordered by lush green sea beds and home to an exciting variety of marine life, including the rare Leafy Sea-Dragon, the endemic Little Penguin and the endangered Sea Lion.

    Submerge yourself into some of the best temperate waters Australia has to offer and try your luck at spotting the elusive Leafy Sea-Dragon. This magical creature is a close relative of the seahorse and is endemic to Australia’s southern waters. Kangaroo Island and Sydney Harbour host some of the largest populations of Leafy Sea-Dragons with many divers travelling from all over the world for an opportunity to spot this rare and prehistoric looking creature.

    Not only are the temperate waters home to the rare Leafy Sea-Dragon Kangaroo Island and Sydney Harbour offer many diverse and exciting wildlife experiences that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. From nocturnal penguin tours, allowing you to get close to waddles of Little Penguins that make their home in caves and shrubbery along the coastline, to diving alongside pods of playful dolphins and snorkelling the ‘Cuttlefish Capital of the World’, where thousands of cuttlefish prepare to spawn, performing a mesmerising display as they pulsate a kaleidoscope of colours and patterns.

    Not only is there a wealth of marine life experiences to be had off the coast of Australia the underwater scenery is just as spectacular, with large sinkholes that glisten an inviting turquoise colour, secret caves and tunnels as well as many mysterious shipwrecks that lie dormant along the sandy ocean floor, just waiting to be explored.

    On land the scenery is just as breath-taking with towering golden sand dunes, lush wetlands and pristine beaches, bordered by rugged coastline that welcome a large variety of endemic wildlife including kangaroos, echidnas, wallabies and koala bears. Whether you enjoy diving or taking long walks along the beach, Australia will delight you with memories that will last a lifetime.
  • A Brand New Science Fluo Diving
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    A Brand New Science Fluo Diving
    Making the marine life burst with secret colours that are otherwise undiscoverable, “Fluo-Diving” around the pristine reefs of the paradisiacal Wakatobi islands makes for a unique and unforgettable diving experience.

    At the heart of the world famous Coral Triangle lies the Wakatobi islands, home to some of the most pristine reefs and bio-diverse waters in the world. Perfect for diving, the spectacular array of underwater life leaves those who submerge themselves into the crystal clear waters feeling in awe.

    Under the waves is where Wakatobi displays its true beauty. Here you will find the second largest barrier reef in the world, second to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. However, Wakatobi’s reef condition is far superior and the remote location of the islands gives divers a more intimate and private experience. The colourful coral of Wakatobi does not disappoint and encounters with manta rays, hammerhead sharks and even whale sharks furthers the water’s ability to amaze.

    A truly unique and unforgettable diving experience found in Wakatobi is “Fluo-Diving”. “Fluo-Diving” is where you dive at night with UV lights and special masks that filter the light, letting you discover the magical, hidden secrets of the marine life. This new form of diving was pioneered on the Wakatobi islands and very few people have ever experienced this astonishing spectacle. As you submerge into the waters, the coral and fish explode with fluorescent colours in a way that you will have never seen before and their unimaginable beauty is guaranteed to blow you away. “Fluo-Diving” is only for experienced night time divers, however, those with less experience can still enjoy the mystical wonders whilst “Fluo-Snorkeling”.

    After the adventures of Wakatobi’s underwater world of wonder, take a leisurely stroll down sandy beaches lined with coconut palms and gaze in awe as a fiery sunset paints the sky a vibrant blend of orange and red. These are the many treasures of Wakatobi that make it the ultimate island getaway.
  • Big Fish of the Southern Red Sea
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    Big Fish of the Southern Red Sea
    The Southern Red Sea offers a unique and exciting alternative to its northern counterpart. Known for its huge wall drops, strong currents and thrilling pelagic action, diving here is sure to get your blood pumping.

    Worthy of its title as one of the Seven underwater Wonders of the World, diving the Southern Red Sea, with its lush coral reefs, magnificent sunken wrecks and a dazzling variety of marinelife is a dive enthusiast’s dream come true.

    Situated between Asia and Africa, the Red Sea begins at the Suez Canal in the North and runs all the way down, past Ethiopia to join the Gulf of Aden in the South. The Northern Red Sea is known for excellent wreck diving opportunities, while the Southern Red Sea is known for its pelagic action. Large pelagics are attracted to the dives sites due to the strong oceanic currents, making regular close encounters with sharks guaranteed on dives. Famous dive sites include Daedalus Reef, St John’s Reef, Marsa Alam and the waters off the coast of Sudan.

    If the multitude of marine life with over 1000 species of invertebrates and over 1,100 species of fish does not get you excited then the magnificent coral gardens, huge wall drops, strong currents and thrilling pelagic action will. It’s not surprising why the Red Sea is considered one of the best diving destinations in the world with marine lovers, photographers and leisure seekers travelling from all over to experience and explore its many wonders and hidden secrets.
  • The Humpback Whales of Mozambique
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    The Humpback Whales of Mozambique
    Marvel at the power and grace of the humpback whale and be taken aback by its beautiful song.

    The waters off the 2,500km coastline of Mozambique are bursting with an array of diverse creatures, the most spectacular being the humpback whale. Between January and June, humpback whales feed in the cold, nutrient rich waters of the Antarctic before migrating to the warmer waters near the equator to breed and give birth, between the months of July and December. This 12,000km journey is one of the longest migrations of any animal. On their migratory route they pass between the east coast of Africa and Madagascar, making Mozambique a prime whale-watching location.

    From the shore, it is often possible to see the humpback whales swimming gracefully in the distance, making a boat journey to see them up close, irresistible. When out on the water you will witness the power of these ‘sea giants’ as they burst out of the water (breaching), throwing two-thirds of their body into the air before creating a huge splash as they land on their backs. Although the whales display their incredible power, you will also see their unexpected elegance when they ‘spyhop’ and ‘sail’. ‘Spyhopping’ is when the whale raises its head and part of its body out of the water in a controlled manner to curiously inspect its surroundings. Whales are said to be ‘sailing’ when they hold their flukes in the air for an extended period of time, resembling a ships sails. The subtlety of these great mammals is a wonder of nature and is bound to leave you feeling in awe. As you submerge into the underwater world of these giants, you may find yourself mesmerised by the ethereal song of the humpback whale. Lasting up to 30 minutes and travelling vast distances, this song is both powerful and precious and is still an enigma to scientists. Whilst you are suspended in the deep blue waters, a looming shadow may appear and then out of the depths, a humpback whale will reveal itself as it gracefully glides past. This is when their colossal size is put into perspective as you feel insignificant in the presence of these tranquil giants. One may think that a large animal, such as the humpback whale, would be somewhat cumbersome; however, their agility is astonishing as they glide through the water with such precision and ease. Whether you are watching from a boat or in the water, humpback whales are one of the most fascinating animals. Amazing sightings of these creatures can be seen in Mozambique during the humpback whale season; between July and December.
  • The Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon
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    The Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon
    Submerge beneath the water into another era and explore the sunken history that makes Truk Lagoon one of the best wreck diving sites in the world.

    In the central Pacific, 1800km north-east of Papua New Guinea, lies a sheltered body of water within the Federated States of Micronesia, known as Truk Lagoon. Also known as Chuuk Lagoon, this atoll hosts many wrecks that are steeped in history, making it a wreck diver’s paradise. In February 1944, US forces conducted Operation Hailstone that destroyed the entire Japanese fleet stationed at Truk leaving many vessels, planes and tanks at the bottom of the lagoon. Virtually intact, these ghostly remains lie on the floor of the lagoon just as they did when first sunk in 1944.

    Diving into the water and being surrounded by wrecks gives you a tangible sense of history. Coral makes a home for itself on the “Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon” along with other vibrant marine life, creating a dramatic contrast to the deadly past that lurks beneath the clear waters. One of the most fascinating wrecks to explore is the I-169 Shinohara, a submarine that played a part in the attacks on Pearl Harbour in 1941. Whilst exploring the sunken history, one can also enjoy the sightings of turtles, sharks and manta rays. Truk Lagoon is a natural harbour and as a result it does not have an ocean current. This makes for perfect diving conditions as one can easily swim across the decks while admiring the gas masks and assortment of other military equipment that lie scattered across them. When penetrating the eerie vessels the panic that ensued on those fateful days is almost palpable and the human remains are a dark reminder of this tortured period of history.

    Although wreck diving is for more experienced divers, there are fifteen wrecks and planes that are accessible to snorkelers who wish to submerge themselves into this underwater museum. In addition to the spectacular wreck diving opportunities, Truk Lagoon is also home to Shark Island. Here you can enjoy the thrill of close encounters with dozens of sharks in their natural habitat.
  • The dance of the mandarinfish
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    The dance of the mandarinfish
    A twilight dive is the perfect time to witness one of the most fascinating events in the marine world, the mesmerising courtship dance of the mandarin fish.

    The mandarin fish, named after the robes of an Imperial Chinese Officer, with its bright and bizarre patterns of blue, green, purple, yellow and orange, is by far one of the most beautiful and interesting fish in the ocean. What makes them interesting is not only their patterns of psychedelic hues, but also their lack of scales, hover-like swimming style and their nocturnal mating rituals.

    Mandarinfish are shy and reclusive during the day, preferring to live in protected, shallow in shore reefs under coral beds and rubble. They are usually found in pairs or groups in tranquil lagoons throughout the Western Pacific and in the Coral Triangle of biodiversity, which includes Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Indonesia and Australia.

    Just before sunset these magnificent fish come out from hiding to engage in a mesmerising mating ritual. Groups of 3 to 5 females make their way to a particular region of the reef and wait for males to visit and display their courtship behaviour, in the hopes of attracting a female. Once the female has chosen her mate the two of them will come together, resting their pelvic fins together. After having aligned themselves the mating ritual begins as the two of them rise, side by side, approximately 1m above the reef, releasing sperm and eggs into the water. After having successfully completed the mating ritual they will separate abruptly while their eggs float away along with the current, taking approximately a day to hatch into 1mm long larvae.

    Witnessing the psychedelic mating ritual of the mandarinfish requires a little patience, timing and luck yet if you’re fortunate enough to see this mesmerising courtship dance you will not be disappointed.
  • Rays of the Pacific
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    Rays of the Pacific
    Palm fringed powder sand beaches, scattered islands of emerald green, volcanic archipelagos and azure waters are the enduring images of the Pacific. Recognised as the world’s largest ocean, the Pacific is a vast expanse of sea, home to some of the best diving locations in the world.

    The Pacific Ocean stretches between the Arctic and Antarctica, with Asia and Australia to the west, and the Americas to the east. The oldest, largest and deepest of all the world’s ocean basins, the Pacific covers nearly a third of the world’s surface.

    An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 islands are found in the Pacific Ocean and include a combination of larger, continental islands and archipelagos of smaller volcanic islands and coral atolls. These palm fringed islands are as diverse as the region is vast and habitats of the islands vary greatly, from lush rain forests, mangrove swamps and active volcanoes to rocky and dessert landscapes. The marine life is equally as diverse, from tiny micro critters to large pelagics.

    Some of the best diving spots in the Pacific include Fiji, renowned for its magnificent soft coral reefs and tiger sharks. Papau New Guinea, dubbed the ‘underwater photographers paradise’, home to one of the highest concentrations of marine life in the world, pristine dive sites and sunken shipwrecks. Tahiti’s inviting lagoons, remote white sand beaches and oceanic drop offs that attract large pelagics. Palau, home to the world famous Jellyfish Lake and Blue Corner. Yap, famed for its Mata Rays and last, but not least, the eerie underwater graveyard of Truuk Lagoon.

    With a wide variety of dive sites and equally diverse marine life, there are endless possibilities while diving the Pacific and a range of experiences to suit every desire.
SATSA No. 207

Hartley’s Safaris is registered with Southern Africa Tourism Association Registration number 207.


Hartley’s Safaris
South Africa (Pty) Ltd
Reg no: 2001/006019/07
United Kingdom
Copyright © 2016 Hartley's Safaris SA

Okavango Explorations (UK) Ltd
T/A Hartleys Safaris
Registered in England No. 2348880
Copyright © 2016 Hartley's Safaris UK

SATSA No. 207

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