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  • Famous Manta Reef Mozambique
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    Famous Manta Reef Mozambique
    The world renowned Manta Reef is home to large schools of magnificent Manta Rays. Watch in admiration as these majestic creatures glide effortlessly through the water in an awe-inspiring display of their grace and beauty.

    Located off the coast of Mozambique, approximately 20km south of Inhambane is the magnificent Manta Reef, named after the large schools of manta rays that frequent the area. The world renowned Manta Reef is definitely something to tick off of your bucket list. With two prominent cleaning stations located along the reef, including Manta Pinnacles and Manta Canon, sightings as well as close encounters with these majestic creatures are guaranteed.

    Inhamane and Tofu beach offer some of the best diving in the world. Not only are close encounters with manta rays a frequent occurrence, divers can also get up close and personal with whale sharks and humpback whales. These gentle giants frequent the area during the months from October through to March and humpback whales can be seen as they migrate along the Mozambique coastline during the months from June to October.

    The reef’s landscape is rugged and made up of canyons and gullies, covered with colourful soft and hard corals, and home to a dazzling variety of marine life, including large schools of barracuda, docile turtles and giant moray eels.
  • The Frenzy of the Sardine Run
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    The Frenzy of the Sardine Run
    Every year millions of sardines saturate the dark blue waters a shiny metallic silver in an unexplained natural phenomenon known as the Sardine Run. Their sheer numbers attract animals from land, sea and sky, creating a feeding extravaganza and a frenzy of excitement amongst all who come into contact with this spectacular marine event.

    The Sardine run in South Africa is described as one of the greatest marine spectacles on earth. Annually, during the months of May through to July vast shoals of sardines migrate up the east coast of South Africa, travelling from the cooler waters of the Cape into the warm sub-tropical waters of KwaZulu-Natal. With shoals often being more than 7 km long, 1.5 km wide and 30 metres deep a large amount of attention is drawn to the Sardine run, especially because of the large concentration of marine predators that are always in close pursuit.

    Following the shoals, above and below water is an unprecedented concentration of marine predators including birds, sharks, dolphins, whales, seals and fish. Schools of sharks including the Bronze Whaler, Dusky, Black Tip, Zambezi, Hammerhead and Copper can be seen in their hundreds. Bottle nose and common dolphins also join in the feeding frenzy and employ a hunting strategy to push the shoals into what is referred to as ‘bait balls’. Working together underwater the dolphins drive the bait balls to the surface. As the shoal moves closer to the surface the aerial assault on the sardines begins as hundreds of Cape Gannets, Cormorants and Gulls plummet out of the sky to gorge themselves on the shimmering ball of silver fish. In areas where the sardines swim close to the shore fishermen and local sardine lovers make sure to secure their share too.

    Little is known about this phenomenon and the Sardine Run is still poorly understood from an ecological point of view. Sardines shoal closely together when they are threatened in an instinctual defensive behaviour, since individual sardines are more vulnerable than in large groups. It is also hypothesised that the water temperature has to drop below 21°C in order for the migration to take place and the Sardine Run is most likely as a result of a seasonal reproductive migration.

    Despite little being understood about this natural phenomenon it is definitely a once in a life time opportunity to witness one of natures unexplained mysteries. This spectacular marine event is sure to be enjoyed by all, be it bird watchers, marine life enthusiasts, divers of varying levels of experience as well as snorkellers.
  • Africa’s Big 5
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    Africa’s Big 5
    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.

    Diving with sharks in their natural habitat is an exhilarating experience, sure to get your blood pumping. South Africa offers excellent diving opportunities with a large range of sharks from the infamous Great White shark to the gentle Whale Shark. Other sharks that make up the Big 5 that can be seen along the South African coastline include the Zambezi shark, the Tiger shark and the Ragged-tooth shark.

    The Gansbaai area including Dyer Island and the legendary Shark Alley is considered the shark diving capital of the world, offering unparalleled opportunities to observe, encounter and cage dive with sharks, in particular the Great White Shark. The thrill of a close encounter with the most revered predator of the ocean, the Great White Shark is the ultimate adrenaline filled diving experience. Cage diving is a common way of getting up close and personal with these fearsome creatures. A cage dive usually begins with throwing a bucket of mashed sardines and fish oil, commonly known as chum, into the ocean to attract sharks to the boat. Once the sharks surround the boat a chunk of bait is attached to a buoy and the cage is lowered into the water. Cage diving does not require any dive experience and all equipment is provided on board, including a wetsuit. A dive can last up to 20 minutes and is usually done in the morning. If you’re lucky you may just get an opportunity to witness the formidable Great White hunting, as it explodes of out the water in an action known as breaching, displaying its sheer strength, agility and speed.

    For the adventurous diver who prefers the thrill of diving alongside sharks in their natural habitat, without the security of a cage, diving off the coast of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa is the perfect destination, offering excellent opportunities for a face-to-face shark encounter. Besides the majestic Great White there are numerous other sharks that lurk beneath the surface, all of which can be found in abundance on Protea Banks and Aliwal Shoal. Lying 5 and 8km off the coast of KwaZulu Natal are two unique reef systems, both of which are blessed with the warm Agulhas current. Due to the large variety of sealife, including large schools of Kingfish, Tuna, Yellowtail and Barracudas, Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks are the perfect hunting grounds for larger predators with few other dive sites boasting regular sightings of Zambezi sharks, Hammerhead, Ragged-tooth, Back tip and Tiger sharks.

    Protea banks is ranked as one of the world’s top shark diving destinations and is frequented by a large number of Zambezi (Bull) sharks, making it one of the few places in the world where these sharks can be seen on a regular basis. Aliwal Shoal, on the other hand, with its many caves and gullies is home to a seasonal residence of hundreds of Ragged-tooth sharks which are in their highest concentrations between June and November. Diving during the Ragged-tooth shark season provides excellent opportunities to see the crooked smile of the formidable 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. Aliwal Shoal also boasts some exceptional wreck diving opportunities with three shipwrecks that lie dormant, resting along the sandy ocean floor just waiting to be explored.

    Whale sharks can also be seen sporadically though the year along the coast of KwaZulu Natal, with frequent sightings at Aliwal Shoal and Sodwana Bay. Having been known to display inquisitive behaviour with divers, a close encounter with one of these gentle giants is sure to be a breathtaking experience. Since Whale Sharks are known to be migratory, following plankton blooms and changing water temperatures, sightings are more common during the summer months from October to April.

    Although certain sharks can be seen more frequently at different times of the year diving can be done throughout the year with water temperatures ranging from 22°C to 28°C and outside daytime temperatures ranging from 20°C to 38°C.
  • The Mola Mola of Nusa Penida
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    The Mola Mola of Nusa Penida
    The prehistoric looking Ocean sunfish, or mola looks like the invention of a mad scientist and vies for the title of strangest fish in the sea. Huge and flat, these silvery-grey fish have tiny mouths and big eyes that vanish into an even bigger body with a truncated tail. Topping out around 2 tons, this gentle giant is the world's heaviest bony fish. With their tank-like bodies, molas were clearly not built for life in the fast lane, but they hold their own against faster and flashier fish, capable of living at significant oceanic depths.

    Lying across the Badung Strait in the waters surrounding Nusa Penida is where you’ll find the best diving Bali has to offer. With strong ocean currents and deep, cool waters, diving here is an adrenaline filled experience that will entice dive enthusiasts who actively seek strong currents. Besides the temptation of a thrilling drift dive many divers visit Nusa Penida in search of the rare and prehistoric looking sunfish, the mola mola.

    These odd looking creatures migrate from the deep oceanic waters towards Nusa Penida during the months from July through to October in order to cleanse themselves from parasites. Ocean sunfish can become so infested with skin parasites, they will often invite small fish or even birds to feast on the pesky critters. They may at times even breach the surface up to 10 feet (3 meters) in the air and land with a splash in an attempt to shake the parasites.

    They often can be seen daily on dives during this period as they frequent the many cleaning stations along the reef. Crystal Bay is not only recognised as one of Bali’s best dive sites due its superb visibility but is also renowned for sightings of these giant fish. Located in the South West of Nusa Penida and bordered by a sandy ocean floor with towering walls of coral, this sheltered shallow bay provides the perfect conditions for diving. Those who feel like exploring the surrounding waters may find curious caves and magnificent coral gardens, along with a fascinating variety of marine life including patrolling reef sharks, docile turtles and camouflaged wobbegongs. With the bay being sheltered from strong currents this site is perfect for divers of all levels of experience, from the novice to the professional, including snorkelers.

    Further south, along the rocky coastline of Nusa Penida is a site known for year round manta encounters. At Manta Point the plankton rich waters attract many manta rays and up to eight mantas can be seen on one dive. However, due to the strong surges diving at Manta Point is more for the experienced diver.

    If you can peel your eyes away from the mola mola Nusa Penida also boasts some spectacular macro diving opportunities with fascinating creatures, including the pygmy seahorse, scorpionfish and frogfish that hide amongst the lush coral gardens.
  • Crocodiles of Cuba and the Gardens of the Queen
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    Crocodiles of Cuba and the Gardens of the Queen
    Immerse yourself in the warm Caribbean waters of Cuba and enter an underwater paradise, populated with brightly hued sponges, sunken shipwrecks and spectacular sealife, including the rare and elusive Cuban Crocodile.

    As the largest island in the Caribbean Sea, Cuba benefits from a 5600km coastline, scattered with ripe coral reefs, containing the most diverse variety of corals and fish. Cuba’s warm waters of 24°C in summer and 22°C in winter provide the perfect temperature for divers wanting to explore its pristine underwater wilderness. With hardly any coral destruction or pollution the average visibility is 30 to 40m, allowing divers to fully embrace the spectacular scenery Cuba has to offer. Beneath the surface divers can expect to find a fascinating variety of sea life including marlins, swordfish, goupers, barracudas, sharks, lobsters and morays. If you’re lucky you may even find yourself diving alongside the rare Cuban Crocodile, being sure to make diving in Cuba an unforgettable experience.

    If you are looking for a change of scenery Cuba also boasts numerous shipwrecks and over 20 systems of caves and caverns. With hundreds of magnificent dive sites on offer trying to choose a site can prove difficult. The most accessible diving is off the North Coast due to its proximity to the international airport as well as the city Havana. However, while diving in the North will definitely exceed your expectations some of Cuba’s best diving spots are in the South, most notably of which, the Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen). Jardines de la Reina boasts a magnificent pristine ecosystem of coral reefs making it home to numerous fascinating underwater species. Not only is the Jardines de la Reina home to a large variety of endangered sharks, the national park surrounding it is also home to numerous other endangered species of plant and wildlife, including loggerhead turtles, hawksbill turtles, Cuban Crocodiles and black, staghorn and elkhorn corals.

    The Jardines de la Reina is accessible either via liveaboard or by having a floating hotel as your base. This gives you the convenience of living within close proximity to the dive sites, allowing you to reach dive sites within minutes.

    One can generally dive year round in Cuba as the average yearly water temperature lingers around 24°C. Nevertheless, the peak time to dive in Cuba is between December and April, when rainfall is at its lowest. However, if you are interested in seeing whale sharks November is the best month to visit.
  • The Treasure of the Black Sands
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    The Treasure of the Black Sands
    Charcoal black volcanic sands bordered by lush rainforests, submerged forgotten cities and lush coral gardens with sheer wall drops are some of the treasures Sulawesi has to offer.

    The name ‘Sulawesi’, originating from the words ‘sula’ and ‘besi’, translates as the island of iron, referring to the rich volcanic sands that border the island in certain areas. Found to the east of Borneo and to the west of Moluccas, bordered by a 6000km coastline, Sulawesi supports magnificent beaches and strong ocean currents and depths, attracting a large variety of sealife and home to lush coral landscapes.

    Located within the prime location of the Coral Triangle, Sulawesi has much to offer dive enthusiasts, from the tiny critters of Lembeh to the magnificent coral Gardens of the Queen in Bunaken. For those who enjoy the mystery of diving a lost city or the thrill of diving alongside active volcanoes, Sulawesi will see it come true. The beauty of Sulawesi can be enjoyed both underwater as well as on land with sheer drop offs and trenches covered with lush corals underwater to towering volcanic mountains, cascading waterfalls and dense forests above land. Although diving is the primary reason people visit Sulawesi, there are many activities to do on land. The Tangkoko National Park houses endemic creatures that can be spotted in the dense tropical forests, including the babi rusa, a mixture of dwarf and wild pig, dwarf buffaloes and the tarsius, the smallest monkey in the world.

    Although Sulawesi can be enjoyed all year round the best time to dive is between March and November. With close encounters with large pelagics in Bunaken and higher numbers of critters along Lembeh Strait seen between July and August.
  • For Divers Red Sea
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    For Divers Red Sea
    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 the world to experience and explore its many wonders and hidden secrets.

    Worthy of its title as one of the Seven underwater Wonders of the World, diving the 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 huge wall drops, strong currents and thrilling pelagic action.

    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. With temperate waters that offer unparalleled visibility, diving the Red Sea is nothing short of paradise.
  • Clowns of the Sea
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    Clowns of the Sea
    Most likely named after their humorous behaviour, witnessing a Clownfish furiously defend its sea anemone home and charge at unwanted visitors, some much bigger than themselves, is an amusing addition to a dive and always good entertainment value.

    Clownfish are a type of tropical reef fish found in the temperate waters of the Pacific Ocean, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

    The mucous membrane on the Clownfish’s skin makes it immune to the sting of the sea anemone. In exchange for protection and food, the Clownfish defends its host from unwanted intruders and removes any parasites. Clownfish inhabit a single sea anemone in groups that include the breeding male and female and a number of younger males. Once a group of Clownfish have found a sea anemone to set up home they will defend it, never straying further than 30cm during their entire lifetime.

    One fascinating fact about Clownfish is that they possess sex-changing abilities. All Clownfish are born male, however they can develop female reproductive organs when needed.

    Female clownfish will lay their eggs around the time of the full moon on a flat surface, close to the sea anemone in which they inhabit. The male Clownfish will then guard the eggs until they hatch, five to seven days later.
  • Blue caves of Bonito
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    Blue caves of Bonito
    Cave diving is the ultimate adrenaline filled experience for dive enthusiasts. Be both inspired and mystified by the sheer beauty of the underwater landscape and unique marine life while diving the beautiful blue caves of Bonito.

    Cave diving allows you to enter a world that doesn’t see much daylight, similar to doing a night dive but with no access to the surface. The crystal clear waters set the scene for a magnificent underwater landscape made up of unique and striking features including stalactites, stalagmites and fossils. The marine life is also rare and fascinating, having adapted their features to the lack of sunlight. One of the best places in the world for Cave diving is Bonito, a small city located at the Bodoquena Mountain Range in Brazil.

    The region’s main attractions are its natural landscapes, amazing fauna and flora and rivers with fresh transparent waters, home to a large variety of fish species that hide in grottos and caves, creating the perfect setting for a thrilling cave dive. There are many caves available for cave diving in Bonito, these include Mimoso Grotto, Buraco das Abelhas and Abismo Anhumas, the biggest underwater cave in the world.

    Dives are planned within the limits of certification of each diver, and divers will be accompanied by a local dive instructor that will oversee the entire operation. However, if you’re looking to do full cave penetration then you’ll need to do a cave diving course. Although Bonito is well known for its cave diving it also caterers for divers of varying levels of experience. Another fun experience to try out is ‘Floating’. The rivers of Bonito have a high concentration of calcareous that helps facilitate buoyancy as well as gives the crystal clear waters a beautiful transparency.

    The act of ‘Floating’ involves floating on the water while being carried by the stream. Much can still be seen while floating down the tranquil rivers of Bonito as colourful tropical fish and lush underwater flora make for beautiful scenery.
  • Prehistoric Galapagos
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    Prehistoric Galapagos
    These remote volcanic islands, with their unique and fascinating endemic species, continue to inspire and amaze visitors today, just as they inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution over 200 years ago. With lush mangrove forests and towering volcanic islands above land and strong ocean currents, home to a fascinating variety of endemic species below water. It’s no wonder why the Galapagos Islands are internationally acclaimed for being one of the best diving destinations in the world.

    Situated in the Pacific Ocean, 1000km from the South American continent in the Province of Ecuador, is where you will find the remote Galapagos Islands. Home to some of the richest diversities of marinelife, due to its location where three ocean current converge, makes this magnificent archipelago one of the best diving destinations in the world and fully deserving of its status as a World Heritage Site. Dotted with magnificent volcanic islands that bless the surrounding ocean currents with nutrient rich water, while attracting a dazzling variety of marine life, diving the Galapagos Islands is what a dive enthusiasts dreams are made of.

    The ongoing volcanic activity on the islands bears testament to their creation. Born from erupting oceanic volcanoes, these isolated islands are home to a fascinating variety of wildlife, most of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. These circumstances inspired Charles Darwin’s revolutionary theories of natural selection and evolution, following his visit in 1835.

    Diving in the Galapagos is characterised by strong currents that make for excellent drift dives. Enjoy the thrill of a drift dive over submerged volcanoes or the tranquillity of diving an isolated lagoon surrounded by lush mangrove forests. Most exciting for visitors is the unique and fearless wildlife that inhabit these islands. Marine iguanas, sea lions, penguins, gentle whale sharks, turtles and large schools of hammerhead sharks can all be seen and approached, most of which are curious of humans, making close encounters a common occurrence.

    Although the Galapagos Islands are notorious for their spectacular wildlife, the landscape is equally astonishing with long stretches of shoreline bordered by steep cliffs, magnificent lava and shell sand beaches and mangrove swamps that shelter secluded lagoons.
  • Palau a Divers Dream
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    Palau a Divers Dream
    The paradise of Palau with its magnificent underwater landscapes, sunken shipwrecks and mangrove forests is home to a spectacular variety of sealife. From millions of jelly fish to giant clams, and majestic manta rays to salt water crocodiles, diving in Palau is a breath-taking experience not to be soon forgotten.

    Located to the west of Micronesia and to the east of the Philippines is the magnificent archipelago of Palau, made up of 8 main islands and over 250 smaller islands. This tropical paradise is known for its excellent diving opportunities with breath-taking drop-offs, sunken shipwrecks and a large diversity of marine life, making it a dream destination for dive enthusiasts. Blessed with a rich diversity of terrain and marine life, Palau’s dive sites are world renowned and offer something for everyone, from the magnificent wall drops of Blue Corner to the majestic manta rays at the German Channel.

    One of the best diving sites in Palau is Blue Corner, a spectacular vertical wall populated with colourful fans, soft corals and sea anemones, also home to an array of reef life, from rainbow coloured mandarin fish, seahorses and garden eels to large schools of barracuda, prehistoric looking nautilus, and white tip and grey reef sharks. Strong currents allow for excellent drift diving opportunities, however if you would like to stay in the action for a little longer a reef hook is provided, allowing you to attach yourself to the rocks along the reef.

    Another well-known diving destination in Palau is the German Channel, a long wall encompassing the length of Ngemelis Island and home to three other dive sites namely, Turtle Wall, Big Drop off and New Drop off. The German Chanel is known for the vast amount of manta rays that visit the reef’s cleaning station. Diving the German Channel offers divers an opportunity to see these majestic creatures up close as they glide effortlessly through the water in an awe-inspiring display.

    Not only does Palau have world renowned wall diving locations but it also boasts many rare and unique underwater landscapes. With sandy bottoms covered in giant clams, hidden caves and tunnels, mangrove forest channels that lead to crystal clear secret lakes, dark blue holes and sunken shipwrecks.

    The Rock Islands are Palau’s most striking and recognisable land marks. These enchanting mushroom shaped islands are home to an intricate maze of winding channels, pristine coral reefs, secret lagoons, forgotten WWII sites and magnificent sandy beaches. Kayaking or canoeing is the perfect way to explore the natural beauty of the Rock Islands. As you weave through the many twisting channels surrounding the Rock Islands you may even get an opportunity to see the endemic saltwater crocodile, a permanent resident on Palau’s Islands.

    Palau is also home to two spectacular lakes, the Milky Way and Jelly Fish Lake. Milky Way, named after the milky appearance of the water, is a lake covered with a white milky clay believed to have youthful properties, offering a one of a kind natural spa pampering experience. Jelly Fish Lake, on the other hand offers a completely different diving experience. Hidden amongst the Rock Islands is a secret lake populated with millions of golden jelly fish. Snorkelling is a popular activity in Jelly Fish Lake as the jelly fish, having been isolated from predators, have evolved over millions of years to have very weak stingers, making it safe to snorkel amongst them.

    Another natural phenomenon that occurs in conjunction with the lunar cycle is the spawning of the red snapper fish. Diving off the coast of Peleliu during the full moon provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness this spectacular event as thousands of red snapper fish congregate in one area to spawn, turning the waters a rich rusty colour and attracting many large predators.

    Although Palau’s best dive sites are known for their strong currents divers of all levels of experience can enjoy the many wonders of Palau. Palau enjoys a warm climate year round with temperatures ranging from 24°C to 30°C. February and March are the driest months with June through to August being the wettest months. If you’re interested in guaranteed sightings of large schools of manta rays and sharks the best times to visit is from December through to March.
  • Wreck Diving Splendor Micronesia
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    Wreck Diving Splendor Micronesia
    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.
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

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T/A Hartleys Safaris
Registered in England No. 2348880
Copyright © 2016 Hartley's Safaris UK

SATSA No. 207

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