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The Elephant Coast, otherwise known as Maputaland, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, is home to some of South Africa’s best dive spots. Laura Griffith-Jones braves the sharks and ventures below the waves
A diver hovers above a large Zambezi (or bull) shark off the coast of Maputaland

Experience a magical marine world

It was dawn on the Elephant Coast. A thin sliver of amber sun crept out of the Indian Ocean on the horizon, illuminating the clouds and casting an ethereal light over everything. I was alone on the private stretch of golden sand at Thonga Beach Lodge, near Mabibi, soaking in the scene and mentally preparing myself for my first South African scuba diving adventure. There was no sound at all except the crashing waves: frothing and slightly menacing.

Soon the voice of my dive instructor Lee-Ann interrupted my reverie and it was time to pull on our wetsuits and life jackets and assemble our kit. Lee-Ann briefed me on the hair-raising surf launch that we were about to attempt and then it was time to go. Perched precariously on the rim of the rubber speedboat, ankle straps fastened, I clung onto the safety rope for dear life. The waves buffeted us, threatening to flip us like a tiddlywink. We rocked back and forth treacherously as the red tractor pushed our boat out a bit further into the white water, until suddenly the twin-engines emitted a mighty roar as our skipper Jacques accelerated away from the sand, speeding towards the rollers and over them in heartstopping leaps and bounds. Eventually the noise subsided and we puttered to a halt in the calmer ocean beyond.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Travel Africa - January-March 2016 (73)
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About Travel Africa

12 Great adventures to experience in 2016 • Conquer Kilimanjaro • Paddle the Zambezi • Walking in North Luangwa National Park • Meet a mountain gorilla • Visit a conservancy... get off the beaten track!