Local was VERY "WRECKER"
Updated: Oct 22, 2021
I am sure we are all familiar with the term "pre-COVID" by now, but this, dear readers, is truly something amazing that came from "pre-COVID" days, through COVID, and came out the other side as an amazing experience.
It all started early in 2020, shortly after Blacktip Life was born. The plan was to arrange a diving trip to Mafia Islands, Tanzania. The trip was planned for September 2021. Preparations began, bookings were made, guests started confirming and then... as unexpected as the pop from a blown o-ring.... LOCKDOWN!!! "Pffffft how bad can it possibly be?" "3 Weeks max "we said... how disturbingly wrong could we not all have been. The 3 turned into 5, the five turned into decades and soon enough we were all scuba deprived, depressed, home dwelling zombies, looking for the very first chance to go below the surface and taste the sweet sweet taste of compressed air.
As countries started to open up again early 2021, we were still quite positive that we will be able to go on our Mafia Island trip. But after open discussions with all our guests and the fact that we would be required to spend 2 weeks in quarantine, we decided to rather stay within the borders of our own amazing country, and do a "Local is lekker" trip all around the coast of South-Africa.
It was on a certain Saturday, after Maria and myself had completed our theory section of our Rescue Diver Course, somewhere in week 433 of lockdown, that we were standing at a friends place, glasses filled with what can only be described as cooldrink, thinking about and discussing the upcoming "Local is lekker" trip. It was then that we looked at each other and immediately had the same light bulb moment. WRECKS!!! Yes, we all know that our beautiful coast is renowned to make wrecks out of perfectly sound and unsound seafaring vessels and scuba divers alike. Our "Local is lekker" trip evolved into a "Local is WRECKer" trip.
The initial plan was to start in Cape-Town, and work our way along the eastern coast until we reached Richards Bay on the North Coast. More than 2500 shipwrecks have occurred along the South-African coast since the 1500's. Most of these wrecks are either to shallow or to deep to safely dive within recreational diving limits. Below, just a few of the recorded Wrecks.
Picture courtesy of ResearchGate
The second limiting factor was the time allocated for our trip, as we only had 7 days to our disposal. The third limiting factor was the weather. Although September is the start of Spring in South-Africa, the Western Cape, and especially the Eastern Cape is known for bad weather conditions during the month of September and October. The last major factor was our budget. Coming out of basically 18 months of lockdown had a big impact on our wallets. Finally, after long discussions with specialists in the field and operators along the coast, we decided to focus our trip on the Wrecks around Umkomaas and Durban on the Kwazulu-Natal Coastline. The plan, to dive 5 Wrecks in 7 days. The wrecks being:
The Nebo - 1884 - Aliwal Shoal
The MV Produce - 1974 - Aliwal Shoal
Cooper's Light - Date not known - Durban
Fontao - 1990 - Umhlanga
T-Barge 1990 - Umhlanga
Both the Nebo and the MV Produce are well known wrecks on the Aliwal Shoal. The Cooper's Light, T-Barge and Fontao, not that much. Fishermen frequent these wrecks quite often to catch bait, but they are not known for great scuba diving.
With our plan in mind, there was really only one scuba diving operator which we knew for a fact would be up for the challenge. We have built a strong relationship with them over the past few years, and we knew they would pull out all stops to make this trip happen. Not only happen, but make it absolutely EPIC!!! ScubaCo Diving and Travel in Umkomaas of course! Our first consultation with Tamara and Dean went something like this:
Derick: "We want to do 5 wrecks in 7 days"
Tamara: "No Problem"