Protea Banks offers an exceptionally exciting dives. There are only a few places in the word where one can see such a wide variety of shark species and it is certainly not uncommon to see up to 5 different species of sharks on a single dive
Protea Banks is a reef about 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) off the shore of South Africa at Shelly Beach near Margate in KwaZulu-Natal. This long sandstone reef is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) long and 0.8 kilometers (0.5 miles) wide. Protea Banks is one of the richest tuna grounds in the world, which is one of the main reasons why there are so many Zambezi Sharks patrolling the reef. Since 2019 the area has been a Marine Protected area
Due to its depths, which range between 27 meters (90 feet) and 40 meters (130 feet), a considerable part of the reef is largely unexplored by recreational divers. Divers normally focus on the area of approximately 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) by 200 meters (600 feet).
The main attraction of this area are large numbers of sharks, especially bull sharks and tiger sharks. Divers can at times come across as many as 60 giant guitar sharks, and inevitably ragged-tooth sharks ('raggies'). During their breeding period, raggies can be seen by the hundreds. These 'friendly and inquisitive' sharks are a favourite among well-prepared divers.
The Protea Banks is divided into two pinnacles:
This part of the reef is known for its magnificent topography and is a preferred diving destination in the winter months. The reef has two caves used by raggies on their annual migration and congregation route, and from June to November there is the possibility of seeing migrating Humpback whales in the area. The best times to dive the Northern Pinnacle is in the months between May and November, with a maximum depth of 36 meters (118 feet). Nevertheless, during spring and summer (September to January, especially November and December), large schools of hammerheads can be seen on this side of the reef.
Preferred as a diving location during the warmer months, the Southern Pinnacle is home to the Zambezi shark (Bull shark), large specimens of which can be observed between the months October and May. Towards April, scalloped hammerhead sharks can also be seen in the area. One of the most popular spots to start a diving trip is the Southern Cave. The overhanging rock known as Kingfish Gully is known for its large shoals of kingfish, yellowtail, snapper, sea pike tunny, potato bass and more. Sand Shark Gully, home of the giant guitar shark, lies at 40 meters (130 feet) depth.
During August's annual Great Sardine Run, huge shoals of game fish such as barracuda, sailfish, wahoo, kingfish and jobfish come to feed on the millions of sardines passing along the coast.