Emperor angelfish

Diving in the Lagoon Tank at uShaka Marine World

Lagoon tank at uShaka Marine World
One's first view of the inside of the Lagoon tank at uShaka Marine World

On the first of our two days in Durban after the Sodwana trip, Tony and I did one of our most favourite things: we went for a dive in the aquarium at uShaka Marine World. Tony used to work at Calypso Dive and Adventure Centre, based at uShaka, and it is in this idyllic location – known as the Avis Snorkel Lagoon – that all the confined water skills were taught. How awesome is that?

Longfin batfish in the foreground, hound shark in the background
Longfin batfish in the foreground, hound shark in the background

Tony and I wanted to go somewhere calm and pretty where we could lie on the bottom and play with different camera settings, and a sunny, shallow dive (3 metres maximum) in limitless visibility surrounded by 1,500 tropical fish and hound sharks (only five of those, fortunately) was just the ticket.

Hound shark
Hound shark passing in front of the aquarium window
Resting hound shark
Resting hound shark

It is a magnificent dive. Not challenging by any stretch of the imagination, but that is one of its charms. It’s an open air tank accessed by walking into Marine World with a Calypso Divemaster (you can’t do the dive without someone from Calypso accompanying you, even if you’re qualified). There’s an area to kit up, and then you stroll (or waddle, or slide) down some gently sloping rubber mats in shallow water to the drop-off into the tank proper.

Tony filming fish
Tony filming fish

The tank has windows looking onto the aquarium (or, the aquarium has windows looking onto it, if you prefer), and a large window looking into the Open Ocean tank, which contains sharks and rays. Most of the tank, however, is your own private paradise, as the windows only cover a fraction of the one side. On the day we went, there were no snorkelers in the water (it gets really busy on weekends and holidays – last time we dived there it was hilarious and somewhat unnerving to look up and see countless pairs of legs in board shorts hanging above us).

Tony in the undercover portion of the Lagoon tank
Tony in the undercover portion of the Lagoon tank

There is a section of the tank that’s covered over (including the window onto the shark tank), and in this area is a submerged jeep (with licence plates still attached) and some other bits of atmospheric debris such as ropes, crates and wooden packing pallets. It’s a bit dark in there, and I prefer the sunny bits, but it’s really lovely to lie in front of the window to the shark tank (where it IS sunny) and watch the big predators on the other side of the glass. Some of the fish seem to like it, too.

Clown triggerfish
A clown triggerfish emerging from the covered portion of the tank

There are half hour time slots that can be booked with Calypso – either as a Discover Scuba Diving experience if you haven’t dived before (and I think this will spoil you for diving anywhere else!) or for an accompanied dive if you’re qualified. We took the one at 1.45pm and the half hour immediately following it, so we had a blissful hour in the 24 degree water.

Tony and some fish playing with his camera
Tony and some fish playing with his camera

I took hundreds of photos, and Tony took some fantastic video footage (for another post). The thing that delighted me the most was that many of the fish interact with you – the old woman angelfish and the boxfish in particular are totally unafraid.

Old woman angelfish
An old woman angelfish comes to visit me

There was also a toothy fish who alternated between harrassing me and Tony, and appears in nearly every frame of Tony’s video as he kept passing by the camera to remind us of his toothy presence.  This fish and several of the others deserve their own posts, since they were such large personalities!

Boxy comes to investigate
Boxy comes to investigate

Many of the fish were fascinated by the video camera lens – perhaps they could see a reflection or movement in the glass – and came really close to inspect and even head butt it. You can get really close to them either by lying or kneeling on the floor of the tank and waiting for curious visitors, or by sneaking up very slowly and quietly while they’re eating.

Emperor angelfish
Emperor angelfish feeding
Lagoon tank at uShaka
Terracotta vases and fish in the lagoon tank

If you’re visiting Durban, this is a wonderful way to pass a couple of hours. If you don’t dive, it’s the most perfect setting in which to try it, and if you do – don’t scoff at how shallow it is and that it’s confined – just go and relax, marvel and enjoy the spectacle. It’s incredibly reasonably priced and afterwards you can do some water rides, chill out on the beach, enjoy an ice cream, or stroll around the retail space at uShaka.

Feeding time
Feeding time

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

2 thoughts on “Diving in the Lagoon Tank at uShaka Marine World”

  1. Was absolutely a breathtaking experience for me and a first time dive I loved it. WS nervous of the sharks but then heard they had no teeth so made me feel a bit more relaxed 🤣

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