Nina from NiCe Dive & Trips and Magicknisper in South Africa
27.01.2023 - 05.02.2023

I, Nina, was on the road for you again, this time in South Africa with Walter Bernardis - African Watersports. As we are always looking for new, exciting, and exclusive destinations, we chose Umkomaas, a small town not far from Durban.

This time, I was accompanied by Richy, also known as Magicknipser, and not without reason. Richy's passion, besides diving, is photography, both above and below the water.

In this blog, we will share our spectacular experiences and our shark highlights with you.

Also, look forward to updates on the Sardine Run in summer 2023 - NiCe Dive & Trips is, as always, right in the middle of it, not just there. Join us for the Sardine Run and experience an unforgettable and impressive time both above and below the water in South Africa. 

Learn more about Richy Bichler - Magicknipser - further down in our blog.

Group Trip Sardine Run - June 2024

Find more information here.

January 27, 2023
The adventure is about to begin!

The Adventure Begins in South Africa - January 27, 2023

Our exciting journey to South Africa, specifically to Umkomaas, a neighboring town of Durban, is underway! I (Nina) traveled from Vienna to Dubai, Dubai to Johannesburg, and then Johannesburg to Durban. I flew with Emirates in Economy and SafAir, a South African airline.

Even during the flight from Vienna to Dubai, luck was on my side as I had only one other person in my row on the Boeing 777-3000 ER, allowing me to make myself comfortable.

Emirates is renowned as one of the world's top airlines. In Economy, the airplanes offer ample legroom, blankets, pillows, and provide warm meals and snacks. The flight from Vienna to Dubai departed on time at 21:55 and lasted about five hours, during which I was awake for maybe an hour, mainly for meals. Upon arrival in Dubai, I found a nice coffee shop and treated myself to a latte.

Dubai Airport (DXB) is very large, and the travel time within the airport depends on the gate where boarding takes place. The approximate travel time from one end of the airport to the other is about 45 minutes. It's advisable to plan enough time for passport control and security checks.

From Dubai, the journey continued with the A380, the double-decker of Emirates. Again, I had tremendous luck as I had a whole row to myself. I could stretch out and had a very pleasant eight-hour flight.

Upon arrival in Johannesburg, I had to collect my checked baggage, get an entry stamp at passport control, and then check in again at the check-in counter. Important note: To check in for the domestic flight, you need to follow the colorful zebra stripe, get the entry stamp at passport control, and then turn into the arrivals hall. After that, take the escalator to the second floor, where the check-in counters are located. Airport employees (in yellow jackets) offer to guide arriving guests to the check-in counters. This service is associated with a tip or, in my case, a Lindt chocolate bar. Swiss quality is popular in South Africa as well.

The domestic flight area is manageable, with a few restaurants where you can have a snack or a refreshing drink to pass the time. Prices are reasonable; for example, a café latte costs 40 Rand, roughly equivalent to the Euro. All gates are in close proximity. Our gate was changed at the beginning of boarding, and we all had to walk from one end to the other. It took us about 10 minutes. The one-hour flight passed quickly, and SafAir offers drinks and food for a fee.

Upon arrival in Durban, Jason from African Watersports welcomed me with a sign. Jason showed me where to buy a SIM card and withdraw money. I recommend withdrawing South African Rand from the ATM rather than exchanging dollars or euros at the currency exchange, as the rate is often much worse. During our 45-minute drive, we stopped at a gas station where I could get dinner; it was already 9:30 PM. Upon arriving at the guesthouse, I was warmly greeted by the guard dogs Locky, Benji, and Bella, who accompanied me to my room. Exhausted from the more than 24-hour journey, I went to sleep content and curious about the next day.

For more about the beautiful and cozy guesthouse, you can read in my blog post from January 27 - simply scroll down a bit.

Erster Tag in Umkomaas

After a calm and restful night, I first enjoyed the beautiful view of the Indian Ocean with a fresh cup of coffee. Afterward, I had the pleasure of meeting the owner and founder of African Watersports – Walter Bernardis. Walter and his wife welcomed me with absolute kindness – many thanks. Following a delightful breakfast outdoors, overlooking the sea and listening to the waves, we chatted about the upcoming days and what to expect. Bull sharks, tiger sharks, and blacktip reef sharks are on the agenda. I'm looking forward to it immensely and can hardly wait. Before we pay a visit to the sharks, we're waiting for Richy, our photographer. Richy will be boarding a flight in Frankfurt tomorrow and will land on Saturday afternoon. So, today was all about relaxing, enjoying the sun and the pool. In the afternoon, Jason and I went to Superspar to get food and drinks. It's a supermarket like in Vienna, just with a bit more time needed.

Afterwards, we discussed the Sardine Run, which starts in June – AN ABSOLUTE MUST. Whales, dolphins, sharks, millions of sardines, and much more. More detailed information about how, when, and where will follow. The next group trip is already in the planning stages. Stay tuned and be prepared for surprises.

Now, I'd like to say a few words about the guesthouse. It is simply beautiful and very, very cozy. There is a huge terrace with various seating areas, a pool with loungers, and the rooms or apartments are lovingly and stylishly decorated. The view is spectacular, and you can't get enough of it. For example, I'm currently writing these sentences on the terrace overlooking the sea and the green surroundings with a good cup of coffee. All bedrooms are equipped with adjustable air conditioning and a private bathroom with a shower. The beds are more than comfortable. Our house also has a kitchen with a sandwich maker, a small oven, a kettle, two fridges, and two hotplates. An important side note: Power outlets in South Africa differ from those in Europe, so it's necessary to bring an adapter.

Diving will start on Monday since the wind is too strong on Sunday, so we need to be a bit patient. However, we already have an alternative program. Richy and I will go on a game drive safari on Sunday, searching for rhinos and hippos, among other things.

That's it for today; we'll report back on our experiences tomorrow.

On January 28, 2023

Richy arrived, and we had a discussion about the Sardine Run followed by a cozy gathering.

On this radiant and beautiful Saturday, we started the day off well in the morning. With a cup of coffee and a bowl of muesli, we observed the lovely sunrise. The breaking of the waves can be heard all the way to the guesthouse, and the view over the sea is simply impressive. Richy also arrived today, but until then, I had some work to do. So, I made myself comfortable on the huge terrace and tackled a few to-dos. After finishing work, lounging by the pool in the sun feels quite rewarding.

After Richy's arrival, we, along with Walter, planned the upcoming days and gathered various information about the Sardine Run. As the weather is not suitable for diving tomorrow—rain and southwest winds expected—Richy and I plan to visit the Tala Game Reserve and keep an eye out for rhinos and hippos.

Back to the southwest wind for a moment. Here, it's also known as the "Doctor" because it brings southern currents, cleans the sea, and ensures good visibility. On Monday, the wind direction changes, and a light breeze from the northeast is expected. So, it's an ideal day to visit the sharks. The plan is to have the first dive with the blacktip reef sharks and the second with the bull sharks. The dive sites are located between five and eight kilometers away, depending on the departure point. We'll be on the Zodiac for about 20 minutes. Diving will primarily take place at a reef, and depending on the entry point, tiger sharks, bull sharks, or blacktip reef sharks can be expected. During the summer months, Dusky sharks also appear in the waters off the coast of Umkomaas.

Here in Umkomaas, the Mkomazi River meets the Indian Ocean, and this is clearly visible along the coast. At the point where the river flows into the Indian Ocean, a brown stripe forms, which is sediment from rainwater. This can be clearly seen in the photos below. Bull sharks like to stay in the part where the waters of the ocean and the river meet. During a walk on the beach, you might spot the occasional dorsal fin. While we haven't seen any yet, we're keeping a close eye on the sea.

To end the day, Walter took us to dinner in town, and we visited the "FARM at Sea" restaurant. South Africans love dried meat, so we ordered a Biltong Pot. It's comparable to Carbonara, but instead of ham, there's dried meat in the sauce. In any case, this dish is highly recommended. For the main course, we had ribs and a burger, accompanied by a glass of wine or South African beer.

January 29, 2023

Game Drive Safari im Tala Game Reserve

On January 29, 2023, we were awakened by rain and a slightly stronger southwest wind. During breakfast, we briefly considered whether we should proceed with our Game Drive Safari in this rain. It quickly became clear – absolutely, we are ready for any adventure. So, around eight o'clock, we set out for the Tala Game Reserve, where we embarked on a two-hour safari through the national park. Despite getting a bit wet, our excursion was well worth it. We encountered giraffes, impalas, rhinos, hippos, and zebras, among other wildlife. Our tour leader was very friendly and shared some interesting facts about the animals in the national park.

For instance, giraffes, when young, have lighter fur, and as they age, the spots on their fur develop a deep dark color, and their fur turns orange. The short horns on the giraffe's head are called ossicones. Female giraffes, unlike males, have hairy horns, making it easy to distinguish between them.

One might think that hippos, due to their substantial weight, cannot run fast. However, this is entirely untrue. A hippo can reach a top speed of 30 kilometers per hour. The hippo is the most dangerous animal in South Africa; although it may seem gentle and affectionate, it can quickly become angry and aggressive. Its sharp canine teeth and massive weight can be quite dangerous.

Now, a final fact about rhinos. These animals are extremely nearsighted but have excellent hearing and a keen sense of smell. Additionally, they live in symbiosis with birds, which help rid them of ticks and insects, among other things.

A Game Drive Safari in South Africa is, in my opinion, a must. There are many different national parks and plenty to see. Therefore, it's advisable to plan for about two to three days.

We spent the afternoon on the terrace of our guesthouse. Meanwhile, Walter Bernardis and his wife Sandy prepared a delicious dinner for us. To introduce us to South African cuisine, they prepared a pot of beef and vegetables, served with polenta and fresh baguette. It was fantastic, and a big shoutout to Walter and Sandy.

Tomorrow is the day we explore the underwater world. First stop: blacktip reef sharks. Second stop: bull sharks. We are more than excited and eagerly look forward to tomorrow.

January 30, 2023

Sharks, Sharks, Sharks

Today was a truly special day as we set out on a speedboat adventure to encounter blacktip reef sharks and bull sharks. We drove by car, towing the speedboat, to our entry point on the river. We'll attach a video to show you the procedure. That's Africa! First, we had to tackle the surf, but thanks to Walter, not only a shark expert but also an experienced skipper, it was no problem. With grace, Walter took us out into the open sea. The wild ride is indescribable and impossible to capture on video.

After about 20 minutes, we arrived at our diving spot. Two more speedboats were also present, but they didn't bother us. Then it was finally time; we descended and regrouped at about seven meters. It took only a few minutes, and the blacktip reef sharks appeared, around 15 to 20 of them. An incredible spectacle. They came from everywhere, from above, below, left, right, behind, and in front. I didn't know where to look first. The sharks were about two to three meters in size, so quite impressive. The blacktip reef sharks were accompanied by numerous remoras. There was a lot of action underwater, and the occasional fin brushed against us. It's hard to put this experience into words; you have to see it with your own eyes. Our dive lasted an hour, and we enjoyed a pleasant water temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. The entire spectacle unfolded between six and eleven meters. Back on the boat, we were thrilled to have been up close with the sharks.

Next, we headed to the dive site where bull sharks are often found. We descended and lingered at a depth of seven meters. Then it was a waiting game. Earlier, we had seen dolphins at the surface, and luckily, they paid us a visit during the first twenty minutes. They said a quick hello, and as fast as they came, they were gone. Then, suddenly, we saw a shadow at about twenty meters deep. A bull shark – yes! We moved to deeper waters to get a better look. What an experience. What more could you want, dolphins and a bull shark in one dive. Satisfied and happy, we concluded our dive after a good hour and headed back to the shore.

Then it got exciting again as we had to navigate the surf, which, of course, we had to take on the way back. No problem at all, we have Walter. Back at home, we immediately reviewed our photos and videos. There were some gems. Many thanks to Richy ( for the incredibly beautiful photos.

To celebrate the day, we visited a restaurant with a view over the Indian Ocean and enjoyed ourselves. The evening was rounded off with a thunderstorm with lightning, and we went to bed in high spirits and well-fed.

January 31, 2023

Sharks, Sharks, Sharks

On January 31, 2023, another day filled with adventures and unforgettable moments unfolded. We left the guesthouse at 8:00 AM and headed to our entry point on the river. Upon arrival, Walter Bernardis assessed the sea to get an overview of the current conditions. It was a bit windier and wavier, but that certainly didn't deter us. So, into the speedboat and off to the sea.

For the first dive, we revisited the blacktip reef sharks. We were alone at the dive spot, geared up, and descended. The blacktips greeted us at the surface upon our arrival. Underwater, we experienced full action again. Curious, 15-20 blacktip reef sharks circled us and posed for the camera. After about 45 minutes, two robust nurse sharks joined us. With about 500 more photos in our collection, we resurfaced happily, looking forward to the next dive.

Our destination once again was the bull sharks. Walter did a check, descended, waited a bit to see if they were present, unfortunately, they were not. No problem at all. We headed to a well-known dive site called the Cathedral. It's a shallower spot with a depth of about 15 meters. From June/July onwards, numerous sand tiger sharks, known locally as "Reggies," inhabit this area. Since it's February, we knew we wouldn't encounter the sand tiger sharks, but we could find their teeth in the sand. In less than ten minutes, we discovered the first pointed tooth. We continued diving over the coral garden and through some caves. In a crevice in the reef, we found a huge sleeping turtle guarded by a large moray eel. Shortly afterward, it was "shark alert" again. A small whitetip shark crossed our path and said "hello." Various types of snails, an extremely friendly porcupinefish, and other reef inhabitants were also present.

Satisfied and with great moments, we began our journey back, crossing the surf to the exit point on the riverbank. Once home, we showered and headed straight to the supermarket to shop for our dinner. After enjoying delicious African cuisine on Sunday, today featured Viennese cuisine on the menu: Wiener Schnitzel with potato salad. We savored it with a glass of wine. Walter has a generator because in Umkomaas, the power is shut off for several hours every day. On this day, repairs were being carried out on the main power supply, so we had no electricity from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Nonetheless, we had another beautiful day in South Africa.

On February 1, 2023,

Sharks, Sharks, Sharks

Sharks, sharks, sharks. Today, we ventured out to the sea again. However, in the morning, we already had strong winds on our terrace. We quickly realized it wouldn't be a walk in the park today. Nevertheless, we got ready and set off. The crossing through the surf took a bit longer today. Walter Bernardis searched for the best way to get to the other side of the surf. Such a wild ride is not an everyday experience.

But we were rewarded. Today, three bull sharks awaited us. At a depth of about 20 meters, they closely inspected us and circled around us. Incredibly beautiful and relaxed animals. It was simply wonderful, and we are more than grateful to have experienced this moment. After the first dive, we decided to call it a day. The conditions were not particularly favorable, so we headed back and spent the rest of the day relaxed on the terrace. We had a lot to do anyway. We reviewed the photos and videos we took, selecting the best ones.

At 6:00 PM, we drove into town for dinner at Blue Ocean. With full stomachs, we are now going to bed happily, and tomorrow it's "Shark-Time" again.

February 2, 2023,

Tigershark - Bullshark - Blacktip

Another wonderful day in South Africa. With significantly less wind, we had a relaxed breakfast before assembling our equipment again and heading to the sea with the speedboat. Our plan for the day was as follows: first, we went to the blacktip reef sharks to ask the divers already present at the dive site if they had spotted a tiger shark.

The answer was "yes." Full of joy, we geared up, hoping to also encounter a tiger shark. Initially, about 20 blacktips greeted us before, out of nowhere, a tiger shark calmly approached us. Unbelievable!! I cannot put into words how beautiful and elegant this giant is. He was not bothered by us at all; on the contrary, he was curious and kept getting closer to us. About one and a half meters in front of us, he would turn away and then come back to us again. After that, he dived down and disappeared into the deep blue. Shortly after, another larger tiger shark paid us a visit. We estimated its length to be around three and a half meters. World-class. The tiger shark stayed with us for a while, while the blacktip reef sharks darted around.

Back at the speedboat, we all had smiles on our faces and were incredibly excited. Next Stop --> Bull sharks. Even on our second dive, we had incredible luck. After just five minutes, two bull sharks paid us a visit. They were with us throughout the entire dive. One of the two bull sharks is named Smiley, not without reason. It really seems like he is smiling all the time. As if three bull sharks weren't enough, then a third one appeared. He also joined our small group and posed for our camera. Then the surprise, suddenly there were four bull sharks. However, the fourth one visited us only briefly and then disappeared as quickly as he came.

Thanks to Walter Bernardis for these incredibly cool and unforgettable dives. It was fantastic, and we will never forget these spectacular impressions.

Now we sit relaxed on our terrace before getting ready for dinner. We are quite hungry and are looking forward to the restaurant "Enzo," a pizzeria in the small town.

On February 3, 2023

Sharks, Sharks, Sharks

Another beautiful and hot day in South Africa. After coffee and a delightful breakfast, we prepared for the last time for another unforgettable day. Today, the weather was absolutely dreamy—hardly any wind, radiant sunshine, and almost no waves. Our first destination was once again the blacktip reef sharks. Being the first ones at the dive site, it took a bit, about 15 minutes, until we were surrounded by the blacktips. One might think that it gets boring over time to go to the blacktip reef sharks repeatedly. On the contrary, it's always incredibly varied and amazing. No dive is like the other. Today, the underwater experience was once again truly spectacular.

A brief explanation: the bait is thrown into the water, and during shark dives, whether with blacktip reef sharks or bull sharks, you are in blue water the entire time. With good visibility, it's possible to sometimes see the ocean floor. Depending on the current, which is hardly noticeable even at significant strength, you cover several kilometers during the entire dive. Today, for example, the current carried us three kilometers away from our jump point.

We decided to do the second dive again with the bull sharks. They made us wait quite a bit today, but after 30 minutes of patient waiting, Smiley finally appeared. Calm and composed, she approached us and inspected us curiously. So fascinating! Towards the end, a second bull shark joined us, but we only spent a short time with him as it was time to resurface.

Grinning, we headed back to the river, and Walter Bernardis skillfully navigated us through the surf, bringing us safely back to land. Once again, we say, "Thank you for this spectacular day at the Aliwal Shoal!"

To celebrate the week, we organized a Braai (BBQ) in the Guest House in the evening. The hospitality from Walter and his wife Sandy is incredible; we felt comfortable and well taken care of all week.

Now, unfortunately, it's time to pack our bags; tomorrow, we head back home.

Walter Bernardis & Jason:
Thank you very much for an incredibly spectacular and eventful week. It was great, and you really do a fantastic and professional job. I can recommend you 100000% and know you make every diver's heart beat faster and provide unforgettable experiences.

Walter Bernardis

Walter Bernardis, the founder of African Watersports, was one of the first to recognize the potential of Aliwal Shoal and establish himself in this fascinating diving area. Walter Bernardis and his team have an absolute passion for adrenaline-fueled dives with various shark species and crocodiles in Botswana.

Richy Bichler

His greatest passion is capturing people, animals, and nature worldwide in all their facets and unique moments. Whether on land or in the depths of our oceans, the more adventurous, the better. Richy is always delighted to be booked for photography workshops, whether in Germany or as a companion on diving trips and safaris. I guarantee you'll receive images that will amaze you and convince you of the highest quality.

Further impressions of our South Africa trip