During the early 1990s, Fishermen frequented Protea Banks, but for Scuba Divers this was still unknown territory. Divers however started demanding more exciting dives and close encounters with sharks.
Legendary Andy Cobb at this stage an Instructor at Aliwal Shoal, and Karen Treger from Scuba Sports in Margate, decided to try and organise a dive to Protea Banks. They were joined by some interested Operators and clients from the diving fraternity in Umkomaas. They decided to use Sensational Fishing Charters as there was no Dive Operator offering dives on Protea.
On the 29th January 1992, Andy, Karen and a group of divers headed out to Protea on board the Sensational One. Andy Cobb was the Dive Master and according to Karen his briefing was more frightening than any dive she has ever done!!. The divers were all very nervous and apprehensive. All sorts of questions popped up….. ’what to do in case of frenzy feed on a diver!? Talk of artery clamps to stop major bleeding was even mentioned. Divers were all armed with either a pool cue, bang sticks and even spear guns. This group of pioneers were looked upon as ‘totally insane’ by the local community.
The divers encountered sharks as soon as they entered the water and they had the dive of their lives. After this pioneer dive, people had more courage to dive Protea Banks. Andy Cobb established Eco Diving and offered regular diving excursions out to the reef, as well as Shark Courses. It was a challenge to get divers over their basic fear of sharks and the unknown. They dived what is today known as the Southern Pinnacle of Protea in these early days. They saw large schools of Hammerheads, Zambezis, Blacktips and Tigers. What made it all so exciting is that they never knew what to expect. Andy remembers one particular memorable dive with Karen Tredger. ‘ As we rolled backwards from an ‘appreciable’ height off Sensational One, Karen fell straight into a large group of Zambezis. What was amazing was that after hitting the water, Karen managed to get back on the Boat fully kitted and unaided!!!. Her super human strength so impressed Andy that he still refers to her as ‘Super Woman’ after all these years.
African Dive Adventures was formed in 1994. This offered divers a more direct access to Protea Banks. The Northern Pinnacle also became popular due to the Raggies that come in great numbers during winter, and of its fantastic topography. Playground has been dived for three years now, and has its own popularity and beauty.
Protea Banks has become a renowned shark dive due to its diversity of Sharks. Gone are the days of bang sticks and spear guns. Divers have lost their fear of sharks and now demand closer and closer encounters, due to the fact that not one diver/shark incident has taken place on Protea in all these years.
Divers from all over the world enjoy diving with Tigers, Zambezis, Raggies, Hammers, Blacktips, Duskys and Bronze Whalers.
Diving the ‘Banks’ has become a milestone in the life of many a diver.