Diving into the Unknown!

25 June 2015 by Katy Johnson

Around every corner of the Genesis Route you will find a brown sign pointing out one of the great things to see and do in the area. Of all the signs I have followed while exploring the route, it is the one pointing into the Nkomazi Game Reserve on the R38 that had me most intrigued. 

All Photo's were taken by Roger Horrock


I guess it is because while you expect to see signs for nature reserves, cultural heritage tours and even aerial adventures in the heart of the Makhonjwa Mountains. You don’t expect to see is a man in scuba gear pointing out a dive site 330km from the nearest coast. 

Komati Springs inland dive site is one of Mpumalanga’s best kept secrets and yet most talked about attractions. Whilst most locals don’t even know it exists, amongst diving circles it’s renowned and attracts divers from around the world.

What makes Komati Springs a diving mecca is the 54 meter open hole and the network of flooded tunnels that allow divers to venture 186m below ground. Once mine, it closed in the 1970’s and the open hole, network of tunnels, shafts and pit flooded, left one of the most spectacular inland playgrounds for divers in Southern Africa. These tunnels make Komati Springs an ideal location to gain technical diving qualifications and it is one of the only places you can do this in South Africa. What’s more, because it is an inland site it also means you are almost guaranteed to be able to dive as it is not affected by swell or wind issues as costal sites are. This makes it the perfect weekend getaway for divers from Gauteng and holiday destination for those from further afield.

Don and Andre have trained over 3000 divers through their dive school IANTD SA based at at Komati Springs in the 19 years it has been operating, including their very own instructor Elliot. He is one of their biggest success stories, in just 6 years Elliot has been transformed from an 18 year old gas blender scared of water to South Africa’s most qualified black diver. “I was brought up to believe water was like a lion, nice to look at but you never go near it! But when I saw people dive, I knew I wanted to experience it” Although for Elliot experiencing diving wasn’t as simple as strapping on the tanks and jumping in. “I couldn’t swim, so I had to teach myself how to do that first. That was the biggest challenge. The first time I tried I kept my eyes closed till I touched the other side of the dam! Now I never want to get out. It is my relaxing place, a place where all the worries I have on the land disappeared and I just think about the dive.”  Elliot now does most of the recreational dive training and I can’t think of anyone I would rather have helping me take my first few breaths underwater.  If asked before this trip where I would like to learn how to dive, an abandoned mine would probably be the last place on my mind. Now I can’t imagine anywhere else I would rather learn. 

Yet the real magic about this place is not what the area has done for diving so much as what diving has done for the area. Until 2002 this site was an ugly blot surrounded by the Nkomazi game reserve, which itself had been painstakingly restored from agricultural land to an original native savannah grassland ecosystem. Then in 2002 the mine site was awarded an international rehabilitation grant because of the diving activity in the pit.

The transformation has been remarkable. It’s almost impossible to imagine the site was once a mine. The land around the pit would have been abuzz heavy machinery is now open grassland and home to herds of eland, wildebeest, kudu and other antelope. The mine site itself is a crystal clear lake and the quarry cliff left behind by the blasting is home to a huge colony of rare Southern Bald Ibis. Just one of the 145 bird species recorded at the site, making it a bird watchers paradise.  

Owners Don and Andre bought the site for the diving but they also see the potential to turn it into a wonderful holiday destination for the whole family. “We want to see people enjoying the facility like we do. We already have campers and birdwatchers come and are looking to developing mountain bike trails and more fully integrated accommodation facilities for the whole family”. 

It being surrounded by the Nkomazi Big 5 Game Reserve really makes it the ideal family holiday destination. As you are able to enjoy the spectacular scenery and Big 5 game viewing along the fence line, while you can safely hike, cycle, swim and simply enjoy yourself within the fully fenced Komati Springs site and then of course there is the diving too…




Komati Springs Info

Komati Springs Dive Site is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Pre-booking is required..

Costs vary depending on the diving you intend doing. Overnight camping costs are R115 per person per night. Day rates to use the facilities but not to dive are R90 per person per day.

Directions from Nelspruit take the R40 towards Barberton. Turn right onto the R38 signposted to Carolina. 48km from the turn you will find the brown sign for Komati Springs with the scuba guy.  It is signed with a white IANTD board at the actual turn off on your left. GPS Coordinates: Latitude S25 55.757 & Longitude E30 42.615

To book contact Andre [info@komatisprings.com | +27 (0) 82 650 2294] alternatively check out their website for more details: www.komatisprings.com