River of Whales

The small coastal resort of Umkomaas, 48 kilometres south of Durban on KwaZulu-Natal's south coast is perched on a hill on the south bank of the Umkomaas River with beautiful sea and river views.

The famous Aliwal Shoal is Umkomaas' claim to fame and attracts divers from all over the world. The Shoal is a world renowned scuba diving site which lies 5km out at sea and roughly 28m down; a sea-world of magnificent wonders with a rich diversity of tropical fish and sharks living amongst the coral reefs. Ragged-tooth sharks, Rock Cod, and a number of other species can be found in the shoal.

Several ship wrecks, some of which are home to the much feared large Moray eel, provide an exciting diving experience and the ridge is potholed with shelves and gullies, and overhangs and caves, all of which provide a thrilling glimpse of the vibrant and varied marine life in this area.

In March every year the Hansa Umkomaas Marathon canoe race is held on the river. This race covers a gruelling 67 km of the Mkomazi River, starting at Hella Hella, traversing numerous grade 4 rapids, before eventually reaching the river mouth in Umkomaas.

Umkomaas Golf Course, established on the southern side of the town in 1913, and home of Tim Clark, is widely regarded as being one of the finest 18 hole courses in KwaZulu-Natal.

Things to do and see

  • Diving on the Aliwal Shoal
  • Shark Cage Diving
  • Canoeing on the Umkomaas River
  • Golf - Umkomaas has one of SA's finest 18 hole Golf Courses
  • Bowls - the Club was established in 1923 and has a strong membership
  • Croc World


Accommodation, to suit most budgets can be found from Backpacking, to B&B’s, and Guest Houses to Luxury Lodges.


Flights are offered, from all over the world, into Durban, King Shaka International Airport.

Car Hire companies are available at the Airport.

Travel time from King Shaka to Umkomaas is approximately 55 minutes on the N 2 Highway.


Umkomaas has a sub-tropical climate, with temperatures ranging in the mid to high 20's throughout the year. February, however, is the one month that is most renowned for high humidity and temperatures in the high twenties, through to mid 30's. Rainfall, on average, is between 1000 and 1300 mm per year.


Large numbers of whales once used the estuary of the great Mkomazi River as a nursery, giving birth in the shallows and lolling around, taking life easy in the warm water.

The Zulus named the river after this spectacle with uMkhomazi meaning 'the place of cow whales'.

The town of Umkomaas on the southern bank was originally a harbour for the export of sugar. The harbour only operated for some 20 years (1880 - 1900), for boats collecting sugar cane up the river. Heavy silting caused by the sugar cane farms near the river edge, sadly made the river to shallow for any large boats, and the project was abandoned, not long after the Umkomaas Rail Bridge was completed in 1898.

Inside Umkomaas

Shopping centre in Saiccor Village. Photo : Paul Cowie


Panorama of the suburb of Widenham. Photo Paul Cowie


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