Umkomaas, a small coastal town on the subtropical south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa was formed when a harbour was built in 1861 to export sugar. The town rests beside the mouth of the navigable uMkhomazi River, also known as the Mkhomazi or Umkomaas. With the successful dredging of Durban harbour’s sandbar and arrival of the railway, like Port Shepstone, the harbour fell into disuse, but the town came to life.
Umkomaas is most renowned for the superb diving opportunities created by the Aliwal Shoal, a volcanic reef about 5 kilometres offshore. Ragged-tooth sharks, rock cod, and a number of other species can be found in the shoal.
Growth in diving-related tourism has grown dramatically in the past decade, although the Shoal features two especially fine shipwrecks, the Nebo and the Produce, that long predate the Shoal’s current surge in popularity. The Aliwal Shoal was formed about 80 000 years ago.