If you are a Johannesburg based diver and want a break from the usual weekend routine but can’t afford to dive at the coast then a weekend at Miracle Waters is one way you can get your bubble blowing kick.
Miracle Waters is an inland lake situated an hour’s drive from Johannesburg which came about purely by chance. The site the lake occupies was originally an open cast chrome mine which gave rise to the lake when mining operations accidently struck an underground spring in the area. The hole created by the mining concern rapidly filled with water, forcing the chrome miners to withdraw.
Spotting the gap created by the unintended man-made lake, Estelle du Plessis and Kobus van der Walt have slowly but surely transformed the site into a dedicated inland dive centre over the years. Today Miracle Waters is used primarily for dive training but doubles as an ideal quick day or weekend dive getaway.
Five training platforms have been introduced to the lake which can be used to train divers of all levels. The platforms can be accessed via several paths which have been delved into the sides of the lake’s embankments. A word of warning, these paths can get slippery.
In addition to the platforms, a number of ‘points of interest’ have been added to the lake including a bus (the roof of which often doubles as a training platform) a small passenger aeroplane which has sunk into the lake’s muddy bottom nose first, an old cement mixing silo, a toilet, computer station, a boat and a Puma helicopter which lies at the lake’s deepest point of 33m’s. A minibus was recently added to the mix.
While the bus and various other objects make for interesting diving, the helicopter is perhaps the most sought after in more ways than one. Unlike the bus and other attractions, the helicopter is not marked by any buoys as it was being vandalised. The general location of the helicopter is known but many a diver has gone in search of it only to end up wandering aimlessly for the duration of their dive. Experienced instructors are usually the ones who manage to dive it spot on and typically use it when teaching deep dives.
The fact that the helicopter is elusive is perhaps not a bad thing. At 33m’s Miracle Waters is cold, dark and quite creepy. A thermocline exists at this level pretty much year round and without the correct gear, divers can get cold fast. The fact that it is so deep and dark at this level is also nerve-wracking for some divers too. That said the helicopter is worth seeing and the dive itself is good practice for deep dives.
Depending on the time of year and how many divers have been in the water, the visibility at Miracle Waters varies significantly. At best you’ll get 10 metres; worst case scenario you’ll battle to see your hand in front of your face but these occasions are few and far between and usually only occur when there’s an algae bloom or there’s been a lot of divers kicking up the loose silt.
In summer water temperatures can reach into the mid 20’s at the surface and drop the further down you dive. Winter diving is obviously much colder with surface temperatures hovering around 15 degrees. A number of Black Bass and various species of Kurper have made Miracle Waters their home. During the breeding season it’s fascinating to watch the adult Tilapia protect their many babies from predators. Crab are a fairly common sight too.
Personally, I enjoy floating along the lake edge near the reeds and watching the local sun - dappled fish dart in and out of the plants. I also thoroughly enjoy the night dives with my friends from Scubaversity who frequently visit Miracle to train. Night dives just feel that much more ethereal and are good practice for night dives at sea where nocturnal creatures make an appearance when the sun sets.
Miracle Waters’ facilities are basic. Visitors can either camp or make use of the electrified prefabricated rooms which are dotted around the lake for a minimal fee. Also included at the lake are a compressor room which supplies air fills, ablutions on opposing sides of the lake, picnic/ braai areas, a small game enclosure, a pool and trampoline. A restaurant/café supplies meals at the weekend and snacks during the week. Gear rentals can also be arranged here.
For more information regarding directions and prices go to www.miraclewaters.co.za