Living in a landlocked city such as Johannesburg has its drawbacks. Scuba divers in particular are somewhat limited when it comes to diving options and invariably have to go to great lengths to get their ‘fix’. Diving at the coast entails a long drive or expensive flight and Bass Lake and Miracle Waters are used predominantly for training purposes.
Happily, there is one in-land dive site which is fairly easy to reach and is an absolute gem to dive. Marico Oog is a natural spring pool situated in Zeerust about three hours from Muldersdrift. Although not as close as Bass Lake or Miracle Waters, it’s well worth the drive.
The pool is located within the folds of a green, chocolate box pretty valley which belongs to a farmer named Willie Muller. Lush green willow trees border the site and the pool is surrounded on all sides by tall reeds which whisper when the wind blows through them. The pool itself is enveloped by beautiful fresh water lilies which blossom during the day, lending the area a fairy tale quality.
The actual pool itself is not large by any means but its crystal clear water and picturesque underwater plant life which have taken root in the pool’s embankments more than make up for this. Given that it is an in-land site, there are no currents or waves and it is incredibly pleasant to just drift slowly around the edges observing the sun-dappled underwater plants in all their glory. The pool is roughly amphitheatre shaped and measures approximately 14 metres at its deepest point. Various fish species including bass and kurper have made the pool their home alongside a small group of freshwater eels which usually only come out at night.
On a good day visibility reaches in excess of 20 metres. The pool’s visibility can quickly become compromised though when divers kick up the silt on the pool’s embankments. Happily the water soon clears though as the spring is constantly flushing new water- between 250 000 and 300 000 litres in point of fact-into the pool every hour.
Capitalising on this readily available resource, Muller has established a small bottling plant. He currently bottles 10 000 litres a day but has plans to expand his operations. Apparently, Marico Oog’s water quality is amongst the best in the country.
As is the case with most diving, Marico Oog is best dived in summer. In summer, the water temperature peaks at around 24 ºC. In winter, temperatures level out at around 18º C. As such, if you want to dive Marico in winter and are prone to getting cold, it’s advisable to wear a chicken vest or hood. A pair of gloves won’t go amiss either.
Marico Oog is also popular with those looking to execute night dives. Staring up at the moon and stars from underneath Marico’s waters is a memorable experience in its own right. Local dive companies also utilise Marico Oog to train. Only small groups can be accommodated at any one time though. A small floating grid has been provided for this purpose.
Marico Oog is also a popular venue with families who camp and braai at the water’s edge. A water slide and volley ball area keeps children busy and there are brick chalets available for those who prefer more formal accommodation. A raft strung along a pulley system across the pool makes for a perfect sun downer platform.
Sedan cars can access Marico Oog easily enough. The facilities are basic but clean and it will cost you R50 per person per day to use the facilities. Tents can be pitched for R70 per day and cars are charged R10 entrance fee. Just keep in mind that there are no air fill facilities on site so you’ll have to plan your dives accordingly.