I have been having so much fun discovering all these local dive sites! Last week was Mossel Bay, an easy drive for a weekend to do some diving and this week we’re going inland to Marico Oog. Imagine water so clear you can see the stars in the sky from 12m below on your night dive. Sounds magical doesn’t it?
Also known as ‘Die Oog’, Marico Oog is situated near the town of Lichtenburg, roughly a two-and-a-half hour drive from Johannesburg. It’s a small natural spring that is surrounded by reeds and filled with beautiful water lilies. The water lilies anchor their roots in the shallow sections of the spring and extend their stems all the way to the surface, where their brilliant white flowers float on the surface. These stems create a remarkable underwater forest, both striking to look at and fun to play in. Hiding amongst the underwater vegetation is a variety of fresh water fish that are extremely tame and allow divers a rare opportunity to get up close and personal. A few fresh water eels also lurk amidst the reeds and lily stems, and although sightings are exceptionally rare the mere possibility of spotting one of these elusive creatures creates a sense of excitement and anticipation.
Entry is via a narrow passage cut between the reeds and water entry is via a ladder to ensure minimum contact with the bottom. The water is crystal clear but can turn to zero viz if the bottom 1 meter is disturbed. To avoid this happening, a maximum of eight divers are allowed in the Oog at any given time. Fortunately, unlike Miracle Waters and Bass Lake, the sediment tends to settle rather quickly, restoring the brilliant viz in just over an hour.
Marico Oog consists of four swimable parts. The first is a +-10 meter stretch, +-1.8 meter deep and 2 meters wide through a pond covered by floating water lilies. The lilies have stems that trail away lazily to the bottom. The bottom of this passage is covered with a green, broad leaved plant that gives you the impression of swimming over a lush carpet.
The second part is a smallish pond, +-5 meters at its deepest and +-10 meters across. Also covered by green growth on the surface and walls, it provides you with an awe inspiring view when looking back towards the passage described above.
The long stems of the lilies provide shelter for numerous small fish and it is an experience to weave your way through this. Die Oog that feeds the area is in this pond. It is very deep but too narrow to dive into. It nonetheless makes an interesting viewing spot.
The main part is the second pool which is directly across the first pool, in line with the passage. Here the depth drops to 13 meters with just about every conceivable surface covered with green growth of various origins. There is also a cave at the north end of the rock. The cave/rock also presents a swim-through for the brave and trained! Lying on your back, you can see the surface quite clearly and, on a moonlit night, even the stars!! This part is +- 40 meters in circumference and is made up of three layers, the very bottom part where you get the cave, a middle layer with lush green growth and the top layer of surrounding lilies (as per the above).
For the experts at buoyancy control, you can leave this pool and swim amongst the lilies, +- 1.5 meter deep, to the fence that separates the Marico Oog from other 7 farms. At the fence, turn left and proceed +- 4 meters. Here the reeds on the surface and the slightly deeper water makes for another swim through. It is well worth adding an extra kilo of weight to enable the diver to swim to this part of Die Oog.
A down side is the fact that Marico Oog can become very congested, and the visibility poor, because of the number of trainee divers that kick up the silt at the bottom of the pool. Best to find out from the owner what his bookings are like for the weekend you plan to go there.
The facilities at Marico Oog are similar to most other inland diving sites; they meet your basic needs, but don’t expect too much luxury. The basics include hot water, showers, toilets and braai facilities. There’s ample camping space, as well as three chalets. If you are not too fussy, then a relaxing weekend is easily achievable. One important thing to remember is that there is no compressor at Marico Oog, so you have to bring enough cylinders with you to cater for all your dives. Your air should last longer than usual as the majority of the diving is shallow and your dive times will be shorter because the entire Oog is only as big as half a rugby field (all ponds combined). Be aware that only MTN users will have cell reception here. Driver warning: the surrounding roads are unfortunately in a very poor condition and littered with potholes.
Remember to adjust your diving computer to the correct altitude. Most diving computer’s default altitude is set to sea level. Adjusting your altitude will affect your maximum dive times.