Grootfontein, Marico Oog

By Amilda Boshoff
Photo's by Johan Boshoff
Map by Izelle Hickey

Diving a natural fairyland

ImageIN THE ZEERUST/LICHTENBURG AREA THERE IS ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL NATURAL POOLS CALLED MARICO OOG. THIS NATURAL SPRING FEEDS THE LIMPOPO RIVER AND PRODUCES 200 000 LITRES OF WATER PER HOUR.

What makes this pool so exquisite is the fact that the water is crystal clear and the visibility is often in excess of 20 meters. The natural surroundings give the impression that you are swimming in a fairytale pond in wonderland. Lush plant life covers most of the pool. The pool is covered by floating water lilies with stems that trail away lazily to the bottom. The bottom of the pool is covered with a broad-leaved plant that gives the impression of swimming over a lush green carpet.

The water is relatively cold but seldom drops below 18 degrees Celsius. In summer the water temperature can rise up to 24 degrees Celsius for a very comfortable dive. Various species of fish are found hiding amongst the stems of the water lilies, like bass, kurper and the Marico ‘gillemientjie’. If you are in luck, you may even spot one of the fresh water eels that live in the pool.

When arriving at the dive site one is welcomed by the nice green lawns where you can kit up with no sand, dust or mud involved! Knowing that your belongings are safe gives you piece of mind to enjoy your dive. Entry to the pool is via a passage cut between the reeds and water entry is attained using a ladder to ensure that the bottom surface isn’t disturbed, as it can cloud up the whole area and no diving can be done for an hour or so until the silt has settled. Thus, no giant strides or backward rolls are allowed when entering the pool. Buoyancy control is of utmost importance to enjoy the dive in the magnificent surroundings. Because of the small circumference of Marico Oog, it is advised that no more than 8 divers are allowed in the pool at any time.

ImageThe pool consists of parts that vary in size as well as depths, with the maximum depth being 16 meters and an average depth of 8-10 meters. There is a grid at 4.5 meters near the centre of the pool where there is a nice view of the pool and you can check your buoyancy to ensure that the clarity of the pool isn’t spoilt.

There is also a cave at the north end of the rock that presents a swimthrough for the brave and trained! Lying on your back, you can see the surface quite clearly. This clear pool makes a night dive a must but only for small groups who have their buoyancy well under control. At the wall directly south from the grid you will find miniature shrimps at night if you look carefully.

Accommodation and facilities at Marico Oog include 2 chalets; one sleeping 2 persons with cooking and washing facilities and a fridge. The other chalet sleeps 3 persons and has cooking and washing facilities but also has its own bathroom and a freezer. There is also a caravan that can be rented or you can book one of the 40 camping sites each with its own electrical outlet. There is an ablution block consisting of 2 toilets and a shower that can be heated if a fire is made underneath the ‘donkie’. (It is essential to take your own toilet paper). There are electrical outlets to ensure that your basic utensils can be operated but it is advisable to bring along extension cords, even if you are living in one of the chalets. Sun block and mosquito repellent are essential!! You are advised to bring whatever you need regarding equipment, food and drinks, as there are no shops nearby - only a small farm stall 5km from Marico Oog. Also keep in mind that there are no air banks, compressors or dive equipment etc. One has to bring along everything that you might possibly need. This is a great spot to unwind, if you are looking for a quiet atmosphere and a great dive. For the underwater photography enthusiasts – don’t forget the cameras! The most scenic pictures can be taken here and it is a great place to practice, as there are no currents, surge or fire coral…


The green grass and surrounding areas further enhances this aura of tranquillity. The area is well lit at night from a strategically placed halogen light, and the area is fairly safe to leave dive equipment outside to air dry.


HOW TO GET THERE

Drive from Johannesburg via Krugersdorp, Magaliesburg, Derby and Koster. +-35 Km past Koster on the Lichtenburg road, turn right on the Swartruggens road (R53). 15 Km on, turn left onto the Zeerust road. Proceed along this road (gravel but in good condition) for 29 km. The road then becomes a tar road. +- 500 meters after becoming tar, you will see the Grootfontein Oog sign on the left. Turn left and proceed down the hill for +- 1 km. Turn nearly 180 degrees left through the gate and proceed for another 1 km. You are then at Marico Oog.

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FOR THE NON DIVER

For the non-diver, there is a float that you can pull yourself across the pool on to see the real beauty of Marico Oog from the surface. When snorkelling one can clearly see the divers below and get an idea of the plant and, if very lucky, fish life below. There is also a waterslide available that will keep the kids busy during the day as well as a volleyball net for the more energetic. For bookings, the owners of Marico Oog are Willie and Annetjie Muller from Orkney and can be contacted at 084 512 9185 and 082 719 1398 or alternatively 014252 and ask for 2012.

Author: Amilda Boshoff