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Shelling Trip Preparations

Tips to help you prepare for your next shelling trip.

Here we give you some helpful tips to turn your next shelling trip into a more memorable and enjoyable experience.

Dates and Tides

Selecting the perfect date to go to the coast may not always be possible - shelling opportunities are often combined with family holiday breaks, business trips or other non-shell-related forays to the coast. Regardless, the selection of the most opportune time to go shelling is most often linked to the daily tides, and the lower the tide, the better the shelling opportunity becomes; the lower the tide, the more coastal rock and coral is exposed, increasing the size of the shelling area, increasing the chances of success.

The lowest monthly tides are around the full- and new moon dates, whilst the lowest annual tides happen when the full- or new moon gravity effect is increased further through gravitational pull of the sun acting in unity with the moon.

It would be prudent to study Tide Tables for the month or week you are planning to visit the coast, to see when full- or new moon dates are. Some Tide Tables also provide the actaul tide height (in cm or m), giving an indication of how much the ocean level will drop as the dates approach full- or new moon.

Follow the links below for tidal information for Durban and surrounds.


You can't change the weather, but you can check the forecast before you venture onto the rocks! Weather forecasting tools become valuable when planning ahead for extended shelling trips. A week-long stay at the coast can be effectively utilised if you know when to expect bad weather, and more specifically, which times of day the incliment weather is expected.

Simply put, avoid those times of day or set them aside as spare shelling days - in case the forecast turns out to be bogus (which many tend to be). But better be forewarned than have no warning at all.

Follow the links below for weather information for Durban and surrounds.


What you wear when you go shelling is largely dependent on what type of shelling you intend to do. A casual stroll on the beach does not require anything more than comfortable clothing, whilst any form of shelling in deeper water may require a wetsuit.

Use the following suggestions to enhance your shelling experience:


  • Comfortable clothing

  • Wide rim hat (to protect the face and neck from sunburn)

  • Slip-slops (for hot sand)

Rock Pool Shelling

  • Shorts

  • Rock shoes (for slippery areas)

  • Wide rim hat (to protect the face and neck from sunburn)

  • Snorkelling gloves (protection against sharp rocks and barnacles)

Intertidal Shelling / Snorkelling

  • Swimming trunks / swimsuit

  • "Second Skin" snorkeling vest

  • Rock shoes or "diving booties"

  • Short-fin swimming fins/flippers

  • Snorkelling gloves (protection against sharp rocks and barnacles)

Cold Water Shelling

  • Wetsuit

  • Rock shoes or "diving booties"

  • Snorkelling gloves

Special Equipment

Your shelling  expedition may require the use of special equipment to support the endeavour.

Use the following suggestions:

Shelling Bag: you will want some sort of bag, bucket or container to put your shell finds into, preferably one you don't need to carry in-hand, as this frees up your hands for clinging, rummaging and paddling while snorkelling. A moon bag or small rucksack works well.

Watertight Container: you may need a small watertight container to keep your valuables and sensitive electronic equipment safe from water damage. If you go wandering out by yourself, and need to keep a cell phone, car key fob or hotel keys safe, you will need one, especially if you plan on doing Intertidal Shelling or Snorkelling. An IP67-rated container is preferable, as these are rated watertight down to about 1m depth.

Snorkelling Gear: you will need at least a diving mask and snorkel if you plan on Snorkelling, but it could come in handy for some Intertidal Shelling as well. We also suggest you carry some short-fin swimming fins/flippers with you, just in case, and that you wear snorkelling gloves to protect your hands from cuts. Finally, a weight belt could be handy for deeper snorkelling forays. Important: be sure to test your equipment in a benign environment (e.g. a swimming pool) before using it in the unpredictable ocean.

Safety and Protection

It is important to stay safe while you are enjoying your shelling experience. Use the following tips to ensure that safety is maintained:

Personal Safety: never go shelling alone in remote places. Safety in numbers, as the saying goes! Be sure to go shelling in groups of at least three or four in remote places or at night.

Tidal Safety: always check your surroundings and local warnings regarding tides before crossing bodies of water, lagoons, rivers or other areas that could become flooded when the tide turns. You could be stuck for hours, waiting for the tide to drop again, before you can free youself and head home under such circumstances.

Protection against the Sun: shelling expeditions can last for hours, meaning exposure to the sun for prolonged periods of time. Always wear sunscreen, regularly "topping up" to keep your skin embalmed. In addition, wear a wide rim hat if possible. A "Second Skin" long-sleeved top is also great for protection against the sun, and adds warmth during shallow dives and snorkelling.

Snorkelling Gloves: always wear snorkelling gloves or diving gloves whilst out on the rocks or in the water snorkelling. They add grip while scratching for items, and protect against cuts from sharp rocks and barnacles.

Rock Shoes or Diving Booties: always wear rock shoes or "diving booties" while searching in rock pools, doing Interertidal Shelling or while snorkelling.  They add grip while climbing on rocks, and add some layer of protection against marine animals with the potential to harm if stepped on. These include blue bottles and sea urchins.

Marine Fauna: be aware of marine fauna that can cause harm, including the following:


Always do some research in respect of the area(s) you intend to explore. Use our handy "Shelling Spot" guide, or do at least the following if it is not covered in our list of locations:

  • Find the location you intend visiting on Google Maps.

  • Switch to "Satellite" view by clicking on the Layers icon.

  • Zoom in and survey the area, taking note of rocky areas, gullies and other prominent features with the potential for shelling.

  • Take note of access routes, parking areas and proximity to any settlements, shops, boat houses, hotels, lodges or other built-up areas - use this to try and determine the level of "remoteness".

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