Diving at Cape Town

Location  Cape Town 
Sites dived  False Bay: Pyramid, Castle, The Pietermaritzberg, Partridge Point, A-Frame, Smitswinkel Bay Wrecks. Atlantic: Katzamaru, Di’s Cracks 
Dive Centers Used 

 

Our first contacts in Cape Town were Andrew and Heidi Newby who run Far Side Adventures. Andrew an ex-ad man and documentary filmmaker has been instructing diving for nearly 20 years. He claims to have been amongst the first divers to have penetrated the Produce wreck at Aliwal Shoal and has been involved in many exploratory diving expeditions in Madagascar and all over southern Africa. Far Side Adventures is based in Simonstown – an old Naval Harbor built as an alternative anchorage in False Bay for when the Atlantic Side was inaccessible. A roomy backpackers, bar and pool room is attached to the dive center with a restaurant, tour operator and language agency on the way. The dive center itself offers a wide range of specialty courses including NAUI Nitrox and Technical (Trimix) training. As well as local diving around the Cape, Heidi, a registered SATOUR (South African Tour) guide, has extended their underwater guiding to include tailored dive / overland safaris throughout Southern Africa. See their website for more details. 
  We also dived with Ian Campbell who runs Sheer Blue Adventures. Ian has been enjoying diving around Cape Town his whole life so is very enthusiastic to promote it. He soon told us exactly what we would miss by not staying an extra few weeks. Sheer Blue has been going for 3 years and in that time has built up a solid local reputation. They offer NAUI and PADI instruction up to DiveMaster level, they operate their own RIB’s (Rigid Inflatable Boats) and regularly arrange club trips to Natal Coast and Mozambique. They also have a very comprehensive website which gives details on the sites, seasons, services, booking options and prices. 
Launch Sites  Hout Bay for most Atlantic diving and Millers Point for False Bay 
Best Time to Dive  Atlantic diving is at its prime in summer with the strong south easterly winds. False Bay on the Indian Ocean side is best dived during the winter months of May to October. 
Water Temp  False Bay: 13-20 degrees Celsius. Atlantic: 7 – 14 degrees Celsius 
Visibility  During the right seasons, it is apparently not uncommon to see for 30 or 40 meters. We’re coming back next May as we will only believe it if we see it! 
Exposure Protection  Dry suits for the Atlantic side or 7mm two piece with hood and booties. 5 or 7mm wetsuits for Indian Ocean. We wore dry suits both sides but found that in summer time the heat boils you to mush while kitting up. Recommended NOT to use neoprene dry suits in summer…unless you want to lose severe amounts of weight! 
Average diving depth and experience  A whole range of depths around the point for all levels of qualification. For wreck diving, it is a definite plus to have your Nitrox certification to gain the most from the dives. 
Types of diving environments and likely marine encounters  Diving in the tall Kelp Forests where the life is prolific and the sighting of seals and dogfish (Shy Sharks)is very common.
Life on the multitude of shipwrecks vary from the primary colonizers of Mussels to colorful soft corals, sponges and larger fish, crayfish and small sharks.
Nudibranches are abundant on both sides of Cape Point. In one dive we saw at least 13 different species.
A few days before we arrived, whilst collecting samples for the UCT, Rob Erasmus had a very close encounter with a curious Great White in False Bay. Six meters of shark swimming so close above him that he could reach up and tickle its belly!
Southern Right Whales play in False Bay from August to October
We caught a glimpse of the elusive sunfish after ascending from one dive off Millers Point, False Bay. 

 

Some Favorite Dives
Millers Point Launch – False Bay: Gateway to Smitswinkel Bay Wrecks and a variety of other dive sites 

The 5 wrecks in Smitswinkel Bay were purposefully scuttled by the Navy in the early seventies. There are 2 frigates, the Good Hope and Transvaal 2 trawlers Oratava and Princess Elisabeth and the diamond dredger the Rockeater.  The photos taken on the Good Hope (left) depict the marvelous colors of macro life adorning these wrecks. All the wrecks lie at a depth of over 30 meters, making it a site for experienced divers.  Nitrox training is an obvious bonus and if qualified, penetration is an option on some of the wrecks.  We dived the Good Hope on 9th July 2000 and experienced a good 7-meter visibility in a wonderfully eerie light, perfect for wreck diving. As we descended onto this wreck, the dark metal structure of the radio mast loomed from mid-ship like the Eifel Tower in green fog. It immediately drew us towards it for closer inspection. Thinking we’d be able to re-visit this wreck for further exploration, we spent almost the entire dive around the mast which was crammed with colorful life. Lobster hid photogenically in convenient holes in the mast, a variety of Nudibranches were curled up amongst the soft carpets of corals and sponges. Although there was metal somewhere under all that life, it was near impossible to see. Venturing away from the mast towards the end of the dive, there was enough light to see through the cabins to the other side of the ship. Next time, we’ll bring our reels and have a good nose about inside. 

 

Plenty of shore diving options around the cape for the hardiest of divers. One stunning and relatively easy shore entry is Pyramid, just after Millers Point.  This is pristine Kelp Forest a few meters off the beach. The vis can be 20 meters (so they keep telling us) but our 5 meters was adequate to get an idea of the abundance of resident life. Graceful tall kelp stipes (stems) rising from 1 – 12 meters until they reached the surface and formed a dark canopy. Life is very different inside these kelp forests. The rocks are covered with brightly colored sea urchins and the anemones look like sweeties recently spilled across the sandy floor. Some of the chameleon-like cheeky Klipfish seemed to enjoy nipping our masks and chasing our bubbles while others just arranged themselves attractively over the reef waiting for Mark to compose his shot. As we’re close to shore here, we saw many of the whelks and sea snails familiar to seashore rock pools. Lots of swim-through, long tunnels and caves to explore around the pyramid-shaped rock that marks this site from the shore. A very enjoyable dive.  

In July 2000, we tried to redive Pyramid but the swells were too big. Instead we dived a popular site called A-Frame which houses similar life as Pyramid. This is where many locals tend to dive as the water is well protected by Millers Point from the sea swells….or so we were told. After stumbling down slippery rocks we tried to time the sets of waves and make a jump for it. Charlie washed up on to dry rock and Mark nearly saw his Subal disappear into the froth. While he rescued his camera, his fin and glove were sucked out by another set. We guessed that this was what they call pre-dive excitement! We decided that perhaps, shore entries were something you have to practice a lot before you begin to enjoy them! The dive itself was a little grim purely from the view of the strong surge, the low visibility and the nagging thought of getting out over those rocks……. judging by the number of divers that visit, it must be a beautiful dive during calmer conditions. Actually, our exit was reasonably elegant in comparison to the entry but during our swim back to shore, we had to negotiate our way through a sea of stunning box jelly fish whose lethal tentacles seemed to always dangle millimeters from the skin around our mouths – the only bit of exposed skin on our bodies. 

Partridge Point was another site we managed to fit in before the wind and the rain hit full force. We spent the entire dive being inspected by about 30 seals and watching their playful efforts to either scare or annoy us – maybe they were just being friendly, who knows? Sitting on the sandy bottom at 7 meters, looking up to the light, we watched them rocket down from the surface stopping only inches in front of our faces. Intrigued by the lens, one of them positioned himself in front of it and proceeded to show off, baring his teeth and contorting his body into all shapes just to try and hold himself down. Needing to breathe, he floated up to the surface, only to come straight down and start all over again. 

One of the very large males decided a couple of times to show us who was boss. He approached Charlie quite slowly, and as she started to move back he made a sharp dart forward almost lunging and menacingly burped in her face! Charlie started laughing and the bubbles from her regulator seemed to make the seal mimmick as he seemed to let some bubbles escape from his mouth whenever she did. 

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