by Aaron Gekoski

Underwater wonderland

Cape Town's best diving spots

Cape Town's best diving spots
Cape Town's Best Diving spots

Cape Town may well be the great white shark capital of the world, but its waters are home to an impressive array of intriguing marine life. Fascinating seascapes and lashings of colour add to the attraction of these waters. If you know where to look you’ll unearth mysterious kelp forests full of smiling fish, giant pinnacles, coral gardens, playful seals and the world’s fastest shark.

Great white cage diving

No trip to the southern peninsula is complete without a dip into great white territory and these giant sharks - the largest on record being over 7m in length - need little introduction. During your diving expedition you’ll spend time getting to know the great white, dispel some myths and gain an understanding their importance to our oceans. You may even see them stalking seals and breaching. Boat towed seal decoys can encourage the sharks to propel themselves out of the water with spectacular speed and power.

However, the real fun is had in the cage, where the sharks congregate just metres away, oblivious to the presence of onlookers. Believe it or not, we make nasty snacks. You will get out the water with a belly full of respect for one of the ocean’s most finely honed predators.

Cost: R2000

Contact: info@sharkexplorers.co.za / 082 564 1904

Further details: Trips run from March to September, but the best time of year to see the sharks is April to August.

Difficulty rating: 4/10

Seals

Turn your attention from predators to prey, with an entertaining seal dive. Cape fur seals are Jekyll and Hyde characters; as the timid and cumbersome animals flop into the water, they morph into aquatic acrobats. Anyone who's shared the ocean with seals will attest to swirling, somersaulting and curious animals, which will dish out a cheeky nip of a fin, or friendly chew on the head.

Cape Town has two major seal colonies to explore. Duiker Island, lies a short boat ride from Hout Bay Harbour, and is home to approximately 3000 barking seals. The noise, and smell, is something to behold. On this bustling little island you’ll also get the opportunity to spot a host of sea birds, including bank cormorants.

On the other side of the Cape Peninsula is Partridge Point. This inshore rocky reef may house less seals than Duiker Island, but interactions are just as good, if not better. Some seals loll at the surface, warming their flippers in the sun while others play beneath the waves. This is a great experience for anyone from the novice snorkeler to advanced PADI diver.

  •   Duiker Island

              Cost: Snorkel = R450pp (R550 from October 2012).

              Scuba = R650pp including all equipment.

              Contact: info@animalocean.co.za / 079 488 5053

              Difficulty rating: 3/10

 

  • Partridge Point

             Cost: Snorkel = R450

             Dive = R300pp. Kit rental = R375. 

             Contact: info@piscesdivers.co.za / 021 786 3799

             Difficulty rating: 3/10

Atlantis Reef

Tantalisingly close to Partridge Point lies a little-known gem of a dive site characterised by two giant rock formations called Pinnacles of Hercules. Terminating just four metres below the surface, the duo descend vertically to 23m, making a PADI Advanced dive certificate a must.

On your way to the seabed, scan the pillars’ colourful walls for plum and strawberry anemones, as well as lacy false corals. And when you reach the bottom, don’t forget to look up because on a clear day you can get a glimpse of the water’s surface.

This section of reef has been protected for many years, so marine life flourishes here. Forage amongst the sea fans and you’ll spot an excellent selection of invertebrates, including sea cucumbers and the fascinating nudibranch. These brightly coloured and toxic sea slugs are hermaphrodites, meaning they can mate with any other adult that passes by.

The macro life, along with giant schools of blacktails and hottentots, make Atlantis Reef an underwater photographer’s dream come true.

Cost: R350. Full kit rental = R350.

Contact: info@animalocean.co.za / 079 488 5053

Difficulty rating: 7/10

Cow sharks

Contrary to popular belief, most shark species are skittish and will go out of their way to avoid strange bubble-breathing interlopers. Yet broadnose sevengill sharks, also known as cow sharks, are perhaps the ocean’s friendliest fish. And best of all, these slow moving and curious animals congregate en mass, just a stone’s throw from the shore, in invitingly shallow waters.

The dive site lies close to Miller’s Point, 4km south of Simon’s Town in False Bay and can be reached either via a quick boat ride, or a wade in from the rocky shore.

Get lucky and you can also spot gully sharks and giant rays in the dazzling marine amphitheatre. If the chilly water doesn’t take your breath away, this extraordinary dive site certainly will.

Cost: Boat dives = R300pp / Shore dives = R200 / Kit rental = R375pp

Contact: info@piscesdivers.co.za / 021 786 3799

Difficulty rating: 5/10

Open water pelagic diving

If you have a full day to spare in the water and would like to see sharks outside of the cage, then consider a journey into the open ocean on a pelagic dive. During this trip you’ll have the opportunity to see specimens such as blue and mako sharks, yellowfin tuna, marlin and yellowtail.

An early meeting at Simon’s Town jetty is followed by a two-hour long boat ride past Cape Point. When the first sharks arrive after a period of chumming, guests enter the water with snorkels or scuba gear. Makos are the world’s fastest shark, and as a result of bycatch, they are also among the oceans’ most heavily fished.

With their magnificent cobalt blue colouring, streamlined shape and large eyes, blue sharks are no slouches either. Being surrounded by these electric animals as they dart above, beneath and around you is a truly exhilarating experience.

Cost: R2200pp / Kit rental R350.

Contact: info@sharkexplorers.co.za / 082 564 1904

Difficulty rating: 7/10 

Further details: Trips run from October to July

 

 

 

 

 




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