Download GPX file for this article
-34.0924718.81134Full screen dynamic map

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Map showing the distribution of the wreck and reef dive sites of the Cape Peninsula and False Bay
All dive sites of False Bay east coast

This listing of dive sites of False Bay east coast is part of the regional guide for Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay which is intended to provide the already qualified scuba diver with information which will help to plan dives in the waters of the Cape Peninsula and False Bay, whether as a local resident or a visitor. Information is provided without prejudice, and is not guaranteed accurate or complete. Use it at your own risk. Expand or correct it when you can.

The region described is within a day trip by road from any part of greater Cape Town, in the Western Cape province of South Africa and includes over 300 named dive sites for which positions are recorded, which is a lot for any single destination.

Detailed information on individual dive sites is provided in the sub-articles linked from this list. The information in the site descriptions ranges from superficial to highly detailed, depending on what is known about the site. There may be a map. The bathymetric charts by SURGMAP are updated as and when new survey data is collected, and are mapped by swimming the contours towing a GPS buoy. They are reasonably accurate – within a couple of metres usually – and reliable for what is shown, but seldom complete. It is quite possible that some tall pinnacles have been missed. There is no guarantee that you will not discover one by hitting it with your boat. If you do, please let us know.

In some instances a dive site sub-article will include several sites which are in close proximity, as much of the information will be common to them all. In other cases, usually involving wreck sites, two adjacent sites will each have its own sub-article, but if two or more wrecks lie in the same position, or with substantial overlap, they will be described in the same sub-article.

Other dive sites in the Cape Peninsula and False Bay region can be found at:

Understand[edit]

The dive sites described in these articles include some which are well known favourites and have been dived frequently and by many divers for decades, and also newly described sites, which may only have been dived a few times, and by a few divers. There are also sites which have been known for years, but seldom dived due to their relative inaccessibility, and a few which are basically not particularly interesting, but have been included in the interests of completeness, as the information is available, and occasionally people want to know what they are like or need to dive there. With a few exceptions, the information provided is based on personal observation at the sites by Wikivoyagers. All photos of marine life and features of interest were taken at the listed site, but seasons and conditions change, and your experience may differ.

Geographical information is provided in as much detail as is available. Sites are geolinked, which allows them to be identified on various internet map systems. Positional accuracy is usually good. The maps provided should be usable, to scale, and accurate, but are not guaranteed either to be correct in all details, or complete. Clicking on the image will open a link to a higher resolution image.

Bold text

Dive sites of the Gordon's Bay area
Dive sites of the eastern False Bay coast

Introduction and some tips on diving the Eastern False Bay coast from Gordon’s Bay to Hangklip.

This coast is exposed to the same south westerly swells as the Atlantic coast, but they must travel over a much wider continental shelf, much of which is less than 100 m deep, so there is a significant dissipation of wave energy before it reaches the shoreline. There are other influences, as some of the swells must pass over the shoal area known as Rocky Bank in the mouth of False Bay, and this tends to refract and focus the wave fronts on certain parts of the shore, depending on the exact direction of the wave fronts. As a result there is a tendency for some parts of the coast to be subjected to a type of "freak wave" which appears to be a combination of focused wave front, superposition sets and the effects of the local coastal topography. There are a number of memorial crosses along the coast to attest to the danger of these waves, though the victims are generally anglers, as divers would not attempt to dive in the conditions that produce these waves.

This area, like the Atlantic coast, is a summer diving area, though there will occasionally be conditions suitable for a winter dive. Even in milder conditions there tend to be more noticeable sets than on the Atlantic coast, and it is prudent to study the conditions for several minutes when deciding on an entry or exit point, as the cycle can change significantly over that time. Timing is important at most of these sites, and often when returning to the shore it may seem that the conditions have deteriorated dangerously during the dive. If this happens, do not be in a rush to exit, hang back for at least one cycle of sets, and time your exit to coincide with the low energy part of the cycle, when the waves are lowest and the surge least. When you exit in these conditions, do not linger in the surge zone, get out fast, even if it requires crawling up the rocks on hands and knees, and generally avoid narrow tapering gullies, as they concentrate the wave energy.

The local geology has produced a coastline with much fewer sheltered exit points on this side of the bay, adding to the difficulty, but there are a few deep gullies sufficiently angled to the wave fronts to provide good entry and exit points in moderate conditions. The most notable of these is at Percy’s Hole, where an unusual combination of very sudden decrease in depth from about 14 m to about 4 m, a long, narrow gully with a rocky beach at the end, and a side gully near to the mouth which is shallow, wide, parallel to the shoreline, and full of kelp, results in one of the best protected exits on the local coastline. As a contrast, Coral Garden at Rooi-els, which is about 1.7 km away, has a gully that shelves moderately, with a wide mouth and very small side gullies, which are very tricky unless the swell is quite low.

There is no significant current in False Bay, and this results in relatively warmer water than the Atlantic coast, but also there is less removal of dirty water, so the visibility tends to be poorer. The South-Easter is an offshore wind here too, and will cause upwelling in the same way as on the Atlantic coast, but the bottom water is usually not as clean or as cold, and the upwelled water may carry the fine light silt which tends to deposit in this area when conditions are quiet, so the effects are usually less noticeable. These upwellings are more prevalent in the Rooi-els area, which is deeper than Gordon’s Bay.

As in the Atlantic, a plankton bloom frequently follows an upwelling. This will reduce the visibility, particularly near the surface. It is quite common for the surface visibility offshore to be poor, with better visibility at depth, but the reverse effect can also occur, particularly inshore. These effects are often associated with a thermocline.

Surface water temperature on this side of the bay can range from as high as 22°C to as low as 10°C, and the temperature can differ with depth, sometimes with a distinct thermocline.

Sites[edit]

Gordon's Bay[edit]

View of Gordon's Bay from a dive boat heading south

This area includes some of the best and most popular shore dive sites in the east side of False Bay. All can also be dived from a boat, and this is of particular importance to divers with restricted mobility on shore, as there is generally a rugged bit of coast to negotiate and in some cases a long climb. There are also sites which are only dived from boats as the shore access is too difficult or dangerous. The dive sites are all close inshore, as sand bottom is quite close to the shore in most cases, There is little or no kelp at these sites.

Local geography: The coastline from Gordon’s Bay to just north of Steenbras River mouth lies approximately north east to south west along the foot of the Hottentot’s Holland mountain range. This is a steeply sloping area with low cliffs along the shoreline and no level ground. The southern part of the Gordon’s Bay urban area is perched along the northern end of this strip above the Faure Marine Drive (R44), which is the access road for all shore dives in this area except Bikini Beach.

The dive sites from Bikini Beach to Lorry Bay are along this part of the coast, and are more sheltered from south westerly swell than sites further to the south as a result of the orientation of the coastline approximately parallel to the swell direction.

Further south the coastline curves to the south east, so the sites are more exposed to the swell. By Rocky Bay the swell approaches the coastline almost perpendicularly, which makes it relatively rough in any south westerly swell.

The shoreline topography of this area is generally low rocky cliffs with occasional wave-cut caves, gullies and overhangs. The underwater profile is usually quite steep with the flat sand bottom quite close to the shoreline. Maximum depth increases from north to south, reaching just over 20 m at Rocky Bay, where the rocky bottom extends much further out than at the more northerly sites.

The coastal formation in this area is mostly light grey to yellow brown quartzitic sandstones of the Graafwater formation. This directly overlays the greywackes of the Malmesbury group which form the coastline further north from Gordon’s Bay to the Strand. Higher up the mountainside are the rocks of the Peninsula formation, which are light grey quartzitic sandstone, with thin siltstone, shale and conglomerate beds. The strike is roughly parallel to the coastline, approximately ENE, and the dip is steep SSW, nearly vertical in places.

The sites include:

  • 1 Bikini Beach: S34°09.923 E18°51.492
    Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 3 m.
    A popular swimming beach at Gordon’s Bay, not generally considered a dive site, but suitable for training exercises if the waves are not too big. The beach slopes fairly steeply in the surf zone, then flat sand bottom with reef of small scattered rounded boulders.
  • 2 Ledges: S34°10.193’ E018°50.726’
    Reef dive. Boat access. Maximum depth about 9 m.
    Named for the ledge on the shore just above high water, which is the landmark from the seaward side. There is also a high rock outcrop at the north east end of the ledge where enthusiasts jump into the water from several meters up. Fairly flat bottom with smallish boulders and occasionally sand between them.
  • 3 Vogelsteen: S34°10.302’ E018°50.355’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 12 m.
    Named for the large rock favoured by seabirds and lightly coated in guano. Moderate relief close to shore, but fairly flat with only small boulders and outcrops. Notable for the beds of pebbles, silt, and shells between the rocky inshore zone and the flat sand bottom further offshore, where large numbers of the False Bay Burrowing Anemone (Cerianthid) can be found.
  • Cow and Calf
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 13 m.
    Named for the twin reefs just offshore which approach and sometimes break the surface, and which are reminiscent of a whale cow and calf. Rugged reefs of sandstone with quartzite veins. The ridges are roughly parallel to the shoreline. Bottom is rock and medium to small boulders with pebbles, sand and shell in crevices.
    4 Cow and Calf: S34°10.310’ E018°50.263’
    5 Stone Dog: S34°10.458’ E018°50.183’
  • 6 Pinnacle: S34°10.468’ E018°49.981’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 14 m.
    Named for the rock pinnacle that breaks the surface just offshore at most states of the tide.
    An area of sandstone reef including a tall pinnacle, a small cavern, numerous gullies and ridges and a lot of boulders. Great diversity of invertebrates for a small area.
  • 7 Tony's Reef: S34°10.565’ E018°49.745’
    Reef dive. Boat access. Maximum depth about 14 m.
    Fairly rugged reef with medium to large ridges and outcrops sloping down fairly steeply to a shelly pebble zone and finally sand bottom.
  • 8 Troglodyte's Cove (Cave Gully): S34°10.828’ E018°49.509’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 14 m.
    The site is named for the cave at the head of the inlet which shows signs of recent habitation in the form of garbage and discarded utensils. Sandstone reef ridges are roughly parallel to the shore formations, and get to 9 m very close to outer edge of shoreline, then shelves down gradually to 14 m, by which time it is fine sand. There are some fairly big outcrops and boulders up to about 3 m high, and some overhangs near the shoreline, especially in the inlet.
  • 9 Lorry Bay: S34°10.955’ E018°49.312’
    Reef dive. Boat access. Maximum depth about 10 m.
    Named for the bits of motor vehicle still to be found in the cove. Several vehicles have gone off the road above the bay over the years and ended in the water. Flattish bottom, sand at about 10 m. Bottom of wave rounded boulders in the bay. More rugged and steep near sides.
  • 10 Phil's Bay: S34°11.199’ E018°49.133’
    Reef dive. Boat access. Maximum depth about 14 m.
    Sand bottom at about 14 m, then moderate relief reef of sandstone rocks and ridges with sandy gaps running more or less parallel to shoreline. Gets more rugged closer to shore, and is deep quite close inshore.
  • Rocky Bay: S34°11.585’ E018°49.035’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth more than 20 m.
    This is not actually a bay at all. The coastline has a convex curve along this dive site. The resort on the shore is called Rocky Bay, and the site name follows from that.
    The shoreline is very steep and reflects rather than breaks waves, so the anchorage is very bumpy in a swell. Further out the bottom is gradually sloped, with moderate size ridges and outcrops. Further offshore it gets generally flatter with low rocky reef and pebbles and small boulders and the occasional higher ridge.
    11 Rocky Bay: S34°11.585’ E018°49.035’
    12 Noble Reef: S34°11.332’ E018°49.123’

Rooi-els[edit]

Dive sites from Rooi-els to Hangklip

This area includes some of the best and most popular shore dive sites in the east side of False Bay. All can also be dived from a boat, though there is limited access for launching in the area, and it is a long ride from Gordon’s Bay. At many of these sites there is a rugged bit of coast to negotiate and in some cases a long climb. The dive sites are mostly close inshore, but in some cases extend out a considerable distance. There is usually kelp in the shallower areas at these sites. Baboons can be a nuisance at Rooi-els, though here they are not quite as problematic as south of Simon’s Town. Do not leave unattended food open, and do not feed the baboons as this encourages then to become even more of a nuisance.

Local geography: The sites to the north of Rooi-els Bay are at the foot of Rooielsberg (636m), which slopes rather steeply on the north west side, but has a more gradual slope just to the north of the Rooi-els river mouth, where there is a sandy beach well sheltered from the south west swells. However, the underwater topography is in apparent contradiction to this, as the site at Bloukrans is shallower and more gradually shelving than at Percy’s Hole, where the depth drops off to about 12 m within a very short distance of the shoreline.

Outcrops of dark rock of the Tygerberg formation at Bloukrans, with sandstones of the Table Mountain series further south. Strike is about north east at Rooi-els, with dip around 25° south east.

The sites include:

  • 13 Blouklip (Bloukrans): S34°16.439’ E018°50.163’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth 17 m.
    Named for the dark rock ridge of the Tygerberg formation at the entry point. The mountain range behind the site is known as the Blousteenberge, and the peak directly above it is Rooielsberg.
    Inshore reef is moderate size boulders and outcrops. Further out they get lower until at 10 m there are fairly flat gravel beds. Further out are more outcrops, some flat shale reef, more gravel beds and yet more outcrops.There are also some little patches of sand among the rocks and gravel.
  • 14 Blousteen Ridge: S34°16.497' E018°49.924'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth not recorded, probably about 18 m.
    This site is a few hundred metres south west of Blouklip. It extends to the shoreline, but access from the road is steep and difficult and no parking is available nearby.
  • 15 Whirlpool Cove: S34°16.97’ E018°49.55’ (approximate)
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 24 m.
    Named for the turbulent gap between the group of rocks and the south end of the cove which produces some awesome vortices in a strong surge. Bottom trends down gradually in series of parallel sandstone ridges and gullies, of varying size but consistent dip and strike.
  • 16 Percy’s Hole: S34° 17.350’ E018°49.377’E.
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 23 m.
    This is one of the best known and most interesting sites in the Rooi-els area. The entry gully drops down to 14 m between the heads, there is a stepped wall to the south, and extensive high profile rocky reefs to the north with a swimthrough inshore of the exposed rock pinnacle (Seal Rocks). To seaward of these high reefs the bottom slopes down to 23 m with sand bottom, and to the north is a small cavern. This is a site of varied topographical features and a rich ecological diversity.
  • 17 Kruis (Crosses): S34°17.431’ E018°49.304
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 22 m.
    Named for the cross erected in memory of J.F. Marais, Rector of the Stellenbosch Gymnasium, who drowned in the vicinity. The inlet slopes down gradually to the north west over an extensive area of deeper low profile reef with some sand patches until it reaches the sand bottom. To seaward of the entry gully there is a fairly large, quite shallow reef which drops steeply to the low deep reef.
  • 18 Rooi-els Point: S34°17.8’ E018°48.8’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 20 m.
    The point at Rooi-els seems an obvious place for a dive site. There is a break that extends north of the point indicating an extended reef. These reefs are a continuation of the reefs at Coral Gardens to the north and are very similar in many ways. Rugged sandstone ridges and gullies, mostly fairly broken, and of variable height on a reasonably consistent bottom depth.
  • 19 Coral Gardens (Rooi-els): S34°18.144’ E018°48.795’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth more than 25 m.
    Named for the abundant gorgonians, sea fans and soft corals found in the area. Rocky ridges run approximately north east to south west. Large outcrops and boulders make rugged relief and provide a habitat for a large variety of invertebrates. There are three large pinnacles along the farthest offshore of the high ridges. The southernmost of these ridges has an arch feature just south of the high point. The northern ridge has a cave/swimthrough under a big boulder.
  • 20 Andre se Gat: S34°18.25’ E018°48.76’ (estimated)
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth reported as 25 m.
    This site was used for training and as a general recreational dive site some years ago.
  • 21 Balcony: S34°18.454’ E018°48.911’
    Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 10 m.
    This site is mostly used as a training site or when conditions are marginal. It is not very deep and the reef is not very spectacular, but it is better protected from the swells than most sites in the area. Low to moderate sandstone reef sloping down quite steeply to sand bottom.
  • 22 Ankers: S34°17.350’ E018°49.377’
    Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 20 m.
    Named for the original house which stood on the rise above the cove, which was demolished and rebuilt in 2003. This is a site with a relatively sheltered entry and exit area.
  • 23 Mike's Point: S34°18.75’ E018°48.72’ (estimated)
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 20 m.
    This is the continuation of the reefs which run south from Ankers, at the north headland of Container Bay. The site is seldom dived and has not been mapped.
  • 24 Container Bay (Mike’s Bay) : S34°18.75’ E018°49.05’ (approximate)
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 14 m.
    This site is named after a container that was washed ashore several years ago, and which has almost completely rusted away. It is not often dived on scuba. The access is relatively good.

Pringle Bay and Hangklip[edit]

These areas are mostly dived by spearfishers, but are known to have been dived on scuba. Unfortunately no information is available at this stage.

The sites include:

Reef dive. Shore access.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access.
  • Hangklip Ridge:
Reef dive. Boat access.

Fresh water dive sites[edit]

Blue Rock quarry seen from the road near the entrance.
Fresh water dive sites of Cape Town

There is only one fresh water site of note in the region which is open to the public. This is the Blue Rock Quarry at the bottom of Sir Lowry’s Pass, near Gordon’s Bay,

The sites include:

  • Blue Rock Quarry: S34°07.536’ E18°54.066’
    Quarry dive. Shore access only. Maximum depth at least 47 m, possibly more. Mostly shallower than 30 m.
    Named for the building aggregate which was quarried here in the past, which was a dark blue-grey colour. The quarry was closed and is now flooded and used for water sports including diving and water skiing using an overhead cable system.
    1 Deep End
    2 Floating Jetty
    3 West End
    4 Dive and Adventure Corner

Nearby[edit]

Back to Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay#Dive sites

Other dive sites in the Cape Peninsula and False Bay region can be found at:

This dive guide to Dive sites of False Bay east coast has guide status. It has a variety of good, quality information including location, conditions and equipment, and info on marine life and other sights. Please contribute and help us make it a star!