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Map showing the distribution of the wreck and reef dive sites of the Cape Peninsula and False Bay
All dive sites of the Cape Peninsula and False Bay

This listing of dive sites 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.

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 thumbnail will open a link to a higher resolution image.

Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula[edit]

Dive sites of the Atlantic Coast of the Cape Peninsula

Introduction and some tips on diving the Atlantic coast.

This coastline from Table Bay to Cape Point is exposed to the south westerly swells generated by the cold fronts of the Southern Ocean. The continental shelf is narrow in this part of the coast and swells are not greatly influenced by the narrow band of shallow water, so they retain most of their deep-water energy. These swells pound this coast most of the winter, and to a lesser extent in summer, so diving in this region is mostly a summer activity, and the frontal weather patterns far to the south are more important than local weather for swell prediction.

North westerly winds are a feature of the approach of a cold front, and in winter they can be very strong for a few days before swinging to southwesterly as the front passes. These north westerly winter storms were responsible for many shipwrecks in Table Bay and other parts of the west coast, and the associated wind waves can be severe. However the fetch is short and these onshore wind waves do not last long after the storm. They do mess up the visibility though, and this effect lasts for some time after the waves have dissipated.

The south easterly winds are longshore to offshore in this area and tend to knock the swell down a bit. They also cause an offshore displacement of the surface water, which results in deeper water rising to take its place. This upwelling brings colder, initially cleaner water to the inshore areas, and can produce conditions of 20 m+ visibility and temperatures down to 8°C, though more usually 10° to 12°C. The diving is wonderful if you are sufficiently insulated. Out of the water, however, it is commonly fine and hot, with blazing sunshine, high ultraviolet levels, and air temperatures in the high 20 and 30 degrees Celsius. This means you will be overheating until you get in the water, hence the comment that summer diving in Cape Town is one easy step from hyperthermia to hypothermia.

There is no escaping the need for a well-fitting, thick (preferably 7 mm), wet suit, or a dry suit with an adequate undergarment for these conditions if you intend to stay for more than a few minutes. Carrying a bottle of water with your equipment to wet the outside of your suit before or after putting it on will help keep the temperature down due to evaporative cooling, specially on a windy day. Overheating after leaving the water is seldom a problem. The alternative option of kitting up at the water’s edge requires a shore party to look after your clothes, etc., while you dive, so it has become less common. Do not leave equipment unattended if you wish to see it again.

An upwelling is frequently followed by a plankton bloom, often called a red tide. This will reduce visibility considerably, particularly near the surface. Often the water will be much clearer below the surface layer, though the light levels may be a bit dim and the colour relatively green, or even brownish. The phytoplankton will bloom while the sun shines, so it is much more developed in summer.

The south-easter is an offshore wind at some sites, and besides its influence on temperature and visibility, it also affects the swim back to shore after the dive. The south-easter can appear seemingly out of nowhere on a previously cloudless and windless day, and build up to near gale force in the time you are underwater on a dive, though it is usually predictable, so take note of weather forecasts, and in any case, allow sufficient reserve air to swim back a few metres below the surface. A compass is extremely useful if you do this as it allows you to swim shallower, which is good for air consumption, decompression and warmth. A depth of 3 to 5 m is recommended for a long swim home. The strong south-easter in these cases produces a short, steep wind chop with white-caps which does not penetrate to any significant depth, but the constant slapping of waves and the spray in the air can make snorkelling unpleasant and difficult. There may also be a shallow offshore wind drift (surface current), but this takes some time to develop and gets rapidly weaker with depth and is not usually a problem below about a metre depth inshore. Further offshore the wind induced current can take you several hundred metres during a decompression stop, at a rate of about 0.5 to 1 kph.

When boat diving a deployable surface marker buoy (DSMB) is useful to both facilitate controlled ascent and accurate decompression or safety stop depth, and as a signal to the boat that you are on your way up. In strong wind conditions it will also improve your visibility on the surface, specially if your equipment is all black, so it is worth carrying even if only as a signalling device. Bright yellow has been shown to be best for all round visibility at sea, but orange and red are fairly good too.

Robben Island[edit]

Dive sites from Robben Island to Camps Bay

These sites are all boat dives. There is no other practical way to get to them, as they are all several kilometres from the mainland across major shipping lanes. The waters around Robben Island were proclaimed a Marine Protected Area in 2019, so a permit is required to dive there. The boat operator will have to have a permit for the restricted area.

Local geography: Robben Island is a low, rocky shored island in the mouth of Table Bay. The island and surrounding reefs are rock of the Tygerberg series of the late Precambrian Malmesbury group. These are folded sedimentary rocks, frequently with very steep dip, which often weather to form rather jagged outcrops.

The sites include:

  • 1 MV Treasure: S33°40.45' E018°19.95' (approximate)
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth: 30 to 50 m
    On 23 June 2000 the damaged Panamanian registered bulk ore carrier sank off the coast of South Africa approximately 7 nautical miles north of Robben Island.
    The vessel lies upright on a fairly level bottom at about 50 m depth. The superstructure was removed shortly after the sinking by sawing it off at about 30 m depth with a cable towed by tugs as it was a hazard to shipping.
  • 2 Robben Island steamer wreck: S33°49.886', E018°21.524' (approximate centre of wreckage)
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth: 30 to 36 m
    Unidentified wreck of a steel steamship about 48 m long in reasonable structural condition.
  • 3 MV Afrikaner: S33°50.012' E018°20.686'
    Boat access only. Deep wreck dive. Depth 43 to 50 m
    The 61 m fishing vessel struck Whale Rock in 1993 and sank while being towed away from the rock.
  • 4 Whale Rock: S33°50.112' E018°22.858'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Mostly less than 10 m
    A large shoal area of rocky reef, usually with a break over the pinnacle, which is the last resting place of a few ships.
  • 5 SS Hypatia: S33°50.10’ E018°22.90’ (Turner 1988)
    Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Shallow, maximum probably about 15 m
    British Houston Line steamer of 5 728 tons, built in 1902. Wrecked on Whale Rock in Table Bay on 29 October 1929 in fog while on a voyage from Beira to New York with a cargo of blister copper and chrome ore.
  • 6 MV Daeyang Family: S33°50.388' E18°23.133
    Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 15 m
    A large Korean ore carrier which was wrecked on Whale Rock on 1 March 1986 when anchors dragged in heavy weather. The wreckage lies at a depth of about 15:nbsp;m

Table Bay[edit]

Entering the Victoria basin of Cape Town harbour after a dive trip.
  • 7 MV Winton: S33°52.1514' E18°29.1828 (Engine block)
    Wreck dive. Boat access, though shore access is feasible. Close to surf line. Maximum depth about 6 m.
    Wreck of a small steel freighter on a flat sand bottom.
  • 8 MV Gemsbok: S33°53.0' E018°20.5'
    Boat access only. Deep wreck dive. Depth about 57 m on the sand.
    The 50 m 313 tonne buoy tender MV Gemsbok capsized and sank about 4 km from Green Point Lighthouse on 2 Seprember 1975 while transferring an anchor chain of a cargo vessel. The chain snagged and the weight of the chain caused the vessel to capsize and sink within minutes. The wreck lies on its starboard side.
  • 9 Highfields: S33°53.13’ E018°25.83’ (Bow)
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Close to major shipping lane at harbour mouth. Maximum depth 24 m.
    Wreck of a steel barque which sank after a collision in 1902.
  • 10 SS Cape Matapan: S33°53.233' E018°24.533' About a kilometer north of Granger Bay harbour
    Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth 25 m. The wreck is close to the shipping lane and there are no landmarks nearby.
    Wreck of a steel fishing boat which was sunk in a collision in 1960 in heavy fog.
  • 11 RMS Athens: S33°53.85’ E018°24.57’
    Wreck and reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 7 m
    Union Company iron steam screw barque of 739 tons, built in 1856. Wrecked between Mouille Point and Green Point on 17 May 1865 during a north-west gale while trying to steam out of Table Bay. The site can be identified by the remains of the engine-block, which is visible above the water.
  • 12 SS SA Seafarer: S33°53.80’ E018°23.80’
    Wreck and reef dive. Boat access recommended. Depth: Fairly shallow. Mostly between 5 and 9 m.
    The 8000-ton Safmarine freighter SS South African Seafarer was wrecked in a north westerly gale on 1 July 1966, and lies in front of the Green Point lighthouse.
  • 13 Two Oceans Aquarium: S33°54.476’ E018°25.074’
    Shore access only. Confined water. Maximum depth 6 m
    Visitors may dive in the Predator tank, which is a large oval tank, or the Kelp Forest tank, which is roughly square. There are large windows, almost full height on one side, through which you can observe the other visitors watching you if you get bored with the fish.

Sea Point[edit]

The sea point contact zone, where mixing of the intrusive granite of the Peninsula pluton with the older Tygerberg slates can be seen at the shoreline.

Local Geography: There is a narrow coastal plain at the base of Signal Hill and Lion’s Head. The contact zone between the intrusive granites of the Peninsula pluton and the sedimentary greywackes and shales of the Tygerberg formation of the Malmesbury series is in this area. The northern sites are on the Tygerberg rocks, which are steeply dipped and form parallel ridges and gullies, while Bantry Bay is on the granite, and has the characteristic corestone topography of rounded boulders and outcrops with sand bottom in deeper areas.

The sites include:

  • 14 Three Anchor Bay: S33°54.36’ E018°23.85’
    Reef dive. Shore access. Depth: Shallow
    A small sand bottomed bay with reef to both sides. Easy access.
  • 15 Sea Point Ridge Pinnacles: S33°54.905' E018°21.421'
    Reef dive. Boat access. Depth: 17 to 27 m
    An isolated pair of corestone pinnacles on a low granite ridge.
  • 16 Bantry Bay: S33°55.56’ E018°22.65’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access Depth: Less than 10 m
    This little bay is at the southern end of Sea Point, towards Clifton.

Clifton[edit]

Reef life on the arch at North Paw

Clifton Rocks is generally considered a shore dive, but the Paws are quite a distance offshore and are only dived from boats. Parking in Clifton is often a problem, particularly in the kind of weather in which you may wish to go diving. Weekdays will be better and early morning will help. The offshore dives avoid this problem by using boats from Oceana Power Boat Club slipway, which has its own parking problems, though not quite as serious.

Local geography: The suburb of Clifton is built on the rather steep slopes of the base of Lion’s Head above Clifton Bay. There are four beaches in the bay which are famous for white sand, shelter from the south easter and cold water. North Paw is offshore of the headland to the north, and South Paw is offshore from Clifton Rocks, on the south headland. Access to the area by road is from Sea Point to the north and Camps Bay to the south.

The reefs of Clifton are granite corestones of the Peninsula pluton. In this area the granite base of the mountain extends to approximately the height of Signal Hill, and is capped by sandstones of the Graafwater and Table Mountain formations. Occasional rounded granite outcrops can be seen on the mountainside, which is mostly deeply weathered granitic saprolite, with some sandstone scree.

The sites include:

Camps Bay[edit]

Local geography: Camps Bay is in the corner made by Lion’s Head and Table Mountain. Access is over Kloof Nek from the city bowl, and round the coast from Sea Point via Clifton to the north, and from Hout Bay via Oudekraal to the south

The reefs of this area are like those of Clifton.

The sites include:

  • 26 Bakoven Rock: S33°57.555’ E018°22.204’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth 17 m.
    This site is generally considered a shore dive. Parking is limited so it is most conveniently dived during the working week when there is less competition for space, otherwise get there early.

Oudekraal[edit]

Dive sites from Oudekraal to Hout Bay

This area includes some of the best and most popular shore dive sites on the Atlantic seaboard. Most 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 is also a moderate to long swim at some of the sites, and at some states of the tide, heavy kelp inshore.

Local geography: The coastline at the base of the Twelve Apostles range just south of Table Mountain is steep, and south of Camps Bay, virtually undeveloped. Fortunately for divers, the coastal road is not far above sea level in the north of this area, and though there are not many off-road parking areas, the road is wide enough to park along the side.

This is an area of pale grey Peninsula Granite corestone outcrops and boulders with some Table Mountain Sandstone boulders which have rolled down the mountainside to the water’s edge. The mountainside below the sandstone cliffs is deeply weathered granite saprolite with occasional corestone outcrops. The cuttings at the roadside display the granular yellow-brown saprolite with a thin soil covering. The underwater topography is almost entirely corestones exposed by erosion, surrounded by samd, and is a continuation of the granite boulders and outcrops at the water’s edge.

Dive sites of North Oudekraal

North Oudekraal

The sites include:

  • 27 Dreadlocks Reef: S33°58'22.05" S18°21'42.59"
    Reef dive. Boat access. Depth: 1.5 to 20 m.
    A relatively new site. First survey 30th January 2010. This granite ridge peaks about 1.5m from the surface at low tide, but the tip is small and seldom breaks. Bottom on low granite at about 20m. Colourful and diverse invertebrate cover, and notable for the relatively large colonies of Dreadlock hydroids.
  • 28 Geldkis Blinder: S33°58.67’ E018°21.62’
    Reef dive. Boat or shore access. Maximum depth about 20 m.
    A relatively infrequently dived site. The highest rock on the reef is a blinder beyond Geldkis rock which occasionally breaks the surface at low tide. Huge boulders and outcrops, and a few swimthroughs.
  • 29 Strawberry Rocks: S33°58.725’ E018°21.658’ (approximate)
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 15 m.
    The two smaller rocks to the north of Geldkis rock. Several small caverns and swimthroughs.
  • 30 Geldkis: S33°58.73’ E018°21.61’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 15 m.
    A large group of rocks with lots of overhangs, swimthroughs and chimneys. The Dutch East Indiaman Het huys te Craijestein was wrecked on the rocks in the bay at Oudekraal on 27 May 1698 in thick mist. Three chests of treasure disappeared and the name "Geldkis" (money-chest) appears on maps of the area and is now applied to the offshore rocks.
  • 31 Boardroom: S33°58.761’ E018°21.151’
    Reef dive. Boat access, though possible from shore. Maximum depth about 21 m near the pinnacle, but deeper water nearby – about 10 m on top.
    A very large boulder with a large swimthrough cave and a large overhang in an area of high profile boulder reef.
  • 32 Het Huis te Kraaiestein: S33°58.85’ E018°21.65’
    Wreck and reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth 10 m.
    Remnants of the Dutch East Indiaman Het Huis te Kraaiestein of 1,154 tons, which was wrecked in the bay at Oudekraal on 27 May 1698 in thick mist while trying to find the way into Table Bay. Some cannon, anchors and a few baulks of timber are all that are usually visible above the sand.
  • 33 Mushroom Pinnacle: S33°58.781’ E018°21.521’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth 17 m.
    A submerged granite tor (stacked group of large corestones) between Geldkis and Justin’s Caves. The pinnacle is surrounded by lower outcrops separated by sandy gullies.
  • 34 Sandy Cove: S33°58.90’ E018°21.65’
    Reef dive. Confined waters. Shore access. Maximum depth 4 m
    A shallow sheltered cove at Oudekraal, suitable for open water training exercises, refresher courses and testing equipment when you don’t need depth. Entry area for several other sites.
  • 35 Justin’s Caves: S33°58.85’ E018°21.50’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 13 m.
    A group of big granite corestone outcrops and boulders with several swimthroughs, overhangs, caves and deep narrow gaps between the rocks. Spectacular in good visibility, colourful reef life.
Dive sites of Central Oudekraal

Central Oudekraal

The sites include:

  • 36 Antipolis: S33°59.06’ E018°21.37’ (Bow section)
    Wreck and reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 10 m.
    The tankers "Romelia" and "Antipolis" were under tow on 28 July 1977 during a north westerly gale when the tow cable to the "Antipolis" snagged on the sea bed. In the ensuing confusion the cables broke and the two ships were driven aground by the wind. The "Antipolis" ran aground at Oudekraal and was later cut down to water level.
  • 37 Klein Pannekoek: S33°58.91’ E018°21.09’
    Reef dive. Boat or shore access. Maximum depth about 15 m.
    A group of large fairly low and flat rocks visible offshore to the west of the "Antipolis" and north of Coral Gardens.
Dive sites of South Oudekraal

South Oudekraal

The sites include:

  • 38 Groot Pannekoek: S33°59.13’ E018°20.75’
    Reef dive. Boat or shore access. Maximum depth about 15 m
    A large flattish outcrop of granite, which extends a short way above the sea level at all tides. Some overhangs, crevices and small caves.
  • Coral Gardens (Oudekraal): S33°59.270' E018°20.782' (The pinnacles)
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth 17 m
    A spectacular dive in good conditions. Huge granite boulders in groups with open patches between them. There are overhangs, small caverns, a few swimthroughs, and many deep gaps and crevices. Extensively covered in colourful reef life. Possibly the best shore dive on the Atlantic side of the Cape Peninsula on a good day.
    39 Coral Gardens
    40 Coral Gardens Offshore Pinnacle

Llandudno[edit]

The big swimthrough at 13th Apostle reef

These sites can be accessed from the shore or by boat. Parking is limited, but the area is reasonably secure. Some walking is required, but no serious climbing as the parking is near the sea level.

Local geography: The small residential suburb of Llandudno is built on the moderately steep slopes of the Cape Peninsula below the peak of Klein-Leeukop, where the coast road (M6 – Victoria Drive) from Camps Bay crosses over the neck to Hout Bay. There is only one way into Llandudno by road, which is from the M6 near the top of the pass. This is an area of granite corestone reefs with sand bottom.

The sites include:

  • 41 13th Apostle: S33°59.486' E18°19.922'
    Reef dive. Boat access. Depth: 10 to 24 m.
    A large granite pinnacle on an area of low granite reef with occasional sand patches.
  • 42 Llandudno Reef: S34°00.037' E18°19.897'
    Reef dive. Boat access. Depth: 10 to about 30 m, on sand
    An unsurveyed granite reef, with several pinnacles, outcrops and gullies.
  • 43 Logies Bay: S34°00.25’ E018°20.53’
    Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth probably about 10 m.
    A small rocky cove to the north of Llandudno beach.
  • 44 MV Romelia: S34°00.700’ E018°19.860’ approximately
    Wreck and reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 24 m.
    The tankers Romelia and Antipolis were under tow on 28 July 1977 during a north westerly gale when the tow cable to the Antipolis snagged on the sea bed. In the ensuing confusion the cables broke and the two ships were driven aground by the wind. The Romelia ran aground at Sunset Rocks, Llandudno, where its back was broken by the heavy surf and the ship split in two. Later the bow section sank, leaving the stern mostly above sea level on the rocks. Over the years the stern section has also broken up and is no longer visible above the water.

Oude Schip and Leeugat[edit]

Local geography: Oude Schip headland lies at the foot of the Karbonkelberg between Sandy Bay to the north and Leeugat to the south, It is a low rocky headland of Peninsula granite, with several reef dives and one known wreck. It is a fairly exposed section of coast but protected from the south easterly winds by the mountain. The sites are only accessible by boat as there is no road access to this part of the shore, and most are too far offshore to safely swim.

This is an area of granite bedrock of the Peninsula pluton, The reefs are exposed corestone outcrops and boulders, with sand patches in the deeper areas

The sites include:

  • 45 Steps: S34°01.330’ E018°18.600’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 20 m.
    An area of high granite reef with deep gullies. Not actually in Leeugat, but just north of Oude Schip headland.
  • 46 MV Harvest Capella: S34°01.600’ E018°18.750’
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 15 m.
    An area of mostly flattish granite reef with a few ridges and some wreckage of a steel motor fishing vessel, some of which has washed up onto the point and is visible from a distance. Not actually in Leeugat, but on the north shore of Oude Schip headland.
Map of the dive sites of the Blue Flash Reefs off Oude Schip headland on the Cape Peninsula

The Blue Flash Reefs

  • 47 Rachel's Reef: S34°01.431' E018°18.151'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth between about 3 and 21 m.
    Rachel's Reef is a compact granite pinnacle with surrounding high profile reef.
  • 48 Humpback Ridge: S34°01.548' E018°18.142'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth between about 4 and 21 m.
    A fairly massive granite pinnacle in the middle of a more extensive north-south ridge rising to about 12 m. Humpback whales have been seen near these reefs on several occasions.
  • 49 Wilhelm's Wall: S34°01.502’ E018°17.931’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth between about 12 and 31 m.
    A granite ridge somewhat more than 50 m long with sheer faces to the north and south, a flattish bottomed gully to the south, and another, more broken ridge south of the gully. Colourful sessile invertebrates on the sides and seaweeds on top.

The Middelmas reefs:

  • Hakka Reef (Middelmas): S34°01.747’ E018°18.328’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 21 m.
    50 Die Middelmas is a rock that projects several metres above the water at all tides, to the west of the Oude Schip peninsula.
    51 Hakka Reef Southeast pinnacles is off this rock.
    52 Hakka Reef Sven's Caves pinnacles is nearby at a set of pinnacles near a sand patch.
  • 53 Twin Towers: S34°01.920’ E018°18.330’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth about 20 m at the tops of the pinnacles to 34 m on the sand.
    A small but tall double-peaked granite pinnacle on a narrow base reef and surrounded by sand.

Leeugat (Maori Bay)[edit]

The Maori carried large steel pipes
Wreckage of the SAS Gelderland

Although several of the sites are quite close inshore, this area is in practice only accessible by boat, as the distance to the nearest parking is too far to carry dive gear (about 3 km as the crow flies, more on foot).

Local geography: Leeugat, also known to divers as Maori Bay, lies at the foot of the Karbonkelberg, between the northern headland of Oude Schip, and Duikerpunt to the south. It is a small bay, but fairly deep close inshore, which in combination with the partial barrier afforded by the reefs at the headlands, has provided the wrecks in Leeugat bay with better protection from wave action than those on more exposed parts of the coastline. This means that not only have they lasted well for their ages, but conditions are suitable for diving more often than for many other wrecks on the Atlantic seaboard of the Cape Peninsula.

This is an area of granite bedrock of the Peninsula pluton, The reefs are exposed corestone outcrops and boulders, with sand patches in the deeper areas

The sites include:

  • 54 MV Keryavor and the Jo May: S34°02.037’ E018°18.636’
    Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Not available, probably between 25 and 30 m.
    These two wrecks lie next to each other approximately between the Maori and the Gelderland. The Jo May sank first and not much of her wooden structure remains. The Ker Yar Vor was a steel lobster fishing vessel and several chunks of hull structure and twisted sections of plating remain.
  • 55 SS Maori: S34°02.062’ E018°18.793’ (Machinery)
    Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 6 to 21 m
    The SS Maori was a typical British steam cargo vessel of the early 1890s. The ship was wrecked in the bay between Oude Schip and Duikerpunt on 5 August 1909 in thick fog and drizzle while on a voyage from London to New Zealand.
  • 56 SAS Gelderland: S34°02.070’ E018°18.180’
    Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 30 to 35 m
    The Ford class Seaward Defense Boat SAS Gelderland was scuttled on 21s ecember 1988, north west of Duiker Point, as demolition trials.
    The vessel was about 40 m long but the main part of the wreckage is now only about 20 m long as the bow and stern sections were blown right off.
    Plan B pinnacle is just to the south of the southernmost wreckage.
  • 57 SS Oakburn / MV Bos 400: S34°02.216’ E018°18.573’
    Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Maximum 22 m
    The "Oakburn", a British cargo steamer of 3865 tons, was wrecked on the north side of Duikerpunt in fog on 21 May 1906, on a voyage from New York to Sydney. The Oakburn has pretty much fallen apart, and on 27 June 1994, the French pipe-laying crane barge Bos 400, broke its towline and stranded virtually on top of the older wreck. The Bos has started to break up, and two large sections have collapsed into the sea, though the main crane section is still firmly stuck on top of the rocks.

Outer Hout Bay[edit]

Map of the dive sites near Duiker Point
Seals will often visit divers at the safety stop
Occasionally a Dusky dolphin may pass nearby

This area includes the dive sites between Duiker Point and Duiker Island and the extensive reefs to the south as far as Vulcan Rock and Tafelberg Reef. All of these are only accessible by boat. There are a number of sites being explored in this area: the reefs between Kanobi’s wall and Stonehenge, and a wreck of a lifeboat which was used to salvage materials from the Boss 400 and which lies between Stonehenge and Duiker Island are among these. There are several unexplored pinnacles in the region identified on the SAN charts as bakleiplaas, where the sea is often very lumpy due to the influence of the underwater topography on the swell.

Local geography: The suburb of Hout Bay lies in the valley between the Constantiaberg to the east and the peninsula formed by Karbonkelberg and its lesser peaks to the west. One of these peaks, the Sentinel, gives its name to a dive site at its foot. At the mouth of the valley is the business area of Hout Bay, with its small commercial fishing harbour and marina, and a public slipway used by dive charters and private dive boats for access to most of the southern peninsula dive sites on the Atlantic coast. The slipway is in good condition, wide and accessible, and has a large parking area, which on occasions can be crowded due to heavy use by commercial fishing skiboats.

The bedrock of this area is granite of the Peninsula pluton, and most of the sites are on corestone reefs of this rock.

The sites include:

Duiker Point sites:

  • 58 Die Perd: S34°02.282’ E18°18.324’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Not available, maximum probably about 20 m
    This rock off Duiker Point extends above the water and is surrounded by rugged reefs of high outcrops and deep gullies.
  • 59 Kanobi’s Wall: S34°02.365’ E018°18.138’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 25 m.
    This blinder off Duiker Point is a good site with rugged topography, good biodiversity and large depth variation. Huge boulders are stacked, with tunnels, overhangs and caves of various sizes, and lots of vertical walls, some probably 10 m or more in height.
  • 60 SURG Pinnacles: S34°02.375' E018°18.015'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 9 to over 30 m.
    A group of steep granite corestone pinnacles, probably mostly huge boulders, with walls, overhangs and a swimthrough. Deep narrow cracks divide the pinnacles. Spectacular topography, covered with lots of sea urchins and vast numbers of hairy brittlestars, a moderate variety of sponges, noble corals, gorgonians, and patches of cauliflower soft coral. Red bait and Laminaria on the tops of the pinnacles. Surge can be strong when a long swell is running.
  • Star Wall: S34°02.466' E18°18.087' (pinnacle)
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 6 to 32 m.
    This site has the tallest and longest wall known in the Cape Town area and is a dive site well worth visiting. A massive and continuous granite wall of about 25m almost vertical height, extending for a length of 100 m on the south face and 50 m on the south-east face. Very diverse and colourful invertebrate cover on the wall face. The sites are:
    61 Star Wall
    62 Star Wall - M&M Cave
    63 Star Wall - Lollipop Pinnacle
  • 64 Sunfish Pinnacle: S34°02.475' E18°18.290' (pinnacle)
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 7 to 26 m.
    A fairly large pinnacle on a rocky bottom on the way to Duiker Point from Hout Bay harbour, which has been picked up quite frequently on the echo sounders of dive boats passing over it. It has now been dived, and to some extent mapped. The site is quite pretty and should make a pleasant alternative site. Topography is rugged, with high vertical walls on two sides of the pinnacle.

Stonehenge sites:

  • 65 Canyon: S34°02.595’ E018°18.073’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 35 m.
    The area is named for a gully between rows of pinnacles. Big boulders and rock outcrops cover an extensive area.
  • Stonehenge: S34°02.838’ E018°18.316’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 22 m.
    The area is named for a group of tall rocks which break the surface. Big boulders and rock outcrops cover an extensive area. High profile in the deeper areas, with swimthroughs, holes and overhangs. Heavy kelp in some areas. Included in this area, Stonehenge Blinder, a pinnacle that approaches the surface and breaks in a large swell or at low tide.
    66 Stonehenge Dusky Pinnacles - Coral Pinnacle
    67 Stonehenge North
    68 A-340 Pinnacle
    69 Stonehenge Central
    70 Stonehenge South
    71 Stonehenge Blinder
    72 Stonehenge Wreck

Seal Island sites:

  • 73 Seal Island (Duiker island): S34°03.458’ E018°19.562’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Shallow, mostly less than 6 m.
    The small rocky islet marked on maps and charts as Duikereiland has become known as Seal Island due to the resident colony of seals which has become a tourist attraction. It should not be confused with Seal Island in False Bay.

Vulcan Rock sites:

Diver at Di's Cracks. (photo Di Froude)
  • 74 Di’s Cracks: S34°03.855’ E018°18.400’ – Big 14m pinnacle - boulder on top of reef .About 300 m north west (328° magnetic) of Vulcan Rock
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 10 to 30 m.
    A spectacular dive if the visibility is good. Lots of walls and overhangs, swimthoughs and deep, wide cracks. Rich invertebrate cover. Good site for dramatic wide angle scenic photography.
  • 75 Vulcan Rock: S34°03.967’ E018°18.582’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth is over 25 m near the rock.
    Vulcan rock is the highest point of a large granite reef and breaks the surface at some states of the tide. It is low and flat on top. A spectacular dive if the visibility is good.

Tafelberg Reef sites:

  • 76 Tafelberg Reef: S34°04.22’ E018°18.93’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 8 to 30 m.
    Extensive area of rugged granite outcrops with high relief and sand bottom at about 29 m to the west. Deep crevices and gullies. Not much overhang, but a lot of vertical faces. Very rugged and spectacular topography in good visibility.
  • 77 Klein Tafelberg Reef (Salad bowl, Yacht wreck): S34°04.442’ E018°19.191’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 14 to 36 m.
    Huge granite outcrop with big boulders. Sand bottom in deeper areas. Rugged and spectacular topography. The wreckage of a GRP yacht lies in an indentation on the side of the pinnacle. It is possible to do a 40 to 45 m dive starting on the sand to the east of the reef, and swim up the reef on a north-westerly heading, but it is likely that decompression will be required if you get all the way to the shallow pinnacle.
  • Tafelberg Deep:
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 40 m on the sand.
    Low to medium profile granite outcrops, sloping up towards the Tafelberg Deep Pinnacle south of the pinnacle at Klein Tafelberg Reef. It is possible to do a 50 m dive and swim up the reef, but some decompression will be required.
    78 Tafelberg Deep
    79 Tafelberg Deep Pinnacle

Hout Bay[edit]

Wreck of the MV Aster on a good day
Map of the wrecks of the MV Aster and MV Katsu Maru

This area includes the sites between the Sentinel and Chapmans Peak. Most of these are boat dives. The one exception, Sentinel, can be accessed by land without great difficulty, but has a security problem.

The Sentinel is a typical area of granite coastline, with large numbers of boulders along the shore and corestone reefs with the usual rounded profiles.The wrecks of the Aster and Katsu Maru are on a flat sand bottom, and the site at Die Josie is on relatively unweathered granite at the base of the cliffs of Lower Chapman’s Peak

The sites include:

  • 80 Sentinel:
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Depth: Mostly less than 10 m.
    This is the place on the Atlantic coast where the 30 m depth contour is closest to the shore.
    The Sentinel is considered by some to be the area below the vertical cliffs, and is an area of flat reef with lots of kelp and box jellyfish, and some big boulders.
    The Pinnacles are a group of rocks near the shore just out of Hout Bay harbour, near the sewage works.
  • 81 MV Aster: S34°03.891’ E018°20.955’
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth 28 m.
    The 340 ton, 27 m long Motor Fishing Vessel "Aster" was a South African registered lobster fishing vessel which was prepared as a diver-friendly artificial reef by cleaning and cutting openings into the structure and was scuttled in Hout Bay near the wreck of the "MV Katzu Maru" on 9 August 1997. It it has been used as a training site for wreck penetration. The vessel is upright on the bottom and is beginning to break up.
  • 82 MV Katsu Maru: S34°03.910’ E018°20.942’ (middle of the wreck)
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 30 m.
    The Japanese trawler "Katsu Maru #25" struck an unidentified object at sea and was holed on the port side. While under tow to Hout Bay the vessel flooded and it sank in the bay on 7 August 1978. The wreck lies on its starboard side on the sand bottom.
  • 83 Die Josie: S34° 04.497’ E018° 21.256’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 7 to 17 m.
    A shallow reef below Chapman's Peak, which is close to Hout Bay harbour and is suitable for night dives. One of the few areas where the granite is not rounded by weathering, as can be seen from the cliffs above the site.

Atlantic South Peninsula[edit]

Location of the dive sites from Kommetjie to Olifantsbospunt

This area includes all of the peninsula coast south of Noordhoek. It is not often dived for recreational purposes as it is a long way from good launch sites and not many good dive sites are known. There are several wrecks in this area, particularly at Albatross Rocks/Olifantsbospunt. Only a few of the wrecks have been positively identified.

The sites include

  • 84 SS Clan Monroe: S34°08.817' E18°18.949'
    Wreck and Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 4 to 8 m.
    Wrecked a little north of the Slangkop lighthouse at Kommetjie. Very seldom dived. Shallow flat sandstone reef, with wreckage encrusted with coralline algae.
  • SS Thomas T. Tucker:
    Wreck and Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Shallow
    This ship was wrecked high on the rocks, and parts of the wreckage are visible on shore. Most of the wreckage is in fairly shallow water.
  • 85 Star of Africa:
    Wreck and Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: about 27 m maximum.
  • 86 SS Bia: Bow section: S34°16.140' E018°22.812' Main section: S34°16.217' E018°22.638'
    Wreck and Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 3 to 8 m.
  • 87 SS Umhlali: S34°16.435' E18°22.487'
    Wreck and Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 5 to 8 m.
  • 88 Albatross Rock: S34°16.495' E18°22.197'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Probably less than 15 m near the rock.
  • South-west Reefs:
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Uncertain.
    A massive area of shallow reef and kelp beds to the west of the tip of the peninsula. It is the haunt of spearfisherman and crayfish catchers and is unexplored on scuba.

False Bay coast of the Cape Peninsula[edit]

Dive sites from Kalk Bay to Rocklands Point
Dive sites of the False Bay coast of the Cape Peninsula

Introduction and some tips on diving the False Bay coast of the Cape Peninsula (Simon’s Town side)

Unlike the rest of the region, the west side of False Bay is sheltered from the winter westerlies, but in return it takes the South-Easter head on. As a result of this the region is usually dived in winter, when the South-Easter seldom blows for long or with great force.

The winter frontal storms over the Southern Ocean produce swells which are slowed by the continental shelf and refracted and diffused round the Cape Peninsula, so that they propagate mostly parallel to the coastline, and have lost much of their energy by the time they curve in towards the shore. The irregular form of the coast here also protects some areas more than others. Generally speaking, those parts of the coast which run in a more north west to south east direction are better protected from the south west swell than the north to south parts, so the choice of dive site is dependent on the recent weather patterns.

During the summer months when the South-Easter blows more frequently, for longer, and generally harder, this area is not as often diveable, and the visibility is generally poorer than in winter even when conditions are otherwise suitable.

The water temperature during the winter months in this area is generally warmer than the Atlantic coast in summer, which is some compensation for the shorter daylight hours and often cold and rainy weather.

Water temperature may vary with depth. There is usually a thermocline in summer, and the visibility may change significantly below the thermocline. The surface can be 18 or 19°C with 10 or 11°C at the bottom, but the difference is more likely to be 5°C or less. Conditions at depth are not easily predictable, and may be better or worse than near the surface. There can be a plankton bloom in the surface layers and a sudden improvement in visibility from 3 m or less to over 10 m in the cold bottom water. The depth of the thermocline is also not very predictable, but has been known to be between 12 and 20 m in late summer.

In winter the water may be the same temperature from top to bottom, and as there is less sunlight to power the phytoplankton blooms, the visibility and natural illumination can be better even though there is less light at the surface.

Between the cold and rainy fronts there are frequently days of little or no wind, and mild to warm sunshine, when the water is flat and clear and the diving is wonderful, and the large number of sites make it difficult to decide where to go as there is so much choice. It’s a tough life here at the end of Africa, but somebody has to do it.

Water temperature during winter is usually between 13°C and 17°C, though it has been known to drop as low as 11°C, so a good suit is also needed here. In summer the temperature may rise above 20°C, but is more likely to be around 17°C to 19°C.

Most of the shore dives are relatively shallow, in the order of 8 m to 15 m maximum depth, though it is possible to do a 30 m shore dive if you don’t mind a 700 m swim to get there. The shallow waters make a dry suit less advantageous, but getting out of a wet suit in the wind and rain at night push the dry suit up again as a desirable option. It is nice to have the choice, and many local divers switch between wet and dry suits depending on the dive planned.

Muizenberg to Kalk Bay[edit]

Commercial diver training at Kalk Bay harbour wall

These sites are the northernmost sites of the west side of False Bay. They are shallow and exposed to the south easterly winds and waves, so are generally considered winter dives.

Local geography: There is a narrow strip of land between the mountainside and the sea which is occupied by the suburbs of St James and Kalk Bay, and at the southern end of this there is a small hill called Trappieskop. At this point the coastline curves out into False Bay before turning back to form Fish Hoek Bay. The small commercial fishing harbour at Kalk Bay is built in this cove.

This is an area where the shoreline is sandstone of the Table Mountain series, and the dip is nearly horizontal at about 7° to the south. The resulting shoreline is generally rocky, with some sandy areas, and is surprisingly shallow considering the steepness of the mountainside. Sand bottom starts at about 5 m depth at Dale Brook and nearer 9 m at the harbour.

The sites include:

  • 1 Muizenberg trawler wrecks
    Wreck dive, boat access. Maximum depth about 18 m.
    Two steel trawlers that were scuttled for bombing practice in the 1970s or thereabout. They are fairly wasted, but the hull structures are moderately intact and heavily overgrown by invertebrates.
  • 2 Dale Brook: S34°07.436’ E018°27.154’
    Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 6 m.
    This site is well known in the scientific literature for a large diversity of marine life, and it has been a sanctuary zone for a long time, but is seldom dived by recreational scuba divers. It is ideal as a snorkelling site due to the shallow depth and large variety of reef life, and is a very pleasant scuba dive in calm conditions. It is the nearest site for road access from most of the city on the east side of the peninsula.
  • 3 Kalk Bay Harbour Wall: S34:07.787’ E018:26.967'
    Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 10 m.
    Concrete harbour wall with sand and low rock reef at base. Bottom relief not very high. Low reef of sandstone, patches of pebble and sand at about 8 to 9 m.

Fish Hoek and Glencairn[edit]

These relatively shallow sites are exposed to south easterly wind and swell and are generally considered winter dives. All can be done as shore dives, though Fish Hoek Reef and Quarry Barge are usually done as boat dives as there is a long swim from shore. Great White sharks have been seen cruising in this area.

Local geography: The low lying and relatively flat valley of Fish Hoek is bounded on the south side by the steep slopes of Brakkloofrant and Else Peak, which also slopes steeply to the sea on the east.

Fish Hoek Reef is some distance off the beach, and the other dive sites of this area are along this short stretch of rocky coastline. The main road to Simon’s Town, the M4, and the railway line share the narrow coastal strip. There is space for a few houses at Sunny Cove, and just past Quarry the Else river has cut a smaller valley with Glencairn beach. The quarry referred to is a disused sandstone quarry on the mountainside above the road just to the north of the dive site of that name.

This is an area where faulting has caused the Table Mountain Sandstones to extend below sea level, The strike is generally east-west and the dip is shallow, from about 7° (south) at Sunny cove to about 10° (south) at Quarry. Jointing, however, is approximately north west/south east.

The sites include:

  • 4 Fish Hoek Reef:
    Reef dive. Boat or shore access. Maximum depth about 15 m.
  • 5 Sunny Cove: S34°08.68’ E018°26.30’
    Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 11 m.
    Named after the railway station at the site. Moderate relief sandstone rocks, ridges and gullies shelving down to sand at about 10 m.
  • 6 Quarry: S34°09.390’ E018°26.157’ (Entry/exit ledge)
    Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 10 m.
    Named after the old sandstone quarry in the hillside above the road slightly to the north. Sloping ramp-like ridges of Table Mountain sandstone, approximately perpendicular to the shoreline, with occasional sandy pockets. Profile not very high.
  • 7 Quarry Barge: S34°09.395’ E018°26.474’ (approximate)
    Wreck and Reef dive. Boat or shore access. Depth 12 to 14 m.
    Small wreck of a steel barge. The hull is fairly intact and lies upright on a sandy patch between the reefs. Two holds are open to access from above and the overhead around the sides is trivial.
  • 8 Glencairn Fan Garden: S34°09.418' E018°26.412' (approximate)
    Reef dive. Boat access. Depth 12 to 14 m.
    Fairly extensive area of low to medium profile sandstone reef with sandy patches, and large numbers of gorgonian sea fans, mostly the Palmate sea fan, but also a moderate number of Sinuous sea fans and a few Whip fans.
  • 9 P87 wreck: S34°09.570’ E018°26.420’
    Wreck dive, boat access. Depth: About 15 m.
    Wreckage of a small wooden naval patrol boat. Its position is indicated on SAN1017 as ¼ nm south-south-west of the Quarry Barge in 15 m.

Simon's Town[edit]

The dive site at Long Beach
Long beach has easy shore access and is very sheltered, and is popular for training and night dives

The small bay on the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula known as Simon’s Bay is the most sheltered part of the False Bay coastline from the south westerly swells, and is also better protected from south easterly swells than any other place on this part of the coast.

As the main anchorage of the Cape at Table Bay is badly exposed to the north westerly storms of winter, and Hout Bay is open to the south westerly swells, Simon’s Bay was the only reasonably safe alternative anchorage within a reasonable distance from Cape Town, and for these reasons was chosen by the first Dutch Governor at the Cape, Simon van der Stel, as the winter anchorage for the Dutch East India Company at the Cape.

The town that developed at this anchorage became known as Simon’s Town, and the anchorage developed into the headquarters and dockyard for the Southern hemisphere of the Royal Navy and later for the South African Navy, which it remains to this day.

The overland access to the town is relatively poor, comprising the winding and narrow main road along the False Bay coast, with the parallel Boyes Drive and railway line, the even more winding Chapman’s Peak drive on the Atlantic coast, and the Old Cape Road (Ou Kaapseweg), a fairly steep and winding pass over the mountains in the middle of the peninsula. All are scenic routes, but none are really suited to high volume traffic, and can be annoyingly congested during rush hour. All converge on the False Bay coastal road just before reaching Simon’s Town.

The dive sites are fairly sheltered from south east wind and swell, more so further south at Long Beach, and are diveable most of the winter and some of the time in summer.

Local geography: The town is at the base of the coastal mountains, which are quite steep and have very little reasonably flat ground at the foot of the slopes, however the bay is shallow and mostly sandy bottomed, with a long sandy beach on the western side. To the east of the Naval dockyard the coastline becomes rocky again, with exposed granite corestones at Seaforth.

This area has a sandstone coastline, probably Graafwater series, but not much reef is exposed at the dive sites which are mostly on sand bottom.

The sites include:

  • 10 SS Clan Stuart: S34°10.303’ E018°25.842’
    Wreck dive. Shore access. Maximum depth 9 m.
    The “Clan Stuart”, a 3500 ton British turret steamer, ran aground after dragging its anchor in a south east gale on 21 November 1914. The ship’s engine block still breaks the surface.
  • 11 Brunswick: S34°10.880’ E018°25.607’
    Wreck dive. Shore or boat access. Depth: 4 to 6 m.
    English East Indiaman of 1,200 tons, captured by the French Admiral Linois in the Indian Ocean and brought to Simon's Town. Ran aground at Simon's Town on 19 September 1805 after losing three anchors during a south east gale. Not much is left of the wreckage.
  • 12 HNMS Bato: S34°10.998’ E018°25.560’
    Wreck dive. Shore access. Depth: 3 to 4 m
    Dutch warship of 800 tons and 74 guns. The ship had been used as a floating battery in Simon’s Bay for several years. Set on fire and sunk off Long Beach, Simon's Town, on 8 January 1806, the same day that the Battle of Blaauwberg began. Not much of the wreck remains.
  • 13 Long Beach: S34°11.239' E18°25.559'
    Wreck dive. Underwater navigation route. Shore access. Maximum depth about 9 m.
    Named for the long stretch of sandy beach. At first glance bland, but careful investigation will reveal interesting and varied life. This is the place to go when conditions are bad elsewhere. Very popular training site, and great for getting new equipment configurations sorted out.
    There are a few small wrecks which may be visited on a compass navigation route.
  • 14 Simon's Town Jetty
    Artificial reef dive. Shore access. Depth about 2 m.
    Small jetty on concrete pilings. Very easy access and very sheltered.
  • 15 False Bay Yacht Club moorings
    Artificial reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 8 m.
    Yacht club marina with a little reef and some wreckage. Extends as far as the Simon's Town harbour wall where some of the wrecks are still floating.

Roman Rock area reefs[edit]

Roman Rambler and Castor rocks map.png

The offshore dives in the vicinity of Roman Rock are relatively exposed to the south east swells, but are deeper, so the effect is less severe once you are at depth. Strong south east wind and chop can make the boat trip uncomfortable, so these sites are not often dived in summer, when the visibility is frequently poor.

Local geography: The sea bed is mostly very gradually sloping sand in this area, with massive granite outcrops, which are the dive sites. The sand tends to be fairly fine away from the reefs, with coarser shelly sand near the base of the rocks.

The offshore sites at Roman Rock, Rambler Rock and Castor Rock are huge granite corestones of the Peninsula pluton.

The sites include:

  • 16 Target Reef S34°10.619’ E018°27.226’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 6 to 22 m
    Small granite and rubble reef with disused concrete naval gunnery target base.
  • 17 Livingstone Reef: S34°10.605' E018°27.571'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 14 to 23 m
    Granite corestone reef of moderate size with good relief and diverse invertebrates.
  • Castor Rock reefs: S34°10.74’ E018°27.61’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 4 to 20 m
    Extensive reef of granite. Basically a very large outcrop with occasional high areas, small gullies, boulders, small crevices and overhangs. The reef top is of moderate relief, with relatively shallow sandy gullies, small overhangs and boulders, and has some steep areas at the edges.
    18 Castor Rock - Northern Pinnacle is across a narrow sand bottomed gap to the north of the main reef.
    19 Castor Rock - Central Pinnacle is on the main reef.
    20 Wonders Pinnacle is on the west side of the south lobe of Castor Rock.
    21 Roman's Rest is at the east end of the south lobe of Castor Reef
  • Roman Rock reefs: S34°10.87’ E018°27.60’
    Reef dives. Boat access only. Maximum depth 21 m.
    This area comprises a cluster of granite outcrops separated by sand bottom, on the largest of which the lighthouse stands.
    22 Roman Rock North: A fairly large but relatively low expanse of reef roughly northwest of the lighthouse, of no known special interest. Shallowest point at about 11 m, and about 18 m on the sand to the north-west.
    23 Roman Rock: An easy dive site to find as it is marked by the lighthouse of the same name off Simon’s Town Harbour. A large granite reef with a depth range from 20 m at the east end to the surface around the lighthouse rocks.
    24 Spider Crab Reefs: Two small parallel reefs to the west of Roman Rock, rising from sand at about 21 m to 16 m at the shallowest point. They are separated by a narrow sand gap and can be seen from each other in reasonable visibility.
    25 Roman Rock South: A small section of reef parallel to the main reef about 100 m southwest of the lighthouse rising from sand at about 21 m to probably about 18 m on top.
  • 26 Tivoli Pinnacles. S34°10.892’ E018°27.765’: About 250 m bearing 301° magnetic to Roman Rock Lighthouse.
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 10 to 22 m.
    A compact, high profile reef a short distance to the east of Roman Rock.
  • Friskies Pinnacles
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 12 to 22 m
    Two small reefs with high pinnacle a short distance to the east of the Castor Rock reefs.
    27 Friskies Pinnacle: S34°10.778’ E018°27.822’, the larger and shallower, to the south, and
    28 North Friskies Pinnacle the smaller and deeper, to the north.
  • Rambler Rock reefs
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 10 to 22 m.
    A high granite reef east of the Roman Rock lighthouse off Simon’s Town Harbour. There are four major groups of rocks at this site.
    29 Rambler Rock North-west pinnacle: S34°10.924’ E018°27.899’
    30 Rambler Rock North-east reefs: S34°10.916' E018°27.996'
    31 Rambler Rock Southern pinnacles: S34°11.011’ E018°27.918’
    32 Hotlips Pinnacle: S34°11.145' E018°28.091' (Hotlips Pinnacle)
  • 33 Dome Rock: S34°11.119' E018°27.776' (Dome Rock pinnacle)
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 16 to 25 m.
    A compact granite reef south of the Roman Rock lighthouse, and west of the southern part of the Rambler Rock reefs.
  • Random Rocks Reefs
    Reef dive. Boat access only. A small group of reefs south of Rambler Rocks.
    34 Rudy's Random Rocks: S34°11.329' E018°28.037' (Pinnacle at south end) Depth 21 to 26 m. A compact granite reef.
    35 Reef With No Name (little pinnacles): S34°11.365' E018°28.055' (Pinnacle) A partially surveyed reef of unknown extent, probably quite small.

Seaforth to Froggy Pond[edit]

Map showing the dive sites of the Seaforth area
The dive sites around Noah's Ark Rock
Some more dive sites at Seaforth

These sites are to the east and south of the Naval dockyard at Simon's Town. They are moderately shallow and exposed to the south east wind and swells, so are generally considered winter dives.

Local geography: These sites are all areas of granite corestone reef, though there may be occasional sandstone boulders.

The Seaforth sites include:

  • 36 Ammunition Barges: S34°11.408’ E018°26.985’
    Wreck dive. Boat or shore access. Depth: 8 to 10 m.
    Two small steel barges to the west of Phoenix shoal. They are heavily overgrown and quite broken up.
  • 37 Phoenix shoal: S34°11.388' E018°26.898'
    Reef and wreck dive. Boat or shore access. Maximum depth 10 m.
    The "Phoenix" was a British ship of 500 tons, built in 1810. It was wrecked a little to seaward of Phoenix Shoal in Simon's Bay on 19 July 1829. Some of the iron ballast can be seen on the reef, and the stem lies buried in sand.
  • Noah’s Ark and the Ark Rock Wrecks: S34°11.533’ E018°27.232’
    Wreck and reef dive. Boat or shore access. Maximum depth 14 m.
    Named for the large rock of the same name on the SAN charts. There is a wreck of a barge just south of the rock, the wreck of a small steam-powered vessel to the west and a larger iron or steel vessel, probably the "Parana", wrecked in 1862, to the north west. Wreckage in the form of isolated boilers of an unknown steamboat or steamboats can be found south and east of the barge wreck. There are also arrays of concrete pillars remaining from a disused naval degaussing range to the south, and another small steel wreck to the east of the rock.
    38 Noah’s Ark Rock
    39 Ark Rock Barge wreck
    40 Ark Rock Boiler wreck #1
    41 Ark Rock Boiler wreck #2
    Ark Rock Boiler wreck #3a
    42 Ark Rock Boiler wreck#3b
    43 Parana wreck, main section
    44 Parana wreck, small section
    45 Noah’s Ark - Double row of concrete pillars
    46 Noah’s Ark - Single row of concrete pillars
    47 Noah’s Ark - Eastern wreck
    48 Noah’s Ark - Heat exchanger
    49 Noah’s Ark - Twin barges
  • 50 Penguin Point (Boulders): S34°11.889’ E018°27.254’
    Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth 8 m.
    Named for the penguin sanctuary. This is the point and inshore reef at the south east end of Boulders Beach at Seaforth.
  • Maidstone Rock reefs: S34°11.581' E018°27.466'
    Reef dive. Boat access Depth: 8 to 27 m.
    Named for the reef shown on the SA Navy charts. The sites are Maidstone Rock, Anchor Reef and Ammo Reef
    51 Maidstone Rock
    52 Anchor Reef
    53 Ammo Reef
  • 54 Photographer’s Reef (JJM Reef): S34°11.839’ E18°27.434’
    Reef dive. Boat or shore access. Depth 3 to 14 m.
    This reef is marked as Photographer’s reef on the SAN charts. It is also known to divers who dived it in the 1980s as JJM Reef. The lower reef to the south is JJM junior. There are several other isolated reefs in the area, mostly small, fairly low and not named.
  • 55 Torch Reef: S34° 11.700’ E018°27.960’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 20 to 30 m.
    This is a small reef east of Photographer’s reef. On one of the first recorded dives at this site a diver lost his torch, and the name stuck.
  • 56 Outer Photographer's Reef: S34°11.778' E018°27.898'
    Reef dive. Boat access only Depth range 20 to 30 m.
    An large isolated granite outcrop east of Photographer's Reef about 140 m south west from Torch reef. Flat topped and sheer walled.
Map of the offshore reefs off Windmill Beach, Simon's Town, South Africa

The Windmill Beach and Froggy Pond sites include:

  • 61 Windmill Beach: S34°12.06’ E018°27.40’
    Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 8 m.
    Shore dive with very sheltered beach entry and exit areas. Sand bottom with large granite outcrops and boulders, some with very high relief, extending from flat sand to near or above the surface. Slowly shelving beaches. Popular training site.
  • 62 Froggy pond: S34°12.22’ E018°27.40’
    Reef dive. Shore access Depth: Shallower than 10 m.
    This little bay is actually called Froggy Pond on the official maps and charts of the area. In spite of its name this is a sea dive, and there will be no frogs. Sandy beach with boulders in the shallows. Quite steeply shelving at the shoreline. Rocky reefs to both sides.
  • 63 Fisherman's Beach: S34°12.357’ E018°27.497’
    Reef dive. Shore access. Depth: Shallower than 10 m.
    The next cove south of Froggy Pond. It has a much longer beach.

Oatlands Point[edit]

The dive sites at Oatlands Point

Oatlands Point is the first point south of the Froggy Pond area. There is a small group of houses on the seaward side of the main road, and more houses up the mountainside. It is easily recognised by the large flattish topped granite boulder just offshore.

Local geography: Oatlands Point is at the foot of Swartkop peak, at 678 m, the highest point of the southern peninsula. The mountainside is fairly steep, and the houses are in a fairly narrow band along the coast. This is the part of False Bay where the 30 m isobath is at its closest point to the shore and where access is good for a shore dive.

These sites are all areas of granite corestone reef, though there may be occasional sandstone boulders. The smaller boulders along the shore are often sandstone which have moved down the mountainside over the years and have been rounded in the surf.

The sites include:

  • 64 A-Frame (Oatlands Point): S34°12.484’ E018°27.662’
    Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 10 m
    Named for a tripod beacon which has now been replaced by a simple post. The beacon is one of the boundary markers for a marine sanctuary. The site is also marked by a huge granite outcrop which extends several metres above the water. To the north is sand bottom with low reef and big boulders, some breaking the surface, and a couple of swimthroughs. Ridges of medium height extend beyond the big rock with a pinnacle at the seaward end. To the south there are more outcrops, and an extensive area of scattered small boulders and outcrops with sand bottom between, getting rockier towards the shore.
  • 65 D-Frame (Oatlands Reef, Wave Rock): S34°12.378’ E018°27.996’
    Reef dive. Shore access. Depth: 15 to 30 m.
    This is the point on the west side of False Bay where the 30 m contour is closest to the shore. Divers wishing to do a 30 m shore dive can do it here.
    The reef comprises several large outcrops of granite with sand bottom between. There is one point that rises to about 4 m from the surface with an almost vertical drop to 14 m on both sides. Most parts are not nearly this high. The south reef has an overhanging rock outcrop known as the “Wave Rock”.

Rocklands Point[edit]

Map of the dive sites around Rocklands Point

South of Oatlands Point, the shore gets steeper, and there are not many houses. The road winds along the shoreline, gaining altitude slightly towards Miller’s Point. Rocklands Point is recognisable from the road by Spaniard Rock. a moderately large sized granite rock about 100 m offshore, and the largest visible rock in the area.

The shore is rather steep at Rocklands Point, and there are no houses in the immediate vicinity. There is an extensive area of shallow rocky reef inshore of Rocklands blinder and Spaniard Rock. South of Spaniard Rock, and extending to a blinder to the south known as Stern Reef, is an area of scattered granite reef, mostly low, but with a few fairly high outcrops. This area is complex and has not yet been mapped.

Like the sites to the north and south, this is an area of granite corestones on a sand bottom, though sandstone boulders are frequently found at the water’s edge.

The sites include:

  • 66 Insanity Reef: S34°12.817’ E018°28.044’
    Reef dive. Boat access. Depth: 2 to 14 m.
    Large granite corestone outcrops and boulders on a fairly level sand bottom. The reef is fairly small and broken up, but compact, and all the rocks are close together. There is a huge boulder at the north end which is supported on outcrops to form a small sand bottomed swimthrough with about 4 entrances.
  • 67 Rocklands Blinder (Seal Colony): S34°12.9’ E018°28.0’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Depth: 3 to 13 m.
    The main reef is large outcrops of granite rising from about 13 m on the sand to the north east, to about 3 to 4 m depth on top. The inshore side slopes down more gradually to lots of small boulders and low outcrops. The smaller second reef is high and on a sand bottom.
  • 68 Spaniard Rock: S34°13.03’ E018°28.03’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth 13 m.
    Spaniard rock is a high pinnacle on a sand bottom which extends a couple of metres above the water. Contiguous low reef lies to the north. To the west is another pinnacle comprising a group of big corestone outcrops and boulders, one of which breaks surface occasionally.
  • 69 Alpha Reef (Outer Spaniard): S34°12.987’ E018°28.184’
    Reef dive. Boat access. Depth 2 to 15 m.
    The site was previously known as Outer Spaniard, but Alpha reef now seems to be more common usage. The reef is an outcrop of granite corestones in two main sections divided by an east-west gulley.
  • 70 Omega Reef: S34.21426 E018.47412
    Reef dive, Boat access. Depth 15 to 25 m.
    A granite corestone reef about 220 m long from NW to SE, and about 80 m wide. Not often dived.
  • 71 Stern Reef: S34°13.164’ E018°28.032’
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 14 m.
    An extensive area of high to low relief granite corestone outcrops on a sand bottom, marked by a rock which breaks the surface at some states of the tide.
Dive sites from Miller's Point to Buffels Bay

Miller's Point[edit]

Map showing the dive sites at Caravan Reef

Local geography: This part of the peninsula coastline is a steep mountainside below the Swartkopberge. The mountainside is quite steep close to the shore, but on reaching the sea, the slope flattens out dramatically. The small rocky peninsula of Miller’s Point juts out rather abruptly into the bay and provides a sheltered site for the slipway from which most of the boat launches in this area are made. There is sufficient reasonably level ground for extensive parking areas off the main road, including boat trailer parking.

This area is characterised by large areas of granite corestone reef interspersed with sandy patches, and relatively flat sand bottom further out. There are also sandstone boulders along the shoreline. Many of the reefs are fairly large areas of massive outcrops with ridges, gullies and boulders on top, some of which are very large.

The sites include:

  • 1 SAS Pietermaritzburg: S34°13.303’ E018°28.465’
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth 22 m.
    This 1330 tonne minesweeper was launched in 1943 as HMS Pelorus, and was sold in 1947 to the South African Navy and renamed HMSAS Pietermaritzburg. It was scuttled by explosive charges on 12 November 1994 to form an artificial reef. The wreck lies upright on the sand and is slowly collapsing.
  • Caravan Reef including PMB Pinnacles, North Caravan, Central Caravan, South Caavan, Inner Caravan.
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 3 to 22 m
    This site is offshore of the caravan park at Miller’s Point, which may be the origin of its name. Extensive granite reefs on sand bottom. The reef may extend continuously to Miller's Point.
    2 Caravan Reef - PMB Pinnacles
    3 Caravan Reef - North Caravan
    4 Caravan Reef - Caravan Central east pinnacle
    5 Caravan Reef - Caravan Central north pinnacle
    6 Caravan Reef - South Caravan
    7 Caravan Reef - Inner Caravan
  • Miller's Point: S34°13.822’ E018°28.411’ (Slipway)
    Reef dive. Shore access. Depth: Shallow inshore.
    Fairly shallow rocky reef of granite outcrops and boulders, some smallish swimthroughs and quite a few overhangs and holes under boulders.
    8 Miller's Point slipway
    9 Miller's Point tidal pool
    10 Miller's Point - Rumbly Bay
  • 11 Murphy's: S34°13.958' E018°28.988'
    Reef dive. Boat access. Depth: 14 to about 20 m.
    Small pinnacle with medium profile adjacent reef of boulders and outcrops over a fairly large area.
  • 12 Boat Rock (Bakoven Rock): S34°14.05’ E18°29.05’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth 22 m.
    Coarse shelly sand bottom at about 14 m with big granite boulders and reef. The rock that gives the site its name extends a few metres above sea level. High relief and a lot of small holes under rocks, mostly too small to swim through.

Castle Rocks[edit]

Map showing the dive sites around Castle Rocks

This has been a marine sanctuary area for many years and as a result is one of the best sites for fish. There are several excellent dive sites accessible from a very limited amount of roadside parking, or by a short boat ride from Miller's Point.

Local geography: This part of the peninsula coastline is a steep mountainside below the Swartkopberge. There is very little ground along this strip which is not steep, but on reaching the sea, the slope flattens out and the small rocky peninsula of Castle Rocks juts out into the bay. There is sufficient reasonably sloped ground for a few houses above and below the main road.

This area is characterised by granite corestone reefs with sandy patches between them, and almost flat sand bottom further out. There will occasionally be the odd sandstone boulder which has made its way a short distance offshore with the assistance of wave action and gravity, and a lot of the smaller shoreline boulders are sandstone. Many of the reefs are fairly large areas of massive ridges, gullies with occasional loose boulders on top, and some of these boulders are huge.

The sites include:

  • 13 Fan Reef: S34°14.165 E18°29.260
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 25 to 30 m.
    A low granite outcrop at about 30 m maximum depth, with a large number of sea fans.
  • 14 Shark Alley: S34°14.21’ E018°28.60’ Estimated
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 12 m.
    Named for the Cowsharks often seen at the site. Big granite boulders and outcrops with sand patches. Shark Alley is between the kelp forests on near-shore reef and the reef surrounding Pyramid rock.
  • Pyramid reef
    Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 12 m.
    Named for the pointed rock that marks the site. It projects above the water at all tides and is easily identified. Large granite boulders and outcrops with sand around them in deep areas and at the bottom of some gullies. Several small tunnels, caves and overhangs. Lots of fish.
    15 Pyramid Reef East Pinnacle: S34°14.220’ E018°28.808’
    16 Pyramid Rock: S34°14.225’ E018°28.698’
    17 Castle Pinnacles: S34°14.356’ E018°28.826’ — A group of fairly tall pinnacles along the edge of the sand. One of them has a large swimthrough under it.
    Sansui Reef An area of picturesque small ridges and boulders on a rippled white sand bottom near the Castle Pinnacles.
  • Castle Rocks and Parson’s Nose:
    Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 18 m.
    Castle Rocks applies to the point as a whole and the offshore rocks to the south east. The point is a small rocky peninsula that can be an island at high tide.
    The small headland just to the south of Castle Rocks is known as Parson’s Nose. Castle Pinnacles is actually part of the Pyramid Rock reef, though if dived from the shore, the Castle Rocks north entry is likely to be used,
    18 Castle Rocks North SideS34°14.322’ E018°28.65’
    19 Castle Rocks Point Reefs (Outside Castle) S34°14.4’ E018°28.8’
    20 Inner Castle (South Castle) S34°14.46’ E018°28.674’
  • 21 Phone Reef: S34°14.225’ E018°29.202’
    Reef dive. Boat access. Depth 15 to about 24 m.
    A small patch of granite reef east of Outer Castle and north of Giant's Castle. There is a compact group of tall outcrops to the east of the reef, with the top of the pinnacle at about 15 m depth, The reef is surrounded by sand bottom. There is some unsurveyed reef to the south.
  • 22 Super Fan Reef: S34°14.265’ E018°29.170'
    Reef dive. Boat access. Depth about 18 to 25 m.
    A small patch of granite reef between Outer Castle, Giant's Castle, and Phone Reef. The reef is about 25 m long east to west and about 15 m north to south as shown on the Council for Geoscience bottom facies sonar interpretation, with the top of the ridge at about 5 to 7 m above the sand, The reef is surrounded by sand bottom. Currently unsurveyed.
  • 23 Giant's Castle: S34°14.362’ E018°29.225'
    Reef dive. Boat access. Depth 17 to about 30 m.
    A small patch of granite reef east of Outer Castle. The main feature is a compact group of tall outcrops with the top of the pinnacle at about 17 m depth, Below 24 m and the reef extends mainly to the east, and it is surrounded by sand bottom. There is a small low outlier to the north and Zigzag Reef reef is a short distance to the east.
  • 24 Zigzag Reef: S34°14.362’ E018°29.275'
    Reef dive. Boat access. Depth 20 to about 33 m.
    A small patch of granite reef east of Giant's Castle. The main feature is a tall and massive but compact outcrop with the top of the pinnacle at about 20 m depth, Below 24 m the low reef extends mainly to the north-east, and it is surrounded by sand bottom.
  • Pie Rock reefs:
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 5 to 25 m.
    Large granite corestone outcrops and boulders. There is a pinnacle to the east of the site, where it is generally deepest. Spectacular site in good visibility, and there are usually lots of fish.
    25 Outer Castle (Blindevals): S34°14.320’ E018°29.002’ — Depth: about 3 to 33 m. A blinder off Castle Rocks, which breaks if there is much swell. It is marked on the SAN charts as “blindevals”. The main feature of the site is a huge granite boulder on a rock base standing on four points with a swimthrough gap underneath and a small air trap overhang. Part of the Pie Reef area.
    26 North Pie Rock Reef: S34°14.375' E018°29.090' — Two adjacent groups of pointy pinnacles rising to about 9 m
    27 West Pie Rock Reef: S34°14.396' E018°28.943' — A lobe of reef extending in a southwesterly direction.
    28 East Pie Rock Reef: S34°14.432' E018°29.153'
    29 South Pie Rock Pinnacles: S34°14.445' E018°28.985' — A group of pinnacles on a lobe of reef extending southwards between two sand tongues.

Finlay's Point to Partridge Point[edit]

The stretch of coastline south of Castle Rocks to Smitswinkel Bay is not really accessible from the road, partly due to the higher altitude of the road in this area and partly due to the rather steep mountainside, so these dive sites, though mostly close to the shore, are almost always dived from a boat.

The stretch of coastline south of Castle Rocks to Smitswinkel Bay is not really accessible from the road, partly due to the higher altitude of the road in this area and partly due to the rather steep mountainside, so these dive sites, though mostly close to the shore, are almost always dived from a boat.

Local geography: There are two small points along this relatively straight coastline at Finlay’s Point and Partridge Point, where some very large granite corestones form reefs which extend some distance into the bay. A few of these project quite high above the water and are easy landmarks for the dive sites.

The shoreline is consistently rocky in this section, and is made up of granite corestones with sandstone boulders which have found their way down the mountainside over the years. Above the waterline, the lower mountainside is granitic saprolith with dense vegetation cover.

Map of the dive sites off Finlay's Point

The Finlay's Point area sites include:

  • 30 Finlay’s Point (Jenga Reef): S34°14.959' E018°28.611'
    Reef dive. Boat access. Shore access is possible but rather athletic. Maximum depth about 15 m.
    The last big boulders north of Partridge Point. Bottom is mostly low to moderate rocky reef of outcrops and boulders of assorted sizes, some pretty big, in chaotic arrangement. Directly off the big corestones of the point is an area of big boulders and rugged reef, with small patches of sand.
  • Finlay's Point offshore pinnacles
    • Graeme's Spot and The Jambles
      Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 9 to 24 m.
      Large granite outcrop and huge boulders on an extensive area of granite corestone reef bordered by sandy areas to the west, north and east, and Carnaby Street Pinnacle to the south. Good biodiversity and reef cover and spectacular topography.
      31 The Jambles: S34°14.885' E018°28.890' —
      32 Graeme's Spot: S34°14.9029' E018°28.9170' —
    • 33 Finlay's Pinnacle: S34°14.970' E018°28.780'
      Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 9 to 18 m.
      Large granite outcrop and boulders on an extensive area of granite corestone reef bordered by a sandy strip to the south. Contiguous reef extends to The Jambles to the north and Carnaby Street Pinnacle to the east.
    • 34 Carnaby Street Pinnacle: S34°14.980' E018°28.920'
      Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 9 to 24 m.
      Large granite outcrop and large boulders on an extensive area of granite corestone reef bordered by sandy areas to the south and east, Graeme's Spot to the north, and Finlay's Pinnacle to the west.
  • 35 Finlay's Deep (Mont Blanc): S34°15.005' E018°29.194'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 20 to 30 m.
    This is a small granite outcrop reef on a sand bottom directly offshore from Finlay's Point on the 30 m depth contour. Rich in Gorgonian sea fans.
  • 36 Atlantis Reef: S34°15' E018°29'
    Reef dive. Boat access only Depth 4 to 27 m.
    A pair of huge granite pinnacles (The Pillars of Hercules), on an extensive area of high and low profile reef. Excellent diversity of reef cover, shoals of fish and some exceptionally dense groups of gorgonian sea fans.

The Partridge Point area sites include

Map showing the location of the dive sites at Partridge Point
View of the dive sites at Partridge Point seen from the road near Smitswinkel Bay
  • 37 Sherwood Forest: S34°15.190' E18°29.010' (Pinnacle) between Atlantis and Partridge Point.
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 30 m.
    Reported on Underwater Cape Town as newly discovered site on 3 May 2012. Lots of sea fans.
  • 38 Fish Tank: S34°15.229’ E018°28.930’ (Pinnacle)
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 21 m.
    Compact granite reef, Lots of sea fans.
  • Partridge Point
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth 26 m.
    The site known as Partridge Point includes the Big Rock group of rocks to the south, while Seal Rock (or Deep Partridge) is the reef offshore of the low rock to the east of the point. Peter's Pinnacle is the reef inshore and slightly south of the Big Rock. Very large granite boulders and outcrops, some extending above the surface by several metres.
    39 Seal Rock: S34°15.3370' E018°28.8920' — A fairly large flattish rock used as a haulout rock by seals with fairly shallow reef around it.
    40 Deep Partridge: S34°15.3500' E018°29.0000' — A lobe of high profile reef sloping down to a sandy bottom at about 27 m.
    41 Dave's Caves: S34°15.3780' E018°28.7040' — An exposed rock with a little cave under it in a kelp forest
    42 Partridge Point - Big Rock: S34°15.4650' E018°28.7880' — A large exposed rock marking a moderate depth area of high profile reef with a large swimthrough and a small air-trap overhang. Maximum depth about 21 m on the sand to the south and east.
    43 Peter's Pinnacles: S34°15.5150' E018°28.6870' — A group of shallow pinnacles with a swimthrough cave. Sand depth about 15 m

Smitswinkel Bay[edit]

Map of the dive sites at Smitswinkel Bay

The wrecks of Smitswinkel bay are among the best known and most popular boat dives of the Cape Town area. The water is deep enough to reduce surge significantly and shallow enough for recreational divers. The wrecks are easy to find, large and sufficiently intact to be recognisable, and have also developed a thriving ecology which includes a few relatively rare organisms.

Local geography: Smitswinkel Bay is a moderately large bay on the east side of the Cape Peninsula. The coast road gains altitude as it winds along the mountainside south of Simon’s Town and turns inland at Smitswinkel Bay.

To the north of the bay, the exposed rock at sea level is Peninsula granite, but on the south side the Graafwater sandstone extends below sea level. The bottom of the bay is flat sand.

The sites include:

  • 44 SAS Transvaal: S34°15.956’ E018°28.778’ (Bow)
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth 27 to 34 m.
    Loch class frigate "HMSAS Transvaal" F602 was launched at Belfast on 2 August 1944. The ship was sold for scrap and scuttled by explosive charges in Smitswinkel Bay to form an artificial reef on 3 August 1978. The wreck lies upright on a sand bottom and has partly collapsed.
  • 45 MFV Orotava: S34°16.023’ E018°28.796’ (bow)
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth 23 to 34 m.
    The "MFV Orotava" was built in 1958. The trawler was donated to the False Bay Conservation Society along with the Princess Elizabeth by Irvin and Johnson. In August 1983 the vessels were towed out to Smitswinkel Bay and scuttled. The Orotava is the larger of the two trawlers and lies on the sand heeled to port about 20°.
  • 46 Good Hope Reef: S34°16.049’ E018°28.899’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 30 to 35 m.
    A small granite reef with lots of gorgonian sea fans.
  • 47 MFV Princess Elizabeth:S34°16.060’ E018°28.816’(bow) S34°16.068’ E018°28.839’ (stern)
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth 22 to 36 m. The Princess Elizabeth was built in 1961. The trawler was badly damaged by a fire and was donated to the False Bay Conservation Society along with the Orotava by Irvin and Johnson. In August 1983 the vessels were towed out to Smitswinkel Bay and scuttled. The Princess Elizabeth is the smaller of the two trawlers and lies on the sand with a slight list to starboard.
  • 48 SAS Good Hope: S34°16.80’ E018°28.851’ (midships)
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth 27 to 36 m.
    The Loch class frigate "HMSAS Good Hope" was launched in 1944. The vessel saw service as a convoy escort during the closing stages of World War II and was for many years the flagship of the SA Navy. The ship was sold for scrap and scuttled by explosive charges in Smitswinkel Bay to form an artificial reef on 18 June 1978.
  • 49 MV Rockeater: S34°16.135’ E018°28.855’ (Bow)
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth 34 m
    The 65 m "MV Rockeater" was built in New Orleans in 1945 as a coastal freighter for the United States Navy. The ship was bought by Ocean Science and Engineering (South Africa) in 1964 to be used for marine prospecting. The Rockeater was towed to Smitswinkel Bay on 15 December 1972 and scuttled.
  • Smits Swim
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth 22 m to maximum of 36 m
    It is possible to visit all five wrecks on a single no-decompression dive. This is occasionally organised for people who want to have been there and done that.

Batsata area[edit]

Map showing the reef areas near Batsata Rock

A small group of dive sites just to the south of Smitswinkel Bay. They are inaccessible by land due to the steep cliffs along the shore and lack of nearby roads.

Local geography: These sites are at the foot of Judas Peak, the mountain peak on the south headland of Smitswinkel Bay. Their position at the base of the steep cliffs gives them protection from south westerly winds and swell, but they will catch some of the north westerly wind which comes through the gap above Smitswinkel Bay. They are exposed to south easterly winds and waves.

The shoreline and shallow reef at Smits Cliff is Table Mountain Sandstone, probably Graafwater series, while the offshore reefs at Smits Reef and Batsata Rock are Peninsula Granite. The unconformity is near sea level in this area.

The sites include:

  • Smits Reef
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 6 to 27 m.
    This is a very large area of granite reef extending north from near the Batsata Rock into the mouth of Smitswinkel Bay. It is a huge outcrop rising from coarse shelly sand bottom at about 27 m at the east side to 5 m on top. The reef has gradually sloping low areas and vertical walls, narrow deep gullies and ledges along jointing lines. Kreef Reef is a fairly large, relatively low profile outlying reef to the north.
    50 Kreef Reef: S34°16.360’ E018°28.780’ — A fairly large, relatively low profile outlying reef to the north.
    51 Horseshoe Reef: S34°16.410’ E018°28.940’ — The pinnacle on the northeastern ridge.
    52 Smits Reef: S34°16.4860’ E018°28.9290’ — The top of the main reef at about 5 m depth.
    53 Smits Reef - Batsata Maze: S34°16.5170’ E018°29.0170’ — A group of huge boulders clustered together on the bedrock forming several small caves, gullies and swimthroughs.
    54 Smits Reef - West Pinnacle: S34°16.495’ E018°28.863’ — A group of pinnacles rising to about 6 m at the south end of a large but relatively low outcrop to the west of the main reefs.
  • 55 Smits Cliff (Hell’s Gate): S34°16.48’ E018°28.41’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 16 m.
    The cliffs at the south side of Smitswinkel Bay are marked on the charts as Hell’s Gate. The site is not dived very often as there are more popular sites which are more accessible. As a result it is mostly unexplored and has not been mapped. The reef appears to be mostly sandstone.
  • Batsata Rock Reefs
    Reef dives. Boat access only. A large area of mostly granite reef.
    56 Batsata Blinder: S34°16.553' E018°28.840' — The half-tide rock north of the exposed rock.
    57 Batsata Rock: S34°16.602’ E018°28.830’ — Granite reef. Fairly shallow around the exposed rocks, maximum depth about 24 m at the sand edge to the east.
    58 Banging Rocks Reef: S34°16.775’ E018°28.830’ — Granite corestone reef, depth 6 m on top of the pinnacle, 19 m on sand patch a few metres to the east. Maximum depth about 24 m.

Buffels Bay[edit]

This site is inside the Cape Point National Park area. Access is controlled by the Parks Board and various fees are charged. A slipway at Buffels Bay is also controlled by Parks Board, and the facilities are usually in good condition, It would probably be more popular if access was allowed after 6 pm.

Local geography: Buffels Bay is the closest place to Cape Point where there is road access to a place sufficiently sheltered for a slipway to be viable.

The shoreline is sandstone in this area.

The sites include:

  • 59 Bordjiesrif: S34°18.99’ E018°27.83’
    Reef dive. Shore access. Depth: Fairly shallow.
    Shallow sandstone reef in the Cape Point National Park area.
  • 60 Buffels Bay: S34°19.217' E018°27.73'
    Reef dive. Shore access. Depth: Fairly shallow, less than 10 m.
    Shallow sandstone reef in the Cape Point National Park area.

False Bay Offshore[edit]

Offshore dive sites of False Bay
Offshore dive sites of False Bay
Good viz in False Bay at Deep South Whittle Reef as divers complete their decompression on a deco bar. Cape Point in the background. About 7 km north at Blue Flame Pinnacles there was a plankton bloom in the top 3 m, and the water was green, but clearer below this layer.

Introduction and some tips on diving the Central False Bay sites.

All the sites in this area are fairly far offshore, and can only be done as boat dives. They are also relatively deep and because of the long boat trip and exposed positions, generally only dived when conditions are expected to be good.

This area 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.

During summer the strong south easterly winds have sufficient fetch to produce sea states which are unpleasant and though the wave action may not produce a great deal of surge at the bottom, the surface conditions may be unsuitable for diving, and in winter the north-wester can have a similar effect.

As the area is affected by the winds and wave systems of both winter and summer, there is less seasonal correlation to suitable conditions, and it is simply dived when conditions are good, which is not very often, but may be more often than previously thought, and at some reefs the visibility may be better than inshore.

It is quite common for the surface visibility offshore to be poor, with better visibility at depth, but the reverse effect can also occur. These effects are often associated with a thermocline, which is associated with midsummer to autumn.

Water temperature can differ with depth in summer from 20°C on the surface to 9°C at the bottom at 28 m, sometimes with a distinct thermocline, though usually there is less of a change, and in winter the temperature may be nearly constant at all depths. A dry suit is recommended for any of these dives, but they are also often done in wetsuits.

There is often a surface current associated with wind at the offshore sites, which generally sets to the left of the wind direction.

Reefs[edit]

Map of the dive sites of the Whittle Rock area.
Jan Bruin at Whittle Rock
Fish over the reef at Rocky Bank
Typical reef invertebrate cover at Rocky Bank

These sites are not dived as frequently as the inshore reefs, as they are further from the launch sites and therefore take considerably longer to get to. They are also more exposed to the weather from all directions, so the trip is often bumpy. However, as they are relatively deep, and far offshore, the visibility can be very good, and may well be better than inshore areas at any given time, particularly with an onshore wind and swell. Unfortunately this is not reliably predictable.

Local geography: The topography of the reefs differs according to the geology of the area. As a result the character varies enormously.

Seal Island, Whittle Rock and the associated reefs, Anvil Rock and Bellows Rock are granite outcrops, probably all part of the Cape Peninsula pluton. Steenbras Reef is sedimentary rock, thought to be Tygerberg formation of the Malmesbury series, but looks more like sandstone than shale, East Shoal and York Shoal are also hard sedimentary rock, and Rocky Bank is sandstone, probably of the Table Mountain group.

The sites include:

  • 1 Choirboys Reef: S34°08.005' E18°45.270'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 20 to about 26 m
    Hard sedimentary rock reef, in moderate to low profile ridges and gullies.
  • 2 Seal Island: S34°08.25’ E018°34.95’
    Cage dive. Boat access only. Depth shallow — the cages are only about 2 m deep.
    These dives are for one purpose only: to see sharks. Other fish may be attracted to the bait, but that is not what you do this dive to see. Cage dives must be done through a licensed Shark Cage Diving charter.
  • 3 East Shoal: S34°08'54" E18°38'47"
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth probably about 2 to 25 m.
    The reef is said to be Table Mountain sandstone. A seldom dived site due to distance from launch sites, with an astonishing density of echinoderms.
  • 4 Drop Zone: S34°08.561' E18°45.829'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth probably from about 12 to 25 m.
    The moderate profile but extensive reef is sedimentary rock, either Malmesbury series or Table Mountain sandstone. It was only dived by charter boats beginning in 2014. Colourful invertebrates, including large numbers of gorgonian sea fans.
  • 5 Moddergat: S34°09.150' E18°49.650'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth probably from about 13 to 16 m.
    The moderate to low profile but extensive reef is sedimentary rock, either Malmesbury series or Table Mountain sandstone. It was only dived by charter boats beginning in 2014. Colourful invertebrates, including quite large numbers of nudibranchs. Also known as a fishing spot, but not many fish seen of a size worth catching.
  • 6 Sterretjies Reef: S34°09.364' E18°45.039'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 16 to about 30 m
    Hard sedimentary rock reef, in moderate to low profile ridges and gullies.
  • 7 York Shoal: S34°09.367', E018°35.583'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth is between 4 and about 28 m.
    The reef is a hard sedimentary rock. It is near Seal Island where Great White sharks are a tourist attraction.
  • Steenbras Deep Reef
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 17 to 30 m.
    This site is at the southern end of a long ridge towards the east side of False Bay. The southern pinnacle is irregular in shape, with a large number of cracks, grooves and indentations, mostly not very deep. Sand is coarse and shelly with lots of bryozoan detritus at the edge of the reef. There is also a northern pinnacle, though both are relatively flat.
    8 Steenbras Deep - North Pinnacles: S34°12.15’ E018°45.57’
    9 Steenbras Deep - South Pinnacles: S34°12.642’ E018°45.498’
  • 10 Blue Flame Pinnacles: S34°12.637’ E018°33.356’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 25 to 33 m.
    A small cluster of very steep granite corestone pinnacles. The western and central pinnacles rise to about 25 m from about 34 m at the base, while the eastern is lower, at about 26 m on a flattish top, and wider. The pinnacles rise from a low profile outcrop a metre or two above the sand. A small site, but quite pretty.
  • 11 Off-Whittle Ridge: S34°14.364' E18°34.847'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 19 m to more than 30 m.
    An area of granite corestone reef nearly 2 km to the west-northwest of Whittle Rock. The pinnacle is in the form of a ridge running roughly north-south with a cluster of large boulders to the northeast, and is quite small. The topography is rugged in the ridge area, with a wall down to about 25 m on the west side.
  • Whittle Rock
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 4 m to more than 36 m.
    This is a large area of granite corestone reefs surrounded by sand. The topography varies considerably as it is such a large area. The top of the shallowest pinnacle is at about 4 m depth, and the surrounding sand is around 30 to 40 m.
    12 Kelly's Anchor: S34°14.668' E18°33.646'
    13 Shards Cluster: S34°14.704' E18°33.763'
    14 Riaan and Sven's anchor: S34°14.735' E18°33.590'
    15 East Ridge North PinnacleS34°14.742' E18°33.843'
    16 North-west corner pinnacles: S34°14.750' E18°33.482'
    17 JJ's anchor: S34°14.756' E18°33.720'
    18 September anchor: S34°14.762' E18°33.575'
    19 Whittle Rock North-west Pinnacle: S34°14.765’ E018°33.622’
    20 Euphrates anchors: S34°14.776' E18°33.801' and S34°14.783' E18°33.795'
    21 Little anchor: S34°14.785' E18°33.666'
    22 Bruce's Reef: S34°14.824' E18°33.310'
    23 Criss-cross Cracks: S34°14.830' E18°33.879' (East Ridge)
    24 Whittle Rock West Pinnacle: S34°14.844’ E018°33.682’
    25 Whittle Rock: S34°14.846’ E018°33.714’ — (Shallowest pinnacle)
    26 Whaleback Pinnacles: S34°14.850' E18°33.508'
    27 Whittle Rock Western Reef Pinnacle: S34°14.856' E18°33.269' (inside the MPA)
    28 Whittle Rock South-east Pinnacle: S34°14.887’ E018°33.775’
    29 Whaleback Rock: S34°14.900' E18°33.635'
    30 South-east pinnacle chain (Neptune's bath plug): S34°14.917’ E018°33.753’
    31 Flash pinnacle: S34°14.931' E18°33.718'
    32 Georgina's anchor: S34°14.935' E18°33.784'
    33 M&M Tower (the Spark plug): S34°14.043’ E018°33.549’
    34 Whittle Cave Complex: S34°14.943’ E018°33.616’
    35 Bus Stop (the Gnarly wall): S34°14.945' E18°33.573'
    36 Wreckless Rock and the Little Labyrinth: S34°14.949' E18°33.707'
    37 Table Top pinnacle: S34°14.968' E18°33.668'
    38 Mossie's Cave and pinnacle: S34°14.972' E18°33.420' (South-western pinnacles)
    39 Grant's Spike: S34°14.991' E18°33.450' (South-western pinnacles)
    40 Grant's Wall: S34°15.003' E18°33.445' (South-western pinnacles)
    41 Labyrinth: S34°15.004’ E018°33.580’
    42 Labyrinth South Pinnacle: S34°15.048' E18°33.606'
    43 Deep South Pinnacle: S34°15.103' E18°33.603'
  • 44 Bruce's Mark S34°14.880' E18°34.880'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. A few kilometers east of Whittle Rock. 44 m on the sand and 17 m at the top of the pinnacle. Massive granite ridges and a large area of lower reef.
  • 45 Wreckless Ridge: S34°15.541' E18°33.970' (separate reef to the south)
    Reef dive. Boat access only.
    A patch of reef south of Whittle Rock reef on the sand at 48 m, rising to 30 m on top, with nice ledges and drop-offs. Not yet surveyed.
  • 46 Deep South Whittle Reef: S34°16.414' E018°34.009'
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 40 m to about 55 m.
    The reef is a fairly large expanse of Peninsula granite corestone surrounded by sand. The central area around the high point is a large, moderate profile outcrop, split into ridges and gullies, some with sand bottoms up to 45 m depth. Depth at the surrounding sand is reported as 55 m to the north, and 53 m at a sand tongue to the south, with more reef on the other side.
  • Anvil Rock
    47 Anvil Rock 3 m pinnacle: S34°22.218' E18°31.090'
    48 Anvil Rock caves: S36°22.244' E18°31.068' — Approx 20 m deep, area of nice caves/swim-throughs:
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 3 m to more than 20 m.
    The reef is Peninsula granite corestone.
  • 49 Bellows Rock
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Bellows Rock breaks the surface. Depth in the immediate vicinity can exceed 40 m. The south wall may be the highest continuous face wall dive in the Cape Peninsula, and is largely unexplored. The east side of Bellows Rock is the site of the wreck of the SS Lusitania.
    The reef is Peninsula granite corestone.
    50 Lusi Pinnacle: S34°23.419’ E018°29.485’
    51 Wreckless Reef: S34°23.33’ E018°29.39’
  • Rocky Bank
    52 36 m Pablo's steps drop: S34°25.160’ E018°35.571’
    53 32 m drop: S34°24.994’ E018°35.463’
    54 30 m drop: S34°24.957’ E018°35.473’
    55 25 m drop: S34°24.906’ E018°35.478’
    56 22 m drop: S34°24.820’ E018°35.473’
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 22 m to more than 50 m on the south side.
    The reef is said to be Table Mountain sandstone. It is a beautiful site with bright colourful reef invertebrates, but is seldom dived due to the distance from the nearest launch site. Visibility is often better than inside the bay.
  • Hangklip Ridge
    Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth varies considerably from fairly shallow inshore to more than 100 m
    The reef is said to be Table Mountain sandstone. Deeper areas may be Tygerberg series. Little information is available. The ridge is shown on the bathymetric charts as extending south west from Cape Hangklip for several kilometers, and is known to affect the water circulation in False Bay.

Wrecks[edit]

SATS General Botha in 1926

There are a number of wrecks in central False Bay. Only the ones that are identified and dived are listed here. Exploration of previously undived wrecks occurs sporadically and the list is sure to increase over time. Most of these wrecks are relatively deep, and are all too far offshore to dive from the shore. Some of them are considered among the best dive sites of the Cape Town area, at least partly because of the difficult access and rarity value.

Local geography: The "Lusitania" is on a site where the granite reef is ruggedly spectacular and the boat trip provides a magnificent view of Cape Point. The General Botha, Bloemfontein and Fleur are on the flat sand bottom of the bay and in these cases, only the wreck is of much interest. The Godetia is relatively shallow and on a mixed sand and sedimentary rock reef bottom.

The sites include:

  • 57 ST Godetia: S34°6’ E018°44’
    Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth: 15 to 17 m.
    The SS Godetia was a steam trawler operated by Irvin and Johnson that was sunk for target practice by the SA Air Force. The wreck is very broken up and lies on a bottom of small patches of rocky reef and sand at a maximum depth of about 17 to 18 m. The single scotch boiler and engine block are the most prominent artifacts, and stand on top of a small section of reef, surrounded by fragments of various sizes. The propeller shaft and propeller extend slightly to the west.
  • 58 SAS Fleur: S34°10.832’ E018°33.895’
    Wreck dive. Deep dive. Boat access only. Depth: 35 to 41 m.
    The SAS Fleur was a 'Bar' class boom defence vessel, formerly HMS Barbrake. The wreck lies almost level embedded in the bottom as if floating in sand with the weather deck at about 35 m. Hull structure is collapsing.
  • 59 SATS General Botha: S34°13.679’ E018°38.290’
    Wreck dive. Deep dive. Boat access only. Depth: 47 to 54 m.
    The River-Class cruiser HMS Thames was built in 1886 and later purchased from the Royal Navy and donated to the South African Government as a training ship for seafarers. The vessel was renamed the "South African Training Ship (SATS)General Botha".
    The General Botha was scuttled by gunfire from the Scala Battery in Simon’s Town on 13th May 1947. The hull is substantially intact from the ram bow to some metres abaft amidships, approximately level with the aft gun sponsons.
  • 60 SAS Bloemfontein: near S34°14.655’ E018°39.952’
    Wreck dive. Deep dive. Boat access only. Depth: 47 to 55 m.
    The SAS Bloemfontein M439 was a sister ship to the SAS Pietermaritzburg and has similar dimensions and layout. This Algerine class Minesweeper was built as HMS Rosamund, and was scuttled on 5 June 1967.
    The ship lies upright on a flat sand bottom and is substantially intact.
  • 61 SS Lusitania: S34°23.40’ E018°29.65’
    Wreck dive. Deep dive. Boat access only. Depth: 35 to 40 m.
    Portuguese twin-screw liner of 5557 tons, built in 1906. Wrecked on Bellows Rock off Cape Point on 18 April 1911 in fog while on a voyage from Lourenco Marques (Maputo). The granite reef slopes down from Bellows Rock to the east, and drops off almost vertically from about 15 m to about 33 m, where the broken wreckage lies between the wall and some boulders further east. The wreck is very easy to find, and spread over a fairly large area down to 40 m.

Eastern False Bay coast[edit]

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.

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.
  • 4 Cow and Calf: S34°10.310’ E018°50.263’
    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. Also:
    5 Stone Dog
  • 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 and Noble Reef: 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. Noble Reef is a ridge to the northwest of the Rocky Bay area.
    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 Rocky Bay Noble Reef: S34°11.332’ E018°49.123’
Dive sites from Rooi-els to Hangklip

Rooi-els[edit]

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:

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