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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/Phoenix Shoal

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The dive site Phoenix shoal is an inshore rocky reef and historical wreck in the Seaforth area on the False Bay coast of the Cape Peninsula, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.


Understand[edit]

Aerial view of the dive site at Phoenix shoal. The IMT building is lower centre The Phoenix is to the north of the rock at the centre left. (Photo CDS&M)
Map of the dive site at Phoenix Shoal

Position[edit]

  • S34°11.388' E018°26.898' 1 Phoenix Shoal:

Wreckage is 80 m due 001°T (025°magnetic) from the rock that covers. About 440 m offshore at Phoenix shoal, to the east of the Simon’s Town harbour, towards Noah’s Ark rock.

This site is in a Marine Protected Area (2004). A permit is required. The site is entirely inside the Boulders Restricted Zone.

Name[edit]

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 while on a voyage from Ceylon with passengers and a cargo of sundries, part of which was saved. No lives were lost. She was armed with two cast iron cannon. Some of the iron ballast can be seen on the reef, while her stem lies buried in sand.

Depth[edit]

Maximum depth is about 10 m. Parts of the shoal reach the surface, and there is an extensive area of shoal shallower than 6 m.

Visibility[edit]

Visibility is not generally very good, though it may be better than the more exposed areas of the bay when the wind is southerly or south easterly. On the other hand, if the water is reasonably flat, the visibility is not usually very bad, and this is a site which may be diveable when others are too murky.

Topography[edit]

Scattered low to medium profile reef on flat sand bottom. Whale vertebra and rib or jawbone on sand. Encrusted iron wreckage on sand at S34°11.388', E018°26.898'. Buried but with a bit showing above the sand. Probably structure of the Phoenix. The wreckage mostly lies in a gap between two shallower sections of reef at the north eastern side of Phoenix shoal, as shown on the map.

Geology: Late Pre-Cambrian granite of the Peninsula pluton and fine quartz sand.

Conditions[edit]

This is a shallow dive, in an area well protected from south west swell, but quite exposed to the north-westerly wind, which may raise a bit of a chop and make it difficult to find the wreck, though unlikely to cause much surge. The north-wester can cause a current that sets east in this area. The site is also exposed to south easterly winds and chop.

The site is usually at it's best in winter, but there are also occasional opportunities during other times of the year.

Facilities[edit]

Parking is adequate and tarred (since the aerial photo). The parking area is used by tour buses, use the smaller marked bays. There are three major parking areas close to the beach, with paved pathways to the beach and easy shore access to the water. There is a restaurant and public toilets near the eastern parking area.

Get in[edit]

Usually a shore dive, but also sometimes accessed by boat from Miller's Point slipway or Simon's Town jetty.

Turn off the main road into Martello road at the IMT sign at the end of the long brick wall enclosing the navy dockyard. Pass the sportsground and park behind the IMT building. Access to the beach is through the gate to the beach to the right of the IMT main gates, over the dunes to the beach. The water is shallow to the left near the building and there is some dense kelp around the boulders.

There is also parking and beach access down Seaforth road, a little further southeast. The parking is paved to the east and gravel to the west, and between these parking areas there is a public toilet. Between the paved parking and the sea there is a restaurant.

The site is about 5.2 km from Miller's Point slipway, and about 2.2 km from Simon's Town jetty, which is at the bottom of Wharf street.

See[edit]

Marine life[edit]

Reef life at phoenix shoal
Bronze drift bolts, probably from the Phoenix

Features[edit]

Wreckage of a wooden ship of historical interest.

Photography[edit]

This is not a site with much to photograph, and macro equipment is most likely to produce worthwhile results. Occasionally in good visibility it may be possible to get good results with a wide angle lens and natural light.

Routes[edit]

Swim straight out to the wreck on the surface, Dive and explore the wreckage, then swim back to shore on compass bearing 255° magnetic.

Stay safe[edit]

Hazards[edit]

No site specific hazards known.

Skills[edit]

No special skills required.

Equipment[edit]

No special equipment required, A compass is useful for navigating back under water at the end of the dive.

Nearby[edit]

Back to Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay#Seaforth to Froggy Pond

This dive guide to Phoenix Shoal is a usable article. It has information on location and equipment as well as some complete entries on what to see. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.