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Africa > Southern Africa > South Africa > Diving in South Africa > Diving the west coast of South Africa > Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay > Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/Vulcan Rock

Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/Vulcan Rock

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The dive site Vulcan Rock is an offshore rocky reef in the outer Hout Bay area on the Atlantic seaboard of the Cape Peninsula, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. .


Map of the dive site at Vulcan Rock.

Vulcan Rock is the highest point of a extensive area of granite reef and breaks the surface at some states of the tide. It is low and flat on top and big enough to park a car. If there are extensive whitecaps it may be difficult to see from a distance, so it can be tricky to find on a day with low swell, high tide, and a strong south easterly wind unless you have GPS. A spectacular dive if the visibility is good.


  • 1 Vulcan Rock: S34°03.967’ E018°18.582’

This site is in the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area since 2004. A permit is required.


The exposed rock marking the site is shown on charts of the area as "Vulcan Rock."


The top of the rock extends above the water. Maximum depth is over 30 m but this is some way from the rock, probably to the west. There is a lot to see in the 10 to 20 m range and staying in this depth range will allow an adequately long dive for most divers. The main feature of the site , the big swimthrough, is in the 18 to 20 m depth range.


Visibility is variable and can range from more than 20 m on a good day to less that 3 m on a bad day. A strong south easterly wind will usually move the surface water offshore and cause an upwelling of cold clear water which will temporarily improve visibility. The visibility in such a case may improve overnight, and may deteriorate almost as quickly if the wind stops and there is a day of bright sunshine, which stimulates a plankton bloom, also locally called a red tide. A red tide can drop visibility down to less than 5 m in a day, but in these cases there may well be reasonable visibility below the surface layer, though it will probably be quite dark, and the light very green. Another cause of poor visibility is north westerly winds.


Vulcan rock is the top of a very big granite tor. It is made up of large corestones on top of more of the same, down to at least 25 m . There are lots of crevices, overhangs and fairly narrow gaps. Boulders are often several metres high. There is usually a knocking sound as loose boulders are rocked by the swell.

There is a swimthrough/cave directly under Vulcan rock. The bottom is at 18 m, roof about 2 m higher. There are 4 separate entrances, none of them easy to see from outside unless at the same depth. The cave is probably between 20 and 30 m max extent, and maybe 20 m wide at the widest. Two of the entries are at the edges of the relatively flat floored part, and the other two are across boulder strewn bottom and irregularly shaped. There is also an air cave overhang on the north east side of the main boulder at about 13 m depth with a number of small domed pockets in the ceiling which are bare of all growth, showing that there is often air in the overhang.

There are big boulders or pinnacles to both sides of one entrance to the northeast. The next entrance anticlockwise is at the bottom of a little gully, and has a small cave to the right of the entrance to the main cave.

To the north of the rock is a fairly shallow pinnacle, rising to about 4 m at the top. This is opposite the north-west entry.

Geology: Granite of the late Pre-Cambrian Peninsula pluton


The site is exposed to south westerly swells, which can cause a strong surge. The site is usually at its best in summer but there are also occasional opportunities in autumn and winter.

This is an area which sometimes has upwellings, caused by strong south easterly winds, resulting in cold clear water, which may develop a plankton bloom over a few days, which will reduce the visibility again.

Keep a lookout for times when the south west swell is low and short period, and there is not too much south easterly wind forecast. The south easterly wind will usually improve visibility, but if it blows too hard, can make the trip out to the site uncomfortable, and the trip back quite unpleasant. What you want is a few days of low south westerly swell with strong south-easters in the afternoons, and quiet mornings, when there is very little wind chop and there has not been time for a red tide to develop. For this reason, most dives to this area are scheduled for early launches.

Get in[edit]

The site is accessible only by boat. it is about 5.5 km from Hout Bay Harbour. Anchoring is possible, but the bottom is very rugged and anchors and even shotlines often foul.


Marine life[edit]

Heavy growth of red bait in shallower parts, Some kelp, probably mostly Split-fan kelp, on top surfaces down to about 15 m. Heavy encrustation of sponges, sea fans, bryozoans and colonial hydroids on steep faces, and particularly under overhangs. Flatter rock surfaces in deep areas are often covered by urchins and grey cucumbers.


There are several caverns and other holes between and under the boulders. The best known is directly under the exposed rock, at a depth of about 15 m. It is large and has several access openings around the sides (about 4) The inner space is about 2 to 3 m high in places and is probably over 10 m wide and long. The entries are not particularly obvious, and are often missed, though they are quite large.

There is also a "balloon cave", where the roof is a high dome. The position has not yet been mapped, but it is said to be to the east of the exposed rock, and at a similar depth to the main cavern. The balloon cave will trap air, which if allowed to accumulate, will kill the invertebrate growth on the roof, so try not to breathe inside this cave. It will be dark inside, so a light will be necessary to see the growth on the walls and roof.

Some time back in the late 20th century, an advertisement was filmed of a car standing on Vulcan Rock. The story goes that it was placed by helicopter, and when they came back to fetch it the next day it as gone. No trace has ever been reported, and a closed motor vehicle with widows rolled up does not sink very fast, so it may have come to rest some way from the pinnacles. Who knows, some day someone may find it.


Good site for photography, specially close-up shots of invertebrates. Macro will almost always be useful, and wide angle/fisheye can give some spectacular results on a really good day.


Choose a route to suit your desired profile. For greater depth go west. There is a large swim-through under the main pinnacle at about 18 m depth, and the area around the group of pinnacles is the most popular part of the site.

Stay safe[edit]


Cold water, Strong surge in cracks and swim-throughs. Sea urchins. Strong offshore winds may develop over a short time, making it tricky to spot divers on the surface, and a wet trip back.


No special skills required, though the ability to deploy a DSMB is useful in case you are separated from the group or need to surface away from the shot line, or if no shot line is used.


The site is cold and relatively deep, and a dry suit is recommended. This is a dive site where the use of Nitrox can be worthwhile to extend no-stop time. A reel with DSMB, Light and Compass are also recommended.


Back to Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay#Outer Hout Bay

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