User:Pbsouthwood/Dive sites of the Cape Peninsula and False Bay

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

The dive sites described in these articles include some which are well known favorites 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. 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.

Geographical information is provided in as much detail as currently 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]

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.

The south easterly winds are offshore in this area and tend to blow 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 20m+ 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 and air temperatures in the high 20°C’s and 30°C’s. 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 7mm), 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 recently. 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.

The south-easter is an offshore wind, 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 5m 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 does not usually extend below about a metre depth inshore.

When boat diving a deployable surface marker buoy 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.

Dive sites from Robben Island to Camps Bay

Robben Island[edit]

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.

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:

  • MV Treasure: S 33°40.30’ E 18°19.90’ (approximate)
Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth: 30 to 50m
On 23rd 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 50m depth. The superstructure was removed shortly after the sinking by sawing it off at about 30m depth with a cable towed by tugs as it was a hazard to shipping.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Mostly less than 10m
A large shoal area of rocky reef, usually with a break over the pinnacle, which is the last resting place of a few ships.
Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 15m
A large Korean ore carrier which was wrecked on Whale Rock on 1st March 1986 when anchors dragged in heavy weather. The wreckage lies at a depth of about 15m
  • SS Hypatia: S33°50.10’ E018°22.90’ (Turner 1988)
Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Shallow, maximum probably about 15m
British Houston Line steamer of 5 728 tons, built in 1902. Wrecked on Whale Rock in Table Bay on 29th October 1929 in fog while on a voyage from Beira to New York with a cargo of blister copper and chrome ore.

Table Bay[edit]

Entering the Victoria basin of Cape Town harbour after a dive trip.
Wreck dive. Boat access only. Close to major shipping lane at harbour mouth. Maximum depth 24m.
Wreck of a steel barque which sank after a collision in 1902.
Shore access only. Confined water. Maximum depth 6m
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.
  • SS Cape Matapan: S34°53.233' E018°24.533' About a kilometer north of Granger Bay harbour
Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth 25m. 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.
Wreck and reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 7m
Union Company iron steam screw barque of 739 tons, built in 1856. Wrecked between Mouille Point and Green Point on 17th 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.
Wreck and reef dive. Boat access recommended. Depth: Fairly shallow.
The 8000 ton Safmarine freighter SS South African Seafarer was wrecked in a north westerly gale on 1st July 1966, and lies in front of the Green Point lighthouse.

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:

Boat access only. Deep wreck dive. Depth about 65m
The 50m 313 tonne buoy tender MV Gemsbok capsized and sank about 4km from Green Point Lighthouse on 2nd 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.
Reef dive. Shore access. Depth: Shallow
A small sand bottomed bay with reef to both sides. Easy access.
Reef dive. Boat access. Depth: 17 to 27m
An isolated pair of corestone pinnacles on a low granite ridge.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access Depth: Less than 10m
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:

Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 15 to 23m.
A spectacular site in good conditions. A popular part of the site is the cave rock, which is slightly offshore from the exposed rocks.
North Paw sites include the North Paw Main Reef, the North Paw Cave, Monty's Pinnacles, Northern Pinnacle, Barry's Pinnacle and Eastern Pinnacle
Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 20m.
An extensive reef of granite corestones marked by the large outcrop which extends above the water.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 14m.
A large area of granite corestones, bounded to the north by sand bottom. The reef extends to seaward from the shoreline at the point.
Reef dive. Boat access. Maximum depth about 20m.
A large corestone pinnacle with a long low tunnel

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:

Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth 17m.
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.
Dive sites from Oudekraal to Hout Bay

Oudekraal[edit]

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:

Reef dive. Boat access. Depth: 1.5 to 20m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat or shore access. Maximum depth about 20m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 15m.
The two smaller rocks to the north of Geldkis rock. Several small caverns and swimthroughs.
  • Geldkis: S33°58.73’ E018°21.61’
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 15m.
A large group of rocks with lots of overhangs, swimthroughs and chimneys. The Dutch East Indiaman "Het Huis te Kraaiestein" was wrecked on the rocks in the bay at Oudekraal on 27th May 1698. 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.
Wreck and reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth 10m.
Remnants of the Dutch East Indiaman "Het Huis te Kraaiestein" of 1,154 tons, which was wrecked in the bay at Oudekraal on 27th 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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth 17m.
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.
Reef dive. Confined waters. Shore access. Maximum depth 4m
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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 13m.
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:

Wreck and reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 10m.
The tankers "Romelia" and "Antipolis" were under tow on 28th 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.
Reef dive. Boat or shore access. Maximum depth about 15m.
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:

Reef dive. Boat or shore access. Maximum depth about 15m
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 17m
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.

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:

Reef dive. Boat access. Depth: 10 to 24m.
A large granite pinnacle on an area of low granite reef with occasional sand patches.
Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth probably about 10m.
A small rocky cove to the north of Llandudno beach.
  • MV Romelia: S34°00.700’ E018°19.860’ approximately
Wreck and reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 24m.
The tankers "Romelia" and "Antipolis" were under tow on July 28th 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.

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:

  • Steps: S34°01.330’ E018°18.600’
Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 20m.
An area of high granite reef with deep gullies. Not actually in Leeugat, but just north of Oude Schip headland.
  • Hakka Reef (Middelmas): S34°01.747’ E018°18.328’
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Not available.
Die Middelmas is a rock that projects several metres above the water at all tides, to the west of the Oude Schip peninsula. Hakka Reef is off this rock.
Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 30 to 35m
The Ford class Seaward Defense Boat SAS Gelderland was scuttled on 21st December 1988, north west of Duiker Point, as demolition trials.
The vessel was about 40m long but the main part of the wreckage is now only about 20m long as the bow and stern sections were blown right off.
Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Not available, probably between 25 and 30m.
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.
  • SS Maori: S34°02.062’ E018°18.793’ (Machinery)
Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 6 to 21m
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 Thursday 5 August 1909 in thick fog and drizzle while on a voyage from London to New Zealand.
Wreck and reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Maximum 22m
The "Oakburn", a British cargo steamer of 3865 tons, was wrecked on the north side of Duikerpunt in fog on 21st 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:

Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Not available, maximum probably about 20m
This rock off Duiker Point extends above the water and is surrounded by rugged reefs of high outcrops and deep gullies.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 25m.
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 10m or more in height.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 8 to 32m.
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 100m on the south face and 50m on the south-east face. Very diverse and colourful invertebrate cover on the wall face.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 7 to 26m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 22m.
The area is named for a more or less circular ring of rocks which break the surface near the larger rock shown on the charts. Big boulders and rock outcrops cover an extensive area. High profile in the deeper areas, with swimthroughs, holes and overhangs.
  • Seal Island (Duiker island): S34°03.458’ E018°19.562’
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Shallow, mostly less than 6m.
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.
Diver at Di's Cracks. (photo Di Froude)
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 10 to 30m.
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 photograhy.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth is over 25m 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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 8 to 30m.
Extensive area of rugged granite outcrops with high relief and sand bottom at about 29m to the west. Deep crevices and gullies. Not much overhang, but a lot of vertical faces. Very rugged and spectacular topography in good visibility.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 14 to 35m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 40m.
Low to medium profile granite outcrops, sloping up towards the pinnacle at Klein Tafelberg to the north.

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:

Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Depth: Mostly less than 10m.
This is the place on the Atlantic coast where the 30m 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.
  • MV Aster: S34°03.891’ E018°20.955’
Wreck dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth 28m.
The 340 ton, 27m 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 9th 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.
  • MV Katsu Maru: S34°03.910’ E018°20.942’ (middle of the wreck)
Wreck dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 30m.
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 7th August 1978. The wreck lies on its starboard side on the sand bottom.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 7 to 17m.
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.

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

Wreck and Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 4 to 8m.
Wrecked a little north of the Slangkop lighthouse at Kommetjie. Very seldom dived. Shallow flat sandstone reef, with wreckage encrusted with coralline algae.
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.
Wreck and Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Uncertain, Thought to be about 20m maximum.
The "Star of Africa" has been identified and the position fixed. It is being salvaged under permit.
  • 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 8m.
Wreck and Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 5 to 8m.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Probably less than 15m near the rock.
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

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 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.

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 easily accessible from the shore 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 8m to 15m maximum depth, though it is possible to do a 30m shore dive if you don’t mind a 700m 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 interchange wet and dry suits depending on the dive planned.

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 5m depth at Dale Brook and nearer 9m at the harbour.

The sites include:

Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 6m.
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 sport divers. It is ideal as a snorkel 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.
Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 10m.
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 9m.

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:

Reef dive. Boat or shore access. Maximum depth about 15m.
Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 11m.
Named after the railway station at the site. Moderate relief sandstone rocks, ridges and gullies shelving down to sand at about 10m.
  • Quarry: S34° 09.390’ E018° 26.157’ (Entry/exit ledge)
Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 10m.
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.
Wreck and Reef dive. Boat or shore access. Depth: 12 to 14m.
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.
Wreck dive, boat access. Depth: About 15m.
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 15m.

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:

Wreck dive. Shore access. Maximum depth 9m.
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.
Wreck dive. Shore or boat access. Depth: 4 to 6m.
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.
Wreck dive. Shore access. Depth: 3 to 4m
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.
Wreck dive. Underwater navigation route. Shore access. Maximum depth about 9m.
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.

Roman Rock 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:

Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 6 to 22m
Small granite and rubble reef with disused concrete naval gunnery target base.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 14 to 23m
Granite corestone reef of moderate size with good relief and diverse invertebrates.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 4 to 20m
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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth 18m.
An easy dive site to find as it is marked by the lighthouse of the same name off Simon’s Town Harbour. This site comprises a cluster of huge granite outcrops separated by sand bottom, on one of which the lighthouse stands.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 10 to 22m.
A short distance to the east of Roman Rock.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 12 to 22m
A short distance to the east of the Castor Rock reefs.
  • Rambler Rock: S34°10.924’ E018°27.899’ (North Rambler Rock)
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 10 to 22m.
A high granite reef east of the Roman Rock lighthouse off Simon’s Town Harbour. There are two major groups of rocks at this site.

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 sites include:

Wreck dive. Boat or shore access. Depth: 8 to 10m.
Two small steel barges to the west of Phoenix shoal. They are heavily overgrown and quite broken up.
Reef and wreck dive. Boat or shore access. Maximum depth 10m.
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.
Wreck and reef dive. Boat or shore access. Maximum depth 14m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth 8m.
Named for the penguin sanctuary. This is the point and inshore reef at the south east end of Boulders Beach at Seaforth.
Reef dive. Boat access Depth: 8 to 27m.
Named for the reef shown on the SA Navy charts. The sites are Maidstone Rock, Anchor Reef and Ammo Reef
Reef dive. Boat or shore access. Depth 3 to 14m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 20 to 30m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat access only Depth range 20 to 30m.
An large isolated granite outcrop east of Photographer's Reef about 140m south west from Torch reef. Flat topped and sheer walled.
Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 8m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore access Depth: Shallower than 10m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore access. Depth: Shallower than 10m.
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 678m, 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 30m 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:

  • A-Frame (Oatlands Point): S34°12.484’ E018°27.662’
Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 10m
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.
  • D-Frame (Oatlands Reef, Wave Rock): S34°12.378’ E018°27.996’
Reef dive. Shore access. Depth: 15 to 30m.
This is the point on the west side of False Bay where the 30m contour is closest to the shore. Divers wishing to do a 30m 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 4m from the surface with an almost vertical drop to 14m 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 100m 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:

Reef dive. Boat access. Depth: 2 to 14m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Depth: 3 to 13m.
The main reef is large outcrops of granite rising from about 13m on the sand to the north east, to about 3 to 4m 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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth 13m.
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.
  • Alpha Reef (Outer Spaniard): S34°12.987’ E018°28.184’
Reef dive. Boat access. Depth 2 to 15m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 14m.
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:

Wreck dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth 22m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 3 to 22m
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.
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.
  • Boat Rock (Bakoven Rock): S34°14.05’ E18°29.05’
Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth 22m.
Coarse shelly sand bottom at about 14m 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:

Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 25 to 30m.
A low granite outcrop at about 30m maximum depth, with a large number of sea fans.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 12m.
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: S34°14.220’ E018°28.688’
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 12m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 18m.
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.
There are several sub-sites at Castle Rocks, including North Castle, Pinnacles, Point reefs (Outside Castle) and South Castle (Inner Castle).
Reef dive. Boat access. Depth: about 3 to 33m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 5 to 25m.
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.

Partridge Point area[edit]

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

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.

The sites include:

Reef dive. Boat access. Shore access is possible but rather athletic. Maximum depth about 15m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: 20 to 30m.
This is a small granite outcrop reef on a sand bottom directly offshore from Finlay's Point on the 30m depth contour. Rich in Gorgonian sea fans.
Reef dive. Boat access only Depth 4 to 27m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth 26m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 30m.
Reported on Underwater Cape Town as newly discovered site on 3 May 2012. Lots of sea fans.

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:

Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth 27 to 34m.
Loch class frigate "HMSAS Transvaal" F602 was launched at Belfast on 2nd August 1944.
The ship was sold for scrap and scuttled by explosive charges in Smitswinkel Bay to form an artificial reef on 3rd August 1978.
The wreck lies upright on a sand bottom and has partly collapsed.
Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth 23 to 34m.
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°.
Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth 22 to 36m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 30 to 35m.
A small granite reef with lots of gorgonian sea fans.
Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth 27 to 36m.
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 18th June 1978.
Wreck dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth 34m
The 65m "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 15th December 1972 and scuttled.
Wreck dive. Boat access only. Depth 22m to maximum of 36m
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 (Birthday Reef, Horseshoe Reef, Batsata Maze, Seekatbank): S34°16.483’ E018°28.949’ (South pinnacle)
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 6 to 27m.
This is a very large area of granite reef extending north from near the Batsata rock into the mouth of Smitswinkel Bay. Northern pinnacle is a huge outcrop rising from coarse shelly sand bottom at about 25m to 9.4m on top. The reef has gradually sloping low areas and vertical walls, narrow deep gullies and ledges along jointing lines.
  • Smits Cliff (Hell’s Gate): S34°16.48’ E018°28.41’
Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth about 16m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth: Fairly shallow around the exposed rocks, maximum depth not known.
Sandstone reef with granite substrate at greater depth. Fairly shallow around the exposed rocks.

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 6pm.

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:

Reef dive. Shore access. Depth: Fairly shallow.
Shallow sandstone reef in the Cape Point National Park area.
Reef dive. Shore access. Depth: Fairly shallow, less than 10m.
Shallow sandstone reef in the Cape Point National Park area.

False Bay Offshore[edit]

Offshore dive sites of False Bay

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 100m 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.

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

Jan Bruin at Whittle Rock
Fish over the reef at Rocky Bank
Typical reef invertebrate cover at Rocky Bank

Reefs[edit]

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 and Whittle 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, and Rocky Bank is sandstone, probably of the Table Mountain group.

The sites include:

Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 17 to 30m.
This site is at the southern end of a long ridge towards the east side of False Bay. The 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.
Cage dive. Boat access only. Depth shallow — the cages are only about 2m 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 licenced Shark Cage Diving charter.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 4m to more than 30m.
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 pinnacle is at about 4m depth, and the sand is around 30m.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth not known.
The reef is thought to be granite. It is near Seal Island where Great White sharks are a tourist attraction.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth 22m to more than 30m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Depth probably about 2 to 25m.
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.

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. 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 sites include:

Wreck dive. Deep dive. Boat access only. Depth: 47 to 54m.
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.
Wreck dive. Deep dive. Boat access only. Depth: 47 to 55m.
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 5th June 1967.
The ship lies upright on a flat sand bottom and is substantially intact.
Wreck dive. Deep dive. Boat access only. Depth: 35 to 41m.
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 35m. Hull structure is collapsing.
Wreck dive. Deep dive. Boat access only. Depth: 35 to 40m.
Portuguese twin-screw liner of 5557 tons, built in 1906. Wrecked on Bellows Rock off Cape Point on 18th 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 15m to about 33m, 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 40m.
Wreck dive. Boat access only. Maximim depth about 17m.
Two steel trawlers on a sand bottom at about 17m depth.

Eastern False Bay coast[edit]

Dive sites of the Gordon's Bay area

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 100m 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 14m to about 4m, 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]

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 20m 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:

Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 3m.
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.
  • Ledges: S34°10.193’ E018°50.726’
Reef dive. Boat access. Maximum depth about 9m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 12m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 13m.
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.
  • Pinnacle: S34°10.468’ E018°49.981’
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 14m.
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.
Reef dive. Boat access. Maximum depth about 14m.
Fairly rugged reef with medium to large ridges and outcrops sloping down fairly steeply to a shelly pebble zone and finally sand bottom.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 14m.
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 9m very close to outer edge of shoreline, then shelves down gradually to 14m, by which time it is fine sand. There are some fairly big outcrops and boulders up to about 3m high, and some overhangs near the shoreline, especially in the inlet.
Reef dive. Boat access. Maximum depth about 10m.
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 10m. Bottom of wave rounded boulders in the bay. More rugged and steep near sides.
Reef dive. Boat access. Maximum depth about 14m.
Sand bottom at about 14m, 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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth more than 20m.
This is not actually a bay at all. The coastline has a convex curve along this dive site. The resort on the shore is called Rocky Bay, and the site name follows from that.
The shoreline is very steep and reflects rather than breaks waves, so the anchorage is very bumpy in a swell. Further out the bottom is gradually sloped, with moderate size ridges and outcrops. Further offshore it gets flatter with low rocky reef and pebbles and small boulders.
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 12m 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:

  • Blouklip (Bloukrans): S34°16.439’ E018°50.163’
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth 17m.
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 10m 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.
Reef dive. Boat access only. Maximum depth not recorded, probably about 18m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 24m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 23m.
This is one of the best known and most interesting sites in the Rooi-els area. The entry gully drops down to 14m 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 23m with sand bottom, and to the north is a small cavern. This is a site of varied topographical features and a rich ecological diversity.
  • Kruis (Crosses): S34°17.431’ E018°49.304
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 22m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 20m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth more than 25m.
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 at the south ends of truncated 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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth reported as 25m.
This site was used for training and as a general recreational dive site some years ago.
  • Balcony: S34°18.454’ E018°48.911’
Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 10m.
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.
  • Ankers: S34°17.350’ E018°49.377’
Reef dive. Shore access. Maximum depth about 20m.
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.
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 20m.
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.
  • Container Bay (Mike’s Bay) : S34°18.75’ E018°49.05’ (approximate)
Reef dive. Shore or boat access. Maximum depth about 14m.
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:

  • Pringle Bay:
Reef dive. Shore access.
  • Pingle Bay Point:
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.

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:

Quarry dive. Shore access only. Maximum depth at least 47m, possibly more. Mostly shallower than 30m.
Named for the building aggregate which was quarried here in the past, which was a dark blue-grey colour. The quarry was closed and is now flooded and used for water sports including diving and water skiing using an overhead cable system.

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

Summary (for Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay#Dive sites)[edit]

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

The dive sites described in these articles include some which are well known favorites 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. 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.

Geographical information is provided in as much detail as currently 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]

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.

The south easterly winds are offshore in this area and tend to blow 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 20m+ 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 and air temperatures in the high 20°C’s and 30°C’s. 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.

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.

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.

Table Bay[edit]

Sea Point[edit]

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.

Clifton[edit]

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.

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.

Camps Bay[edit]

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.

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.

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.

Llandudno[edit]

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.

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.

Leeugat (Maori Bay)[edit]

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

Outer Hout Bay[edit]

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.

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.

Hout Bay[edit]

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

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.

False Bay coast of the Cape Peninsula[edit]

Dive sites from Kalk Bay to Rocklands Point

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 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.

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 easily accessible from the shore 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 8m to 15m maximum depth, though it is possible to do a 30m shore dive if you don’t mind a 700m 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 interchange wet and dry suits depending on the dive planned.

Kalk Bay[edit]

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 5m depth at Dale Brook and nearer 9m at the harbour.

Fish Hoek and Glencairn[edit]

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.

Simon's Town[edit]

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.

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.

Roman Rock reefs[edit]

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.

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.

Seaforth to Froggy Pond[edit]

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.

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

Oatlands Point[edit]

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.

Oatlands Point is at the foot of Swartkop peak, at 678m, 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 30m 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.

Rocklands Point[edit]

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 100m 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.

Miller's Point[edit]

Dive sites from Miller's Point to Buffels Bay

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.

Castle Rocks[edit]

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.

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.

Partridge Point area[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.

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.

Smitswinkel Bay[edit]

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.

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.

Batsata area[edit]

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.

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.

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 6pm.

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.

False Bay Offshore[edit]

Offshore dive sites of False Bay

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 100m 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.

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

Reefs[edit]

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.

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

Seal Island and Whittle 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, and Rocky Bank is sandstone, probably of the Table Mountain group.

Wrecks[edit]

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. 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.

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.

Eastern False Bay coast[edit]

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 100m 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 14m to about 4m, 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]

Dive sites of the Gordon's Bay area

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.

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 20m 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.

Rooi-els[edit]

Dive sites from Rooi-els to Hangklip

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

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 12m 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.

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.

Fresh water dive sites[edit]

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,