Scuba diving in Cape Town is not really well known around the world. I have been traveling around the world as a Scuba dive instructor for about 5 years. The most common dive questions about South Africa have been; have you done cage diving? and have you dived in the sardine run? Amazing experiences for sure, but South Africa has a lot more to offer to the Scuba diver. With such an diverse coast line it is one of the world’s most interesting diving destinations.
For the best Scuba diving with sharks in South Africa descend at Protea Banks in KwaZulu Natal. You will swim with Tigersharks, Zambezis, Black Tips and sometimes massive shoals of hammerheads. The most colorful and best tropical diving is in the warm Mozambique current from Sodwana Bay in northern Kwazulu Natal. On Africa’s most southern coral reef you can see Whalesharks, Humpback Whales, Raggie-tooth Sharks, Manta Rays, and nesting Sea Turtles in season. Diving with seals, cow sharks and seeing some very unique nudibranches in the kelp forests of Cape Town make diving here different and spectacular. Diving the Peninsula and False Bay
DIVE CAPE TOWN
Diving around Cape Town is challenging. Water temperature vary between cold and very cold and visibility can be poor. But on a good day taking on the challenge is so worth it! Very few people are lucky/unlucky enough to ever see a great white shark scuba diving and attacks are almost non-existent. The cold problem is easily solved by diving in a proper wetsuit or a dry suit in extreme conditions.
Cost of Diving
Diving is interesting and challenging around Cape Town, but is not cheap. We recently paid less than $30 per dive to dive the world famous Komodo Island in Indonesia. This included meals, snacks, very long boat rides and all gear. Compare this with Cape Town which starts at $45 for a boat dive with gear! We paid less than half in Malaysia doing some excellent diving around Perhentian island under $20 per dive! Click Here for some interesting diving we did around the world.
Cost of diving with different operators at the bottom of this entry.
Many dive sites are easily accessible from the shore. Since no boat costs are involved most training dives in the area are done from the shore. This makes diving cheap if you own your own equipment and know the area, only paying for cylinder refills. Renting is still much cheaper than doing boat dives and many dive shops have dive leaders available for shore dives.
Dive sites around Cape Town are either located inside False Bay or on the Atlantic side, referring to the west coast of the Cape Peninsula.
THE FALSE BAY SIDE
There is some fantastic Scuba diving inside false bay. Diving with seals, large 7 gill cowsharks and some very interesting nudibranches. Shore dives are commonly done and the good roads make most sites easy to reach. Many big cowsharks are often seen from the shore. There are a variety of world class wrecks to dive in the bay.
Inside False Bay is best dived in winter months when the prevailing north-westerly winds flatten and cleans the bay. In winter visibility is normally between 5 and 10 metres, but I have seen up to 20m. Water temperatures this time of year is normally around 16C. In summer the south easter can spoil conditions decreasing visibility to zero and water temperatures can drop to 12C.
Dive sites in this area are located in a Marine Protected Area (2004) and a scuba permit is required. It can be purchased from any post office (Kalkbay is an easy one). Tourists can by a 1 month permit (green) for cheap, an annual permit (blue) is about R100 ($7). In a couple of years diving they have checked me once. Not having a permit, you can receive a substantial fine and gear will be confiscated.
In my student days we couldn’t afford boat dives and I did hundreds of dives, day and night, from the shore. As an instructor I have trained and showed many divers some fantastic dives from the shore.
The Clan Stuart
The “SS Clan Stuart” is a 3500 ton British turret steamer that ran aground carrying a cargo of coal after dragging her anchor in a South East gale on 21 November 1914.
This wreck is an easy, shallow dive suitable for all levels. Great shore dive, with adequate parking and well protected from south westerly swell. It is suitable for training and night dives, and has quite a diverse population of reef animals and some interesting wreckage. The engine block can be seen above the water from the shore. The wreck is covered in growth, many small fish. Great white sharks have been seen here once or twice.
Avg depth 6m. Max depth 8m
Approximately 4km from the Fish Hoek traffic circle on the Simon’s Town Road, about 100m from the beach at Mackerel Bay
The A-Frame is a very nice shore dive, the entry is easy, there are some interesting swim throughs and a variety of marine life. The entry point is a flat rocky plateau. You decend on a shallow sandy area from where you start your tour through the kelp Forrest and past huge boulders.
There are a few deep holes and overhangs creating interesting swim throughs in which you can see many colorful invertebrates. The smaller of the two rocks has a nice cave to enter filled with big sponges. The site is well suited for night dives. Octopus, cuttlefish, big red romans, hottentot and shy sharks are commonly seen.
The site lies approximately 5km from Simon’s Town on the Cape Point Road.
Castle Rock Wiki Guide
Castle Rock is huge rocks in a small bay area, which is formed by big boulders. The dive starts in a small bay which you exit through a big Kelp forest. You swim around the rocks and this site has some amazing fish life. Red Roman, Pyjama sharks, Shy Sharks, Butterfish, Galjoen, Cape Knife Jaw, Bank Steenbras and Janbruin (John Brown) of descend size are seen on most dives.
Max Depth 15m
Driving from Simonstown Castle Rocks is situated just before the Cape Point Nature Reserve. After the Millers Point turn off you will see a large outcrop of rocks, Castle Rock. Parking is on the side of the Road, about 15 meters above sea level,so you kit up here and walk down to the entry spot.
Pyramid Rock – Cow Shark Dive
This is my favorite dive in Simonstown and is often done as a boat dive. Similar fish life to Castle Rock. The highlight is the Seven Gill Cow Sharks. Sometimes many of these large sharks can be seen. They have teeth but in thousands of dives nobody has been bitten.
A pyramid shaped rock sticking out above the water between Castle Rock and the Simonstown jetty.
Partridge Point – Cape Fur Seal Dive
Scuba diving with the acrobatic Cape Fur Seals is an awesome experience in Cape Town. The seals are very playful and love to show off to divers.
These seals are used to divers and many of them often come to investigate and play. Partridge Point is a inshore rocky reef close to Castle Rocks.
The amphitheatre, a shallow section of the reef is a good place to watch the Seals. The deeper sections of the reef offers beautiful marine life, swim-throughs and large sea fans.
There are extensive kelp forests in the shallower areas, and a heavy cover of invertebrates on the rocks.
Max depth 26m
Rock in False Bay raising from 35m to 3m from the surface. Variety of nice size fish; Red Roman, Red Stump, Yellow Tail and more. Popular spearfishing spot. Great Whites sometimes seen. Nice nudibrances and other invertebrates.
Boat dive, 9km from Millers Point. S34°14.814’ E018°33.755’
The SAS Pietermaritzburg Wiki Guide
This ship was formerly known as HMS Pelorus and led the D-Day invasion of Normandy. It was bought by the South African Navy and scuttled to form an artificial reef in 1994. The wreck is still intact and is easy to access. It is a popular site for introductory wreck dives and night dives, mainly due to the moderate depth and short distance from the launch site. Max Depth 22m
Boat dive, 1 km from Millers Point.
S34°13.303’ E018° 28.465’
The Wrecks of Smitswinkel Bay
The Wrecks of Smitswinkel Bay are five wrecks that were scuttled in the 1970’s by the SA Navy to form an artificial reef. It is possible to visit all five wrecks on a single no-decompression dive , this is known as a Smits Swim. This is occasionally organised for people who want to have been there and done that. The Five wrecks are SAS Transvaal (navy frigate), SAS Good Hope (navy frigate), the Rockeater (diamond dredger), the
Princess Elizabeth (fishing trawler) and the Oratava (fishing trawler) The dredger and frigates are in an upright position and at this depth can be quite a ghostly sight.
A good charter company is important for this dive, some local divers are not even sure which wreck is which. Grant from Blueflash Divers really knows what he is doing. On the wrecks you can see various nudibranchs, anemones, sponges, sea-fans and soft corals. A good light helps to bring out a lot of color. Because of the depth and cold water be sure to plan the dive well and adhere to limits.
THE ATLANTIC SIDE
Diving the Atlantic Side refers to the sites on the west coast of the Cape Peninsula. Cold, clean water brought by the South East winds makes summer the time to dive here. The South east cleans up the Atlantic side and visibility can reach up to 20m, but then the temperatures can drop to about 10°C.
There are some nice shore dives to do from Camps bay in the area. Boat dives launch from Houtbay and there are spectacular wrecks and nice reefs, blinders and pinnacles to dive here on the Western Seaboard of the Cape Peninsula.
This is a very popular shore dive in summer when the water is cold and clean. Large caverns and swim throughs makes this a fun dive. Nudibranches, anemones, sponges and many crayfish live in some of the caverns. Many hottentot fish and small, harmless sharks swim in the area. Many years ago I saw a great white shark here on a shore dive. I have never heard about this happening to another diver.
Parking at the side of the road on outside of bend north of the Twelve Apostles Hotel. There is an entry/exit point directly opposite the caves at the bottom of a slope covered with rounded boulders. Dive site about 150m off shore.
The Maori is one of my favorite wreck dives around Cape Town. Jacques Cousteau labelled it the best preserved wreck of it’s vintage when he dived here. This 5317 ton cargo ship went down carrying explosives, pipes and crockery from London to New Zealand in 1909. Points of interest on the wreck include the steam engines, the railway lines for cargo and lots more. Stranded on a rocky reef with an overall length of 122 m
Max depth 21m
Boat dive, located about 7.5 km from Hout Bay Harbour. Close inshore in the middle of the bay between Duiker Point and Oude Schip, but not easily accessible from the shore as there are no roads in this area.
Great Dive Center. Located in Strand, but dives everywhere in False Bay. I did my training with Alpha. Ettienne, the owner, is a great guy with 20 years+ of experience. Good dive masters for shore dives, does boat dives with Blue Flash, an excellent charter company. Pop in for a cup of coffee and discus any diving ideas you might have.
Full Scuba gear rental R350 ($25) per day, R90 ($6.50) Divemaster fee.
This is a very good deal if you rent a set and refill the cylinder for 2 or 3 dives!
Boat fee R200-R300 depending on site, so with gear rental you are looking at about R600 ($44) for a dive.
PADI Openwater Course – R4950 ($360)
SSI Openwater Course – R4500 ($327)
- Includes 4 shore dives, Scuba Gear (own mask, snorkel, fins)
Excellent dive center ran by owner Mike Nortje. Location is great on Long Beach, Simonstown the most popular training beach. Swimming Pool on site. Nice Coffee Shop in the dive center.
Shore Dives R1200 ($87) – 2 dives
Daily Shorediving package with full equipment, two guided shore dives, lunch and transport from dive centre to dive sites.
Boat Dives R1800 ($130)-2 dives
Guided boat dive package includes full equipment for your two dives
PADI Openwater Course – R5600 ($407)
- Includes 2 boat dives, 2 shore dives, all gear
- bit more pricey, but nice that your course includes some boat dives
Thinking of things that can go wrong too much can put a damper on your trip, but there are obvious risks. Many dive locations are remote with minimal medical facilities. Accidents do happen, be prepared. World Nomads travel insurance covers travelers from most countries around the world and cover can even be organised while you are traveling. They specialize in covering adventure activities like diving. Make sure you take out the appropriate cover. Get a online quote in seconds. Have your trip, your health and your gear covered, read the small print. World Nomads Diving Insurance
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