Why do dive travellers keep coming back to Cape Town? The same reason why many now live in Cape Town: the Cape Peninsula. Now declared a national park and marine reserve, the peninsula is conveniently situated geographically to offer all year round diving. False Bay is sheltered from the prevailing North West winds in winter and Table Bay, situated on the Atlantic seaboard, is sheltered from the prevailing summer South East winds.
Early mariners knew to anchor in False Bay in winter and Table Bay in summer. Those who did not paid the price making the Cape Peninsula one of the richest wreck diving hot spots in the world. More than 200 shipwrecks dot the Cape coast. Many can be dived from the shore or you can book on any one of the organised SAMSA certified dive charter boats. The wreck of the Clan Stuart, blown ashore by a South Easterly gale, is one such shore dive. A short swim from the shore, this dive featuring top to bottom viz offers the opportunity to swim the entire length of the craft from the bronze propeller, along the massive prop shaft to the boilers which nestle up against the engine block and to the bow. Marine growth now cover the frames and hull plating and the Clan Stuart is an oasis for thousands of tiny animals seeking shelter on an otherwise sandy beach. Examples of the sub-aquatic denizens include octopus looking for crayfish, seals looking for their favourite food: octopus and many subspecies of Shy shark peeking out from between the waving fingers of kelp.
For the more adventurous, a short boat ride from the Millers Point slip way to Smitswinkel Bay leads to five reasonably intact ships lying within 30 to 60 meters of each other in approximately 30 meters of water and doing what old ships should be doing: creating an artificial reef. These old relics are doing a fine job; so much so that anchoring is frowned upon due to the prolific sea life that inhabits every inch.
Some of the best diving can be found in the kelp forests. One such site is situated in False Bay and is frequently dived on weekends as it is home to a slew of Seven Gill (Cow) sharks that can be seen gliding through the kelp all year round. Once you’ve done a few dives with these awesome creatures you get to know each of their characters. As distinct in their appearance as they are in their biology, these oceanic predators are dotted with scars from fighting or mating, giving each a unique identity. This site is accessible from both shore and boat. For an in depth report on this dive have a look at wikitravel.org/en/Diving_the_Cape_Peninsula…/Shark_Alley
If you find the Seven Gills a bit tame then the Cape has one of the two best Great White dive spots in the world only a 2 hour scenic drive from Cape Town. Dyer Island is home to some 40000 Cape Fur Seals so the chances of viewing the apex predator close up from the safety of a cage is exceptionally high. In between Great White sightings the chances of seeing Cape Gannets, Cape Cormorants, African Penguins, whales and dolphins are also high. Great Whites are surface feeders so the staff are trained to bring the sharks close to the boat; close enough to touch so non divers can also enjoy the spectacle.
If this is all a bit too much then Cape Town has another option to offer the diver seeking a relaxed adventure. The Two Ocean’s Aquarium, a 2 million litre predators’ tank home to a number of Ragged-tooth sharks, turtles, sting rays, Dusky Kob and many more, offers excellent conditions all year round, great visibility and guaranteed shark sightings. As an Advanced diver you can get to dive the Kelp Forest and feed some of the largest reef fish from along the South African coast.
On the Atlantic side just west of Hout Bay lies the appropriately named Seal Island. Seemingly sheltered from large predators and home to thousands of Cape Fur seals, these seal dives which are normally undertaken during the summer months are very popular. Although clumsy on land, in water the seals transform into master divers playing like excited pups amongst the divers making underwater photography an absolute pleasure.
In South Africa Cape Town is known as the Mother City. Rich in entertainment and very laid back, Cape Town is sometimes a little too laid back for the fast paced people in the North. If you enjoy dive travel and wish to meet friendly, vibrant and interesting people who are enthusiastic about life and sharing their main sport, you will find it all in Cape Town.