Diving Cape Town

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Cape Town, South Africa

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Country: South Africa  Area: South Africa

Water Temp: 9 - 22°C (48 - 72°F)

Visibility: 6 - 20m (20 - 66 ft)

Depth Range: 10 - 40m (33 - 131 ft)

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Coming face to face with the Ocean’s most feared creature, The Great White Shark, is a thrilling, once in a lifetime experience and Cape Town in South Africa is one of the few places on the Planet able to provide this unique experience. Along with a diverse selection of dive sites and fun marine life, Cape Town really is a unique diving location.

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Cape Town is the largest city in South Africa’s Western Cape and one of the most multicultural cities in the World. The Cape is located at the meeting of two oceans, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. This meeting of warm and cold water is what has created the huge diversity of underwater life and the huge difference in temperature between sides of the cape.

 

Climate & Sea conditions

The climate is a sub tropical Mediterranean climate with mild wet winters, which last from June to the end of August and very warm dry summers from November to March. Diving from Cape Town is year round but the locations that you dive changes with the seasons due to the meeting of the seas. The locations are in two areas, the Atlantic Coast and on the opposite side of the cape, False Bay. These two locations vary dramatically in visibility and water temperature, sometimes as much as 10C!

Tree Canopy Walkway, Credit

Marine Conservation

Cape Town is a hotbed for marine conservation for both local waters and Africa more broadly. Here, conservation efforts take the shape of environmental education/awareness with local populations, direct conservation and highly sophisticated research.

Starfish, Credit.

Many of the existing research centres and non-profits work in close collaboration with the University of Cape Town in Stellenbosch, along with a wide variety of global partners. In addition to preserving and studying the general marine ecosystems, many organizations place particular emphasis on shark, whale, penguin, dolphin and Cape Fur Seal populations in False Bay and Mossel Bay.  Numerous organizations seek out short and long term volunteers.

Clifton, Cape Town, Credit

 
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Diving

False Bay is a 25 minute drive from Cape Town and is the largest true bay in South Africa. False Bay is generally dived Year round, but more frequently between the months of March and September due to weather conditions on the Atlantic Coast. During this time the Bay is a lot warmer that the opposite coast thanks to the Mozambique/Agulhas Current running from North to South bringing with it the warmer waters. The temperature on this side of the cape varies from 12 to 22C.  The average visibility is 6m and is at its cloudiest in the warmer summer months, but during winter if there is a north westerly wind the vis can pick up to around 20m.

Sponge, Credit

The ls up from the Antarctic bringing with it cold plankton rich water full of nutrients. The dive sites in this area are geneAtlantic Coast of the Cape is a lot cooler than False Bay as this side of the Cape has the Benquela current which traverally visited in the summer from October to February.The water temperature on this side can commonly be 10C less than False Bay and in the summer averages 13C but can be between 9-15C. The visibility averages 10m but can get up to 20m when there is south easterly wind, although this also brings a drop in temperature.

Cape Town has a huge variety of dive sites ranging from endless Kelp Forests, sunken shipwrecks and of course the activity that South Africa diving is most famous for, Great White Shark Cage Diving. 

 

Seaside, Credit

Diving with Great White Sharks

Despite all the great diving in the area the main attraction is still getting into a cage surrounded at arm’s length by huge Great White Sharks; perhaps one of the most breath taking and memorable experiences you can ever take part in. There are two main places near Cape Town which you can go to take part in this activity, these are False Bay and Gaansbaai. Gaansbaai is the top area and most popular with cage diving companies, but it is further away from Cape Town and takes a 2hr drive to reach. The operators throw chum into the water around the boat to attract the Great Whites near the boat. Once there the sharks are curious and will frequently come very close and sometimes brush their tail against the cage. This experience is available for all divers and non divers as usually the dives are done on snorkels and breathe holding while the shark is close by. Scuba can sometimes be worn, but some sharks can scare easily from the noise and bubbles created. The best time of year for these tours is April to October as this is when the Sharks are at their most active and so you have the best sightings. Diving with sharks is a major contributor to south Africa’s tourism and so South Africa has protected these magnificent misunderstood creatures from harm.

Diving with Shark, Credit

Cape Fur Seals which are the Great Whites food source can also be seen at a selection of other dive sites around the cape. They are a fun, curious marine mammal which makes diving with them a very enjoyable experience and wonderful photographic subjects as they will interact and play with you.  They live in colonies from a few hundred to tens of thousands. This abundance of seals is one of the reasons that there are so many sharks in the area as they are one of the shark’s favourite meals and if you are lucky on some shark tours you may see a shark breach the water whilst hunting the seals. One of the best sites around Cape Town to dive with these seals is Seal Island in False Bay.

Kelp forests

Another diving habitat in Cape Town is the kelp forests which are areas with a high concentration of kelp and one of the most unique complex ecosystems on Earth! They thrive where there is an upwelling of cool water, such as the Benquela current travelling up the Atlantic Coast. These surreal Kelp forests are a unique diving experience as you swim through the towering strands of kelp with the sunlight breaking through the gaps. You may even be lucky and be joined on the dive by some curious seals or even dolphins.

Tree Sponge, Credit

Whale watching

Some of the world’s largest mammals are also drawn to Cape Town’s temperate waters.  There are a couple of Whale species that seasonally visit the area. The Southern Right Whales are the most commonly seen whales over the winter period of June to early November. They come very close inshore to calve and mate. The Humpback Whales can also be seen during this winter period and through to January passing by on their migration up the coast to tropical waters and then again on their way back down to the Antarctic. The other frequently spotted whale is the Brydes whale which can be spotted year round. The best way to spot these magnificent mammals is on a whale watching cruise or even from the top of the high cliffs around the Western Cape’s Coast.

Wreck diving

False Bay and the Atlantic coast as well are both littered with an abundance of shipwrecks. There is a diverse selection to choose from, recent or ancient and in all depths of water meaning that all levels of diver can enjoy some wreck diving in Cape Town. One of the popular wrecks on the Atlantic Coast is The Maori which is a British Steam Ship which sunk in 1909 carrying explosives, water piping and crockery. Its underwater position means it’s been well protected from the weather and is still in good condition, you can still find intact champagne and ink bottles.

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How to Get There

Cape Town is an easily accessible city, whether you are arriving internationally or from a domestic location.

 Cape Town has an international airport 20km east of the city centre and it is serviced daily by both international and domestic flights. Note that many airlines enter South Africa via Johannesburg and your same flight will then carry on to Cape Town after the touchdown.

 Interstate busses frequently connect Cape Town to all major South African cities and are a more inexpensive method for traversing the country. Greyhound , Intercape  and Translux  are all reputable major bus companies. Unfortunately the backpacker-focused hop-on hop-off Baz Bus has recently gone out of business. All interstate busses arrive at the bus terminal in the city centre.

Amusement Park, Credit

 Two luxury trains (Rovos Rail and the Blue Line) connect Cape Town to Johannesburg in the most glamorous way. These routes are more of an experience than they are a viable transportation method, given that formalwear is the mandatory dress code at dinner.

Cape Town offers a rich variety in historical, cultural and nature-based activities all within minutes of the city.

The city hosts numerous historical sites that were hugely relevant during Apartheid and the anti-Apratheid movement. A trip to Cape Town would not be complete without enduring the wavy boat ride to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. It is also possible to visit the home where he was released after Robben Island, in addition to numerous other sights of struggle.

Cape Twon Waterfront, Credit

Hiking (or taking the Sky Car) up Cape Town’s infamous Table Mountain is a perfect activity for a family. From the top, visitors are rewarded with truly spectacular views of city. Neighbouring Lion’s Head mountain offers equally as spectacular views, in addition to a more challenging climb that ends with a rope and ladder system for the final ascent.

Alternatively, numerous day tours take visitors to the Cape of Good Hope and Boulder’s Beach – home to a growing colony of African Penguins. These tours also frequently add on a tour of various cultural sites, including Kyayelitsha township and the Indian neighbourhoods throughout Cape Town.

The city’s best shopping is generally located along Long St. and the Victoria & Albert Waterfront. The latter is home to more high-end retail stores, while local craft markets open up all along Long St on the weekends. The Neighbourgoods Market is also worth a visit if you are in Cape Town on a Saturday morning. This trendy local market profiles numerous artisans and micro-entrepreneurs that are slowly reinventing the face of South Africa.

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Where to Eat & Drink

Cape Town positively teems with post-diving activities. With a wide variety of spectacular restaurants, a thriving nightlife and incredible nature reserves minutes from the city centre, it is worth adding a few on-land days to your trip to the city.

Food! Credit

 Restaurants in Cape Town are as varied and diverse as the South African population itself. The Camps Bay region of the city is quickly emerging as a trendy hot spot for sundowners and meals, while restaurants around the Victoria and Alberta Waterfront tend to be more classically South African and cater towards visiting tourists.  Venturing out towards the vineyards of Stellenbosch opens up a world of wine tasting, wine pairings and some of the best-ranked restaurants worldwide. Joining a tour for this area is often a wise idea, given the amount of wine there is to consume.

Old Biscuit Mill, Credit

 Most bars and nightclubs congregate along the infamous Long St. in the city centre. With most youth hostels located on this same street, bars and restaurants here often draw in a lively young international crowd. The Beerhouse, Café Mojito and Stranger than Fiction are favourites on the street. A longstanding bohemian hotspot, Long St was also instrumental in showing anti-Apartheid plays during the 1970s and 1980s. It is certainly worth strolling down the Victorian style street during the daytime as well.

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Other Activities

Cape Town offers a rich variety in historical, cultural and nature-based activities all within minutes of the city.

The city hosts numerous historical sites that were hugely relevant during Apartheid and the anti-Apratheid movement. A trip to Cape Town would not be complete without enduring the wavy boat ride to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. It is also possible to visit the home where he was released after Robben Island, in addition to numerous other sights of struggle.

Cape Town City Hall, Credit

Hiking (or taking the Sky Car) up Cape Town’s infamous Table Mountain is a perfect activity for a family. From the top, visitors are rewarded with truly spectacular views of city. Neighbouring Lion’s Head mountain offers equally as spectacular views, in addition to a more challenging climb that ends with a rope and ladder system for the final ascent.

Alternatively, numerous day tours take visitors to the Cape of Good Hope and Boulder’s Beach – home to a growing colony of African Penguins. These tours also frequently add on a tour of various cultural sites, including Kyayelitsha township and the Indian neighbourhoods throughout Cape Town.

Roggebaai Canal,  Cape Town, Credit

The city’s best shopping is generally located along Long St. and the Victoria & Albert Waterfront. The latter is home to more high-end retail stores, while local craft markets open up all along Long St on the weekends. The Neighbourgoods Market is also worth a visit if you are in Cape Town on a Saturday morning. This trendy local market profiles numerous artisans and micro-entrepreneurs that are slowly reinventing the face of South Africa.

Cape Town offers a rich variety in historical, cultural and nature-based activities all within minutes of the city.

The city hosts numerous historical sites that were hugely relevant during Apartheid and the anti-Apratheid movement. A trip to Cape Town would not be complete without enduring the wavy boat ride to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. It is also possible to visit the home where he was released after Robben Island, in addition to numerous other sights of struggle.

Hiking (or taking the Sky Car) up Cape Town’s infamous Table Mountain is a perfect activity for a family. From the top, visitors are rewarded with truly spectacular views of city. Neighbouring Lion’s Head mountain offers equally as spectacular views, in addition to a more challenging climb that ends with a rope and ladder system for the final ascent.

Alternatively, numerous day tours take visitors to the Cape of Good Hope and Boulder’s Beach – home to a growing colony of African Penguins. These tours also frequently add on a tour of various cultural sites, including Kyayelitsha township and the Indian neighbourhoods throughout Cape Town.

The city’s best shopping is generally located along Long St. and the Victoria & Albert Waterfront. The latter is home to more high-end retail stores, while local craft markets open up all along Long St on the weekends. The Neighbourgoods Market is also worth a visit if you are in Cape Town on a Saturday morning. This trendy local market profiles numerous artisans and micro-entrepreneurs that are slowly reinventing the face of South Africa.

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Insider Tips

Scuba Diving in South Africa is very well regulated, and normal levels of precaution should be taken when approaching various dive centres.

 Within Cape Town more broadly, visitors should pay attention to local security warnings. Given the extreme income disparity within South Africa, crime in urban centres is a growing concern. Be sure to keep a close eye on all valuables and to consult with locals regarding areas that are dangerous, and places to be avoided after dark.

Cape Town Flower Market, Credit

 Shopping in the local markets can be an overwhelming experience for some visitors. Vendors are often enthusiastic to make a sale and at times can become pushy. Remaining calm, friendly and firm is typically all that is needed to enjoyably navigate these markets – in addition to an aptitude towards bartering.

 Should problems arise, Cape Town has multiple high quality hospitals and clinics that can be accessed by visitors. Ensure that your travel insurance is up to date since these private clinics become very expensive very quickly. Police are also widely available and are generally reputable and easy to work with.

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Rating 10/10

Great diving

Cape Town30 Oct 2017 - 8 Nov 2017

We did 3 dives only with Pisces divers, but what we saw can be compared with a week of diving in e.g. Egypt. Our first dive was with seals, the visibility is not very good for photography, but they get enough close so that you can enjoy them. Next dive was in kelp forest, unfortunately 7 gill sharks vanished and we didn't see any, but we saw an octopus and several cute cat sharks. And the last dive was an oceanic dive with blue sharks and they get VERY close, so cool.

If you decide to head here:

1) Bring a dry suit, if you don't have it - buy it, water temperature is 14 to 17 degrees Celsium

2) Put on a lot of warm clothes once on the oceanic dive because it is a long journey

3) Take Dramamine or alternatives every day or it is going to ruin all your experience, oceanic dive is a 2hr journey 1 way and the boats are tiny :( sometimes there is no place to sit except for the floor

4) Be careful with items you have with/on you, one of divers who was with us had a selfie stick in silver while diving with blue sharks *facepalm and the shark approached her and started chewing the stick!! It lasted for several seconds, luckily she wasn't wounded

See also a video from this trip on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9d9NGATDH3g

Rating 7/10

The weekend that's been 18-20 November 2011

Cape Town18 Nov 2011 - 20 Nov 2011

The weekend that's been was a most memorable one for diving in Cape Town...especially for those that were lucky enough to take off work on Friday. It had without a doubt the best visibility of the three days with reports of 25m meter. A further highlight was the massive schools of Sardines that has been trapped in shore, an amazing sight to witness. By Saturday the plankton bloom turned the water green and only deeper down could the very clean water still be enjoyed. (Leaving you with a photo from Saturday and one from Sunday, taken in the shallows)

I saw: Seals
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Catherine Jones

Amazing pictures with brilliant colour! Sounds like a great few days diving :)

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LaserShark

Great report Aqua Soul, I think I might add Cape Town to my dive wish list

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