When dreaming about diving, warm tropical waters usually come to mind. So, Cape Town isn't the typical diver's paradise, but there is some great diving to be had in the Cape nevertheless.
Cape Town offers some diverse and beautiful dive sites and is best known for its shipwreck and kelp forest dives, as well as dives with cow sharks and seals.
My Scuba Dive in Cape Town
At the end of last year, I decided to head to Simon's Town and see for myself what scuba diving in Cape Town is really like. Having lived in Cape Town for years, it was finally time to don a thick wetsuit with a hoodie and booties.
On the day that I went diving in False Bay the water temperature was apparently about 17ºC, which is pretty good for Cape Town, and the visibility was around 5m or so.
Open Water One Refresher Course
The morning started with a multiple choice test to assess the state of my knowledge, followed by a one-on-one class to brush up on several key areas. Soon it was time to get kitted up and into the pool at the dive centre. My friendly and capable dive instructor ran through the required exercises with me at the bottom of the pool and gave me some time to simply get comfortable underwater.
The Shore Dive Experience
Then we were off to Long Beach where we put on the full gear (long wet suit and short, in my case) and simply walked into the ocean for our shore dive. Once underwater we swam out along a pipeline, diving over a mostly sandy bottom.
This was not a challenging or overwhelming dive, perfect for first timers or as a refresher. The dive lasted for about 45 minutes in relatively shallow waters, scattered with a few artefacts, small corals and loose rocks.
We stuck together nicely and I only started getting cold right at the end of the dive, which was fantastic! On the dive we spotted plenty of starfish, jellyfish, a few hiding octopuses and some fish, including Hottentots (Black bream or Kaapse Galjoen) and a cool-looking green fish, among other marine creatures. I felt completely safe underwater and we didn't get tangled up in any kelp forests, which was a relief.
3 Top Scuba Diving Attractions in Cape Town - Year Round
These three major scuba diving highlights in Cape Town can be enjoyed throughout the year by divers with any level of experience.
1. Dive with Seven Gill Cow sharks (Spotted Cow sharks)
Cape Town is the only place in the world where you can consistently dive with Seven Gill Cow Sharks.
Encounter prehistoric looking seven gill cow sharks in the kelp forests of False Bay, just off Miller's Point.
Guided dives offer an 85% chance of successfully spotting these predators all year round, in a 12m deep channel with a sandy bottom. Catsharks and spotted gully sharks are also seen at this dive site, along with other marine life.
2. Dive with Cape Fur Seals
Dive with the playful Cape Fur Seals, getting up close to these graceful mammals underwater.
Spots for diving with the seals include Partridge Point and Seal Island in False Bay, Strawberry Rock on the Atlantic side and the kelp forests at Duiker Island in Hout Bay. Some of these seal colonies number in the hundreds and even thousands.
3. Shipwreck Dives
Being the "Cape of Storms" the Cape Peninsula is littered with plenty of shipwrecks that can be accessed by boat and from the shore.
The some 800 wreck dive sites range from small to big and old to recent. Shipwrecks include SS Maori, Antipolis, Astor, SAS Pietermaritzburg, Katzu Maru, Smitswinkel Bay Wrecks, SS Clan Stuart and many more.
What to Expect when Scuba Diving in Cape Town
Cold waters: dry-suits or good quality 7mm, 2-piece wetsuits are recommended for diving in Cape Town.
Divers come across a wide variety of sea animals along the Cape coastline, from whales and dolphins to seals, manta rays and different types of fish. Various kinds of sharks can also be spotted (mostly harmless ones), with the norm being that sharks leave scuba divers to be.
Summer Diving - Atlantic Seaboard (October to February)
- average water temperature of about 13°C
- average visibility of about 10m
- beautiful reefs, kelp forests and shipwreck dives, both shore and boat-based
When the south-easterly wind has been blowing the visibility can reach up to 20m, but then the temperatures tend to drop to about 10°C.
Winter Diving - False Bay (March to September)
- average water temperatures - between 12°C and 18°C
- average visibility of about 6m
- excellent shore dive sites, deeper reefs and wreck dives accessed by boat
As with surfing in False Bay, scuba diving is best in the winter when the northwester blows, which improves the visibility (up to 15m).
Cape Town Dive Sites:
Check out the Cape Explorer - Top Five Diving Sites in Cape Town.
- A few Open Water shore dive sites
- Some False Bay and Atlantic Seaboard dives
- Atlantic Ocean - western seaboard dives
- False Bay dive sites
- Diving with Seven Gill Cowsharks
Photos: The Cape Scuba Club has some great photos of marine life and dives, on their Facebook page.
Recommendation: I went scuba diving with Pisces Divers and was completely happy with them (they aren't paying me to say this). They were friendly and professional, and I felt 100% safe.
Video: GoPro Scuba - Diving with Spotted Sevengill Cow Sharks at Pyramid, Cape Town:
It's worth reiterating three key finds from my diving experience in Cape Town:
1. You can go scuba diving in Cape Town without freezing and losing any fingers or toes.
2. You can go diving safely - sharks generally leave scuba divers alone and there were no sharks on the dive we did.
3. You don't have to be a pro to dive here - the dive we did wasn't a scary escapade through a tangled kelp forest.