Diving around Cape Town can be challenging with cold water and poor visibility being the norm. But on a good day taking on the challenge is so worth it! The 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.
Where to dive around Cape Town
Scuba diving on both sides of the peninsula is often very good in the right season. Inside False Bay the main diving draw cards are diving with seals, diving with the large, prehistoric 7 gill cow sharks and some very interesting nudibranches. There are some nice caverns to explore from the shore at The A-frame.
The Wrecks of Smitswinkel Bay are five wrecks that were scuttled in the 1970’s by the SA Navy in the bay to form an artificial reef. All five can be dived on one dive called a Smiths Swim. A variety of fish such as Red Roman, Pyjama sharks, Shy Sharks, Butterfish, Galjoen, Cape Knife Jaw, Bank Steenbras and Janbruin can be seen inside False Bay.
On the Atlantic side boat dives launch from Houtbay and there are spectacular wrecks and nice reefs, blinders and pinnacles to dive on the Western Seaboard of the Cape Peninsula. Shore dives are commonly done on both sides and the good roads make most sites easy to reach. This side also has some nice caverns to dive from the shore.
There are some excellent wreck dives on the Atlantic side including a wreck favoured by the famous Jacques Cousteau, he described The Maori as the best preserved wreck of its vintage when he dived here.
Dive seasons and conditions
The best time to dive inside False Bay is the South African winter months from May to August. Visibility in winter is normally between 5 and 10 metres, but up to 15m happen on very good days. Water temperatures this time of year is normally around 16C.
In summer time from December to March it is time to dive on the Atlantic side. The prevailing South Easterly winds cleans up the Atlantic side and visibility can reach up to 20m, but this clean water is often very cold and temperatures can drop to about 10°C.
Related article: Guide to Scuba Diving South Africa
Diving with a Great White shark
Cage diving with Great White sharks is the most popular dive related activity for tourists in South Africa. Great White Sharks are lured to the boat with chum made from fish products.
Cage Divers stand in a cage lowered underwater to watch the sharks. These beautiful prehistoric monsters are almost never seen Scuba diving and there has only been one attack ever on a South African Scuba diver. None of my diver friends and colleagues has seen a Great White Shark in thousands of scuba dives.
My encounter scuba diving with a Great White Shark happened on the Western Seaboard of the Cape Peninsula doing a shore dive at Jusin’s Caves. It was a beautiful summer day without a breath of wind. My two dive buddies, my brother Alex and a friend, were both very inexperienced divers.
The water was cold, about 14C and after 45 minutes of exploring the caverns both my buddies were low on air and we ascended. We were more than 100m from the shore, the water was flat and glassy and we slowly started swimming to the shore floating on our backs and joking around.
Alex pointed at something and asked me ‘Campbell what is that?!’ about 20m away I saw a massive fin and thought ‘impossible, it must be a sunfish’. I started swimming with both dive buddies in tow towards the “the sunfish” excited and telling them to hurry up they are going to miss the sunfish! When it came into my visibility about 6 or 7 metres away I realized my mistake.
The massive great white swam past me close enough that I could touch it and I will never forget the big black eye. My brother and I descended, when we got to the bottom we realized our friend was too low on air and we surfaced again joining him. We swam to shore together, the shark never came into our visibility again, but when we stopped we could see the fin swimming in a wide circle around us.
Telling the story now it was an incredible experience, but that day swimming for shore it was not that much fun.
About The Author
Campbell Louw and Alya Akhmetgareeva write the blog Stingy Nomads. They met during their travels in South East Asia and have been traveling the world together for more than four years, getting married along the way! They try to explore the world’s best mountains and reefs. Campbell sometimes works as a Scuba Instructor and Alya teaches English while traveling.