Cape Town is a vibrant, colourful city jam-packed with culture, adventure and scenery that is unparalleled in both beauty and diversity. With the majestic Table Mountain forming the backdrop to every Cape Town escapade, there’s no mystery behind why visitors flock to this incredible city. Within easy reach you’ll have famous mountains to climb, magnificent wildlife to interact with, world-class beaches to sunbathe on and a wild and exotic ocean to explore.
Possibly one of the most sought-after experiences for diving enthusiasts who visit Cape Town is the chance to encounter a variety of shark species in their natural habitat. The Atlantic Ocean is home to the highly feared and respected great white shark and these magnificent creatures can be seen breaching in the waters surrounding Seal Island off the coast False Bay. Other species of shark can also be seen including the rare cow shark, mako shark and dusky shark. Diving with great white sharks from the safety of a cage is also possible in Cape Town, for those looking for an extra thrill!
Best Diving Destinations in Cape Town
Justin’s Cave, Cape Peninsula
Widely popular with both locals and tourists, this site flanks the coast on the Atlantic seaboard of the Cape Peninsula. The reef is a rocky one consisting largely of massive boulders made of granite that allow divers to explore a variety of nooks, crannies and crevices. Divers can also opt to swim through some of the gaps between these boulders and enjoy the variety of colours on display thanks to sea fans, soft corals and sponges. Marine life at Justin’s Cave is typical of rocky, inshore reefs with a large number of sea urchins, sea cucumbers, mussels and starfish to be found.
Castle Rock, Cape Town
Castle Rock is located within a marine reserve off the coast of the peninsula known as Cape Point. This site features an abundance of fish life as well as kelp forests, sponges and sea fans. Divers who choose to explore the rocks and swim-throughs will be met with brittle stars, nudibranchs and octopi. The nearby Pyramid Rock is also covered in kelp forests and soft corals and is most famous for its sightings of gully sharks, shy sharks and the rare cow shark that looks almost prehistoric.
Smitswinkel Bay Wrecks, Simon’s Town
Cape Town is also well-known for its wreck diving opportunities. One such opportunity, and one of the more popular wreck sites, is that of the Smitswinkel Bay wrecks. These five ships are in close proximity to one another and have formed an artificial reef that remains in impeccable condition, offering divers the chance to explore a piece of history at depths of between 22-36 metres. An array of colours and marine life including anemones, sea fans, sponges and nudibranchs are awaiting divers at these wrecks. The colours are best seen in the glow of a powerful diving light to get the full effect.
Steenbras Deep, False Bay
Steenbras Deep is an offshore rocky reef known for its large pinnacles and wide variety of invertebrate marine life. The area is covered in colourful anemones, sponges and giant sea fans. Interesting creatures such as purple lady nudibranchs and the pyjama shark otherwise known as the striped catshark are available for spotting at Steenbras Deep.
Shark Diving in Gansbaai and False Bay
Both Gansbaai and False Bay are major players for shark diving capitals in the Western Cape of South Africa. Cage diving is best done from May to September when it is more likely that the great white sharks will be around to capture their prey at the nearby Seal Island. Many divers on these excursions are lucky enough to see a great white breach high above the water’s surface in order to catch a seal.
Getting to Cape Town
Cape Town is known as South Africa’s ‘Mother City’. It is also the legislative capital and the third most populated urban area in the country. As such, Cape Town has great connections both domestically and internationally via Cape Town International Airport. While there are some public transport options and a number of guided tour options to get around the city, hiring a car is highly recommended for those wishing to explore off the beaten track and those wanting to take advantage of the fantastic dive sites the Mother City has to offer. Although safety is a concern when considering a visit to Cape Town, visitors need only take regular precautions when it comes to travelling safety.
When to Visit Cape Town
Cape Town’s climate is that of warm, dry summers with relatively wet, windy yet mild winters. The seasons are the reverse of northern hemisphere countries with winter occurring between June and August and summer occurring from early in December to March.
In terms of scuba diving, it is possible to dive certain sites at any time of the year, although there are some locations that are best visited either in summer or in winter. One such location that is best dived in the winter months of March to September is False Bay, an area that is relatively protected from bad weather by the large and imposing Cape Peninsula. Conditions in other areas of the Atlantic are generally better during the summer months, with visibility in the region of 10 to 20 metres and water temperatures around 10-13°C. A dry suit or thick wetsuit is highly recommended for these cool conditions.
Whilst shark sightings are common throughout the year, the highly popular cage diving experiences are best arranged from May to October during Cape Town’s moderate winter. The winter months can present strong north-westerly winds which have an effect on the swells of the Atlantic and increased rainfall during the winter months will also have an impact on visibility. If the weather is particularly bad, the operators may need to cancel the cage dive, so divers should be sure to set aside a number of days to ensure you get the full experience.
Where to Stay in Cape Town
Although Cape Town is quite an expansive city, travelling around via car is the ideal way to see a number of interesting sights as well as the phenomenal coastline views with Table Mountain in the background. Diving centres are located within the city limits as well as all along the coast and offer everything from equipment hire to transfers to expertly arranging your shark diving experiences for you. The centres located on the peninsula and in False Bay are closest to the action and may be worth visiting over some of the city centre shops. Luckily for any divers travelling with non-divers, each diving hub such as Simon’s Town, False Bay and of course Cape Town itself will offer a host of other activities and unbelievable scenes to explore above the surface of the water.