Dive Report – Castle Rocks

The day I finished my first PADI Open Water dive, I immediately started questioning the relevance of snorkels and until my first dive with Dave, this always remained something I wondered about. After that dive, I wondered no more. It’s not often that you see boat divers between yourself and the shore, nor require the aid of professional translators proficient in many different languages because you’re not sure which country’s shore you’re likely to encounter first. But I digress…

Sunday morning’s sunrise revealed a thick blanket of fog covering the whole of Cape Town in a eerie, muffled slumber as if time was standing still. Everything was dead quiet and slightly moist. This was especially true for the waters of False Bay which had settled into a mirror-like state, with tiny waves no bigger than 15cm lapping at the shore like that of Lilliput in Gulliver’s Travels. By 09h30 the divers had assembled at Long Beach in Simonstown, looking out with great excitement over the meter or two of visible surf disappearing into the seemingly endless cloud that surrounded us. It was going to be a good day for diving!

False Bay plays host to a whole lot of dive sites, ranging from sheltered everyday sites like Long Beach to fragile, exposed site Castle Rocks close to Cape Point. These more exposed sites are more susceptible to worsening with the weather and it’s on calm days such as these that we get to experience them while the weatherman is sleeping. By 10:00 we were at the site and ready to gear up, but the sun had made it’s debut and was at this point doing it’s very best to get through the fog, with it’s intense heat growing stronger by the minute. We decided to give it a couple of minutes before we started kitting up, so that by the time we hit the water we would have some light at our backs and could really make the most of the incredible visibility Cape Town had graced us with.

When we got down to the water, we had a quick dive briefing during which it was decided that we would break up into two groups, one being mostly photographers and the other non-photographers. At this point we started “The Swim”. Although not as unforgiving as the great Geldkis Swim of 2014 mainly due to the super-calm surface conditions, my lack of snorkel still proved a little inconvenient as I did not want to make use of my air at this point, something I would later realize would not have made a difference to my overall dive time. I held my breath and faced down into the water during the surface swim and was rendered absolutely speechless… Because my mouth was covered with water. Duh. But even the voice in my head was speechless at the absolutely amazing clarity of the water. Dare I say it’s in my top 3 list of the best viz I’ve ever encountered in Cape Town.

We finally descended into an array of colour slowly coming to life as the sun was breaking through the fog, with countless fans, tons of Pyjama Shark and an array of Nudibranchs not easily matched at other sites all making their appearance. There was an ever so slight surge about halfway into the dive, but small and slow enough to match our overall diving pace. As we went steadily lower, the temperature dropped to an overall low of 12 degrees with a bit of a thermocline on a wall riddled with many different species of Nudibranchs, some doing their own thing, others huddling together in little groups…

About 45min into the dive, we decided that it was time to start heading back so we slowly ascended to get an idea of where we were in relation to the shore before following a bearing back home. Upon surfacing however, one of our dive buddies mentioned that her air was insufficiently low to make the swim back under water, so we took a nice slow surface swim back, popping our heads under water every now and then just to get another glimpse of the once-in-a-blue-moon conditions we just had.

A very big thank you to all the dive buddies, fearless marathon-swimmer Dave for leading as well as Hellmut for leading the photographer group. It was a great way to welcome winter diving back to Cape Town!

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