Diving South Africa: 6 Top Cape Town Dive Experiences

November 28, 2019Watersports

This article was written by Kathryn Curzon; a shark conservationist and dive travel writer. Follow her adventures at www.kathryncurzon.com.


If you’re a fan of marine megafauna, shark diving, wrecks and reefs, you’ll love getting in the water around Cape Town.

This vibrant destination is as colorful underwater as it is above, and the marine life you can see is incredible.

Here are my top Cape Town dive experiences to try:

Endless Kelp Forests

False Bay’s kelp forests are seemingly endless and teeming with life, some of which you can only find in South Africa’s coastal waters.

Swimming in these underwater forests as they sway in the gentle surge, with sunlight streaming in from overhead, is mesmerizing.

Endemic striped pyjama catsharks are easy to find as they forage among the kelp beds, as are puffadder shysharks.

Look closely, and you’ll also spot colorful gas flame nudibranchs hiding in rocky crevices.

If you go kelp diving at Miller’s Point by Simon’s Town, you might also find yourself being watched by prehistoric-looking broadnose sevengill sharks. 

Miller's Point Dive Site
Miller Point Dive Site

More commonly known as cow sharks, they are the most primitive of all sharks alive today and first appeared around 190 million years ago. 

A Cowshark
A Cow Shark

Shark Cage Diving

Once a famous great white shark cage diving hotspot, False Bay hosts few great white sharks these days, but it is still an excellent place for cage diving.

Iris, the Great White Shark
Iris, the Great White Shark

Take a day trip to Seal Island (from Simon’s Town), and you’ll be in the company of around 60,000 Cape fur seals that call the island home, plus numerous hunting cow sharks.

Dawn at Seal Island
Dawn at Seal Island

As well as being able to cage dive with cow sharks and enjoy seal antics, you can spot thousands of sea birds on the island. Watching the sun rise over the island is an experience in itself. 

It’s not uncommon to also see Bryde’s whales and southern right whales in the bay during the winter months.

A Bryde's Whale
A Bryde’s Whale

If you’re lucky, you might even see orcas or a passing megapod of thousands of common dolphins.

Smitswinkel Bay Wrecks

Head a little way down the coast from Simon’s Town, and you can try your hand at some adventurous wreck diving. 

The South African Navy scuttled five wrecks in the 1970s in Smitswinkel Bay, creating one of South Africa’s more challenging wreck diving destinations.

These soft coral-covered wrecks, consisting of two fishing trawlers, frigates, and a dredger, are close together, and if the visibility is good, you might get to see them all.

With plenty of fish life, plus nudibranchs to find, it’s a great place to go wreck diving if you’re experienced with deep wreck dives.

A Gas Flame Nudibranch
A Gas Flame Nudibranch

Cape Reef Diving

False Bay’s reefs are eye-catching, with rocky landscapes, pinnacles, overhangs, and gullies all covered in marine life. 

There’s abundant soft corals, anemones, sponges, and large vivid sea fans, plus plenty of fish and critters.

While many of the sites are only accessible by boat, some can be dived from shore. Popular reef dives in the Cape Peninsula/False Bay area include:

  • Batsata Rock
  • Boat Rock
  • Castle Rock
  • Outer Castle

Just remember to take a good wetsuit with you, as the waters can be quite cold.

Cape Fur Seals Encounters

If you’ve spent time watching the Cape fur seals at Seal Island, you’re going to want to get in the water with them.

You can dive or snorkel with these charming and acrobatic animals at two popular destinations that offer seal diving tours:

  • Hout Bay (dive depth 1 to 5m)
  • False Bay (dive depth 1 to 19m)

Typically for seals, they come close to divers and snorkellers, checking you out as they pass by.

Mako and Blue Shark Diving

One of the best Cape Town shark experiences can be found far offshore from Cape Point. 

Take a boat trip from Simon’s Town, go many miles past Cape Point, and you’ll find the water turns from green to vivid blue, where the cold Benguela Current and warm Agulhas Current meet.

Looking towards Cape Point
Looking towards Cape Point

In this warm blue water, you can go diving or snorkeling with inquisitive blue and mako sharks.

With no land in sight and fantastic water visibility, it is an experience not to be missed.

 Tours can be booked with various dive operators in Simon’s Town.

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