I’ve mentioned Peter Southwood a couple of times, in the context of a set of web pages that he’s largely responsible for. It’s on the Wikivoyage website, which (like Wikipedia) is a collaborative project where many contributors work together to create something useful. In this case, the something useful is a worldwide travel guide.
Peter’s project is to catalogue the dive sites of South Africa. The area that has received most attention thus far is the Cape Peninsula and False Bay – he has a list of the dive sites in each area, and most of the Cape Town have at least a skeleton article in place.
There is a detailed article on Diving in South Africa, and one for Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay. The introductory article lists dive operators, describes local climate, weather and sea conditions, lists reference books on the marine life in the area, describes the marine ecology, recommends equipment configurations, covers any legal requirements such as permits, details emergency services available, and provides safety and travel tips. The overview article also lists the dive sites in the area, with links to the detailed page on each site. This information is very useful for tourist divers coming to South Africa, but also contains a host of information useful to the local diver.
Peter Southwood maps the sites in a lot of detail. He has a small polystyrene boat, painted red, with a waterproof container containing a GPS mounted on it. This is towed behind him like a buoy as he dives (often solo) and maps the sites. Particular projects of his with very comprehensive reference pages and detailed maps are Long Beach in Simon’s Town (including a fantastic navigation route that covers a series of highlights of the site), and the Partridge Point area, where a location has been named Peter’s Pinnacles in his honour.
The dive site pages are very comprehensive, covering everything you could possibly wish to know about each area:
- position (GPS co-ordinates are usually given)
- naming convention and origins of the name of the location
- visibility – what the usual range is
- bottom topography and composition
- expected conditions, including tips on when it’s good to dive there
- access information (boat or shore, with detail on the entry point if it’s a shore dive)
- facilities on site (for shore dives) such as parking, restrooms and showers
- marine life in the area
- features of the site – caves, overhangs, pinnacles, air traps and so on
- photography information – what equipment is recommended, and what subjects are promising
- routes around the site
- recommended equipment (e.g. an SMB, a light, etc.)
- required skills to dive the site – sometimes relatively shallow sites are only suitable for more advanced or experienced divers… Shark Alley comes to mind!
The Cape Peninsula and False Bay wikivoyage page is Tony’s and my go-to guide whenever we want to dive a new site, as well as a good reference to familiar places. Even the articles on well-known sites give new insights or tips on what can be found there. The evolving nature of the online medium means that we check back often for updates and improvements to the articles. The Partridge Point article is a case in point – it’s undergone huge development in recent months.
This project deserves as much publicity as it can get – it’s incredibly impressive and useful, and reflects years of work on the part of Peter Southwood. The fact that he has made it freely available online is very generous. What’s more, the collaborative nature of the site it’s hosted on means that other divers can create accounts and contribute to the detailed information already there.