Table Mountain National Park MPA

Diving in an MPA

Table Mountain National Park MPA
Table Mountain National Park MPA

A couple of weekends ago I picked up a hard copy of this brochure (PDF) at the Paddlers shop in Simons Town. It’s the Marine Recreational Activity Information Brochure published by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. I wish that more poachers would read it! It has information pertaining to the regulations governing scuba divers, anglers, jet skiers, aquarium keepers, rock lobster, and abalone.

The map at left is from this brochure (PDF), which details all the MPAs along our coastline. Certain areas are restricted zones, which means that NO fishing is allowed there at all. I am always totally delighted when the skipper slows the dive boat to a crawl to inform a clueless (or willfully criminal) kayaker or fishing boat that they’re fishing in a no take zone! This usually happens on the way to Smitswinkel Bay in the Castle Rock restricted zone. Research has shown that restricted zones have dramatically positive impacts on fish populations – the difference between fish and marine life populations just inside and just outside these areas is very dramatic.

I can assure you, from diving in these areas, that even though the policing of restricted zones leaves MUCH to be desired, the experience of diving in one is an absolute pleasure for the most part. Rich dive sites like Partridge Point are testimony to this.

Reading the regulations pertaining to the recreational scuba diving permits that we are required to hold when we dive around the Cape Peninsula (and along much of the South African coast) was enlightening. Most of these are common sense, but it was news to me (for example) that no diving is permitted between 11pm and 4am, anywhere in an MPA! It also put paid to any personal chumming activities… What a pity – I would have loved to have had a great white shark all to myself!

By the way, Bird Island – mentioned below – is near Port Elizabeth. There’s a magnificent lighthouse there.


The holder of a recreational SCUBA diving permit shall:

  1. not remove, unduly disturb or harass any marine organism or habitat, including shells or substrate, marine mammals, seabirds and fish.
  2. not feed fish, practice chumming, or dump any material, or discharge any biological attractants in the MPA.
  3. dive in the Table Mountain, Pondoland, Aliwal Shoal and Stilbaai MPA during daylight hours only (from half an hour before local sunrise to the time of local sunset), unless as part of a group being taken out by an DEA-authorised business operator. A representative of a registered Diving Club or individuals must notify the managing authority of the MPA to their satisfaction if they intend night diving. (Table Mountain (SANParks) – 021-786 5656, Pondoland (Eastern Cape Parks) – 047-387 0451/043-742 4450, Aliwal Shoal (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife – 0825592848). Stilbaai (CapeNature – 028-754 2234).
  4. not scuba dive in the Bird Island MPA at all.
  5. not dive in any MPA where a scuba diving permit is required between 23:00 and 04:00 at all.
  6. abide by the Diver Code of Conduct (
  7. note that these conditions will be applicable to any new MPAs that may be declared, regazetted or required to have a permit in the future.
  8. adhere to the condition that boats taking persons diving in an MPA where a permit is required shall only launch from an authorized launching site, and shall not launch earlier than an hour before local sunrise or return later than an hour after local sunset unless night diving in compliance with condition 3.

To obtain your MPA permit, take R100 and your identity document or passport to your nearest post office, and ask for a scuba diving permit form at the counter. It’s a blue and white form, the same one as is used for angling, crayfishing, and some other consumptive marine usage activities.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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