Shore diving in Cape Town can feel quite adventurous, often requiring as much mountaineering skill (with 20 kilograms of kit on your back) as it does buoyancy control! A Frame (also called Oatlands Point) is one of the most special shore entries on the western False Bay coast, and we visited it on a recent cloudy Sunday with perfect sea conditions. It requires a bit of walking and a tiny bit of climbing, but it’s nowhere near as strenuous as a shore entry at Shark Alley, for example.
To reach A Frame, drive past Simon’s Town golf course and Fisherman’s Beach, and park – almost immediately after the beach – on the left hand side of the road between the two houses with interesting roof features (one has a solarium vibe going with some British flags, the other has a clock). One used to be able to cross the grass of an empty plot and walk straight down to the rocks, but that plot has been fenced off (with a white picket fence!) now, so one has to use the little path to the right of it, under the No Parking sign.
The entry that we usually use (the northern entry) is over a large piece of rough granite known as “slippery rock”. There’s a conveniently placed rock to hold onto when entering and exiting – basically you inflate your BCD, hold onto your fins, put your mask around your neck, and walk in as far as you can. Then either giant stride off the edge of the rock, or slide down on your bottom until you’re in the water (warning: this can be hard on your suit!). Put your fins on as soon as you are floating – you’ll be in 3 metres of water already so you won’t be able to stand. There’s a lot of kelp there so use it to keep still, and move slowly and steadily. The exit is similar – come as far as you can with fins on, take them off, stand up, watch the waves (if any) and grab onto the rock by the exit as soon as you can reach it.
When you climb in at A Frame you’ll be landing in a sandy basin surrounded by rocks. The depth is about 4 metres, and there’s not a lot on the sand, but it has a peculiar beauty to it and it’s very sheltered. The rocks are to the south and east are where your primary interest will lie, however.
The site is rich with invertebrate life – massive anemones of all colours of the rainbow, abalone, urchins, sea stars, nudibranchs and fairly prolific fish life characterise the area. A Frame is partly inside the Castle Rocks restricted zone which means no fishing or harvesting of marine life is allowed.
There are kelp forests around most of the rocks, and on the day we dived this site in May we had spectacular top to bottom visibility. My favourite part of A Frame is the large swim-through to the north of the big white rock that breaks the surface. This is a dog-leg cave formed by three or four huge rocks that almost meet at the top. There’s a narrow gap where your bubbles can escape (which I am grateful for, because none of the creatures in the cave are drowned in air then!) and three entrances/exits. Inside the swimthrough you’ll find urchins, anemones, nudibranchs, sea fans and lots of fish taking shelter. A torch is recommended. It’s short, not scary, and spectacularly beautiful. A huge orange wall sponge can be found at the spot we prefer to use as an exit – the opening opposite goes out into quite shallow water where you can get tossed about by the surge.
Dive date: 22 May 2011
Air temperature: 20 degrees
Water temperature: 14 degrees
Maximum depth: 7.3 metres
Visibility: 12 metres
Dive duration: 37 minutes