Dive sites: Outer Photographer’s Reef

Outer Photographer’s Reef is a massive slab of granite in False Bay, about 170 metres long and 35 metres wide. The top, which slopes gently to the south east, is flat and about 15 metres deep. The edges drop off almost vertically, to a depth of about 30 metres. The topography is absolutely spectacular – this was the first proper wall dive I’ve done and I loved it. The sensation of dropping off the top of the reef was fantastic! We found a couple of deep vertical cracks in the rock, where redfingers, roman and doublesash butterflyfish were hiding, and a small cave-like feature half way up the wall. There were more fish out in the open on top of the reef – the wall and sandy bottom are mostly covered with invertebrates.

Brittlestars surround an anemone
Brittlestars surround an anemone

We found some ammunition scattered at the bottom of the wall, as well as what I think was a small unopened ammunition box (about the size of a small cake box). We were very careful not to touch any of it – I admit that the temptation to slip one of the brass shells into my pocket was strong, but the prospect of blowing my hand off (underwater or on the surface) deterred me!

The rock is covered – and I mean covered – with brittlestars. I didn’t know that there were so many brittlestars in the world! The sand around the rock is also ankle deep in brittlestars waving the tips of their legs in the water column. We also spotted pipefish (one of the pictures is here), a fat warty pleurobranch, and a few brave anemones and urchins. But it’s definitely brittlestar country.

I actually went into deco (briefly!) on this dive – it was the third dive of the day for me, and the second one to close on 30 metres. To end the dive we swam up the gently sloping top of the granite ridge, and were joined by seals who stayed with us for some time. At the safety stop, we were accompanied by several seals playing around us, and when we surfaced they were playing in the bow wave of Grant’s boat.

Top of the rocky reef
Top of the rocky reef

Dive date: 18 May 2011

Air temperature: 19 degrees

Water temperature: 12 degrees

Maximum depth: 29.8 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 33 minutes

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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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