Abalone with passengers

Dive sites: Photographer’s Reef

The top of the reef
The top of the reef

I’ve dived Photographer’s Reef twice now. The first time was at the ScubaPro Day, and conditions were marginal (read: pea soup with a howling current). I took photos then, but certainly not the kind that one would use to recommend a dive site to others. We dived this reef again recently, off the new(ish) Learn to Dive Today boat, Seahorse. The conditions were much better – calm on the surface, with about 6 metre visibility. When we turned the corner of the reef towards the seaward side, however, things got a bit greenish!

Photographer’s Reef (known as JJM Reef by old-school local divers) is located offshore from the Boulder’s Beach penguin colony, and one of the pleasures of diving here is seeing small groups of penguins passing by on the surface as they head out to forage for food. We didn’t see any underwater – that’s very unusual – but Tony, who stayed on the boat, said that one group that swam past kept sticking their heads underwater to check out our bubbles.

The reef is compact and shallow – the top is about 3-5 metres deep, and the sand is at perhaps 12 metres. This means you can have a very long dive here, and it’s the kind of place you want to spend time at. (We didn’t stay very long – it was the second dive of the day and the wind was freezing, so we were all coolish when we got in!) The indefatigable Peter Southwood suggests that this can be done as a shore dive, if you’re fit and have good navigation skills.

Sea fan in a swim through
Sea fan in a swim through

There are a number of swim throughs and caverns on this reef, which is made up of a jumble of giant boulders. We didn’t visit all of them, but they make for a very varied dive. There are gullies and overhangs to explore, and the site is aptly named as it is a photographer’s dream. (I’m sorry I didn’t do it justice!)

The site is inside a restricted area, and it was lovely to see numerous small roman defending their patches of reef. I saw a couple of abalone, but since reading Currents of Contrast by Thomas Peschak I’ve realised that we never, ever see abalone in the kind of abundance (and by that I mean wall-to-wall shells, so that their broadcast spawning technique can be effective) that nature intended and accommodated before most of these creatures were stolen from the ocean.

A cuttlefish hides in a crack in the rocks
A cuttlefish hides in a crack in the rocks

Christo found a cuttlefish inside one of the cracks in the side of the reef, and there were many nudibranchs to choose from. There’s an abundance of invertebrate life here.

Dive date: 26 May 2012

Air temperature: 19 degrees

Water temperature: 15 degrees

Maximum depth: 10.9 metres

Visibility: 3-6 metres

Dive duration: 39 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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