False Bay is home to two seal colonies/haul out areas: Seal Island, which is inhabited by up to 70,000 seals, and the much smaller (a couple of hundred seals at most) Partridge Point haul out area, known as Seal Rock (perhaps only by me). For very sound reasons of safety, there is no scuba diving at Seal Island, but there is lovely diving and snorkeling at Seal Rock (Partridge Point). When eastern False Bay is whipped to a murky maelstrom by the south easterly wind, which prevails in summer, there is another option for those who wish to spend time with seals in the water.
Duiker Island is located just outside Hout Bay, around the corner from the Sentinel. It’s a low rock surrounded by relatively shallow water and inhabited by a few hundred seals. The south easterly wind cleans the water on the western side of the Cape Peninsula, bringing clear, cold water from the deep sea up onto the coast. If the wind isn’t too strong and the swell is safe (avoid this area when the swell is south westerly or very westerly – it’s dangerous) this is a wonderful place to snorkel or dive with Cape fur seals. A 4 kilometre boat ride is required to get here.
It’s important to stay away from the channel between Duiker Island and the mainland, as that is where the seal watching charters from Hout Bay turn around to return to the harbour. Most diving is done on the north western side of the island where it is too shallow for the charter boats to come.
The seals are curious, playful, and sometimes quite pushy. You need to be confident and not flail your arms around; it’s like being in the presence of dogs you don’t know. They will come quite close, and occasionally do dominance displays of open mouths and large teeth. Keep your hands to yourself and don’t worry. Their underwater ballet is beautiful and diving with them is a pleasure.
The reef here is not as interesting as the reef around the False Bay colony at Partridge Point, but it is pretty. The rocks form several shallow, natural amphitheatres of several tens of metres diameter. There’s a lot of red seaweed and kelp, which the seals play with. One seal on our recent dive there tore strips of red seaweed off the rocks and trailed them behind him, while another removed a small kelp plant from its anchor and flung it about in the water like a toy.
Unfortunately my camera was misting up on the day we dived here, so the pictures don’t quite do the lovely visibility justice.
Dive date: 13 January 2013
Air temperature: 28 degrees
Water temperature: 11 degrees
Maximum depth: 6.0 metres
Visibility: 15 metres
Dive duration: 38 minutes