Some of the sites we visited on Two Mile Reef were noticeably more barren – with less coral and more sand and rock – than others. I wonder whether this is a seasonal (or annual, or multi-year) variation, or whether it’s a slow process of the reef becoming silted up. Sites towards the middle of Two Mile, such as Garden Route, were covered with coral and looked exceptionally healthy.
Sodwana sees a lot of divers doing a lot of dives, year-round. There are at least eight dive charters operating from the beach, and Two Mile in particular sees some heavy traffic – including Open Water divers (many from Johannesburg) doing their first sea dives. During a recent conversation, Gerard blamed the heavy boat traffic for what he perceives as a slow decline in the health and biomass of the reef life in Sodwana; I wonder if the fishing activity that somehow co-exists with the dive charters has anything to do with it. Or perhaps we are imagining things, and just happened to dive on a few parts of the reef that were having a quiet day.
Whether we are imagining the changes in the reefs in Sodwana or not, it’s still a very beautiful place to dive, and worthy (as are all wild places on this earth) of our protection. You should go there and see for yourself!
Weekend diving: Shore dives tomorrow (Friday) at Long Beach
Weekend boating: Watching the big wave surfers at Dungeons on Sunday, if conditions line up properly
As far as diving goes this week has seen few decent days, and I have only had pool days. There has been hectic wind and lots of swell but the good news is the water is clean, if a little chilly. Tomorrow I will be climbing in at Long Beach for student dives.
This weekend is again an odd one as Saturday is meant to boast near gale force winds and on Sunday there will be less wind but a long period swell of around 6 metres – so If washing machine diving is your thing, go diving.
There is a good chance that Dungeons delivers the goods on Sunday and if it does we will launch from Hout Bay and go get a few pictures of the really brave and talented big wave surfers. The photo above shows some surfers on this awesome wave on a relatively small (if you can believe it) day! If you’d like to be on the waiting list for this, let me know. I’ve been modifying our tank rack on the boat so it converts to a bench, so it’ll be great to test that out!
Next week looks like a week of wind and swell which will hamper diving but hopefully by next weekend it will improve. One interesting thing about big winter swells and strong winds is that the wreck of the BOS 400 might go down this winter… Let’s wait and see.
Weekend diving: No dives planned. Pool on Saturday!
Last weekend we attended the DAN Day at Unique Hydra (a company that makes and markets commercial diving equipment) and as always the speakers and the topics were exceptionally good. DAN stands for Divers’ Alert Network, and they provide medical insurance for divers over and above what your medical aid will cover, as well as incredibly useful advice and guidance via their hotline, staffed by diving doctors. Twice a year they arrange a day of diving and health related talks and a tour of an interesting facility – the next one is on 2 August and I highly recommend you attend. We’ll remind you closer to the time.
The photo above is from the DAN South Africa instagram feed! We are standing in front of a huge structure that will be built into a ship, enabling saturation divers to live and work in a pressurised environment for weeks on end.
No launches are planned this weekend. Saturday starts off really windy and the wind picks up dramatically during the day. On Sunday, it blows even harder and a 5 metre swell arrives. I have pool training so will be spared the grumpy sea. Its a pity as the visibility is currently really good. We’ll hold thumbs for next week!
We had pretty good conditions last weekend out of Hout Bay, where we launched on Sunday for a double tank dive for an Aquaventures IDC. On the BOS 400 the visibility was only about 6 metres, and about 8 metres at Duiker Island. There were reports of even better conditions inside Hout Bay.
After the divers left Clare and I took the boat down to the Slangkop lighthouse in Kommetjie for a picnic (on the water). The winds were light, with lots of sun and a gentle swell, and we spent some time putting running in hours on the boat.
The condition have been really good all week, and apart from a fog bank that hung around on Tuesday and Wednesday, the diving has been good. We dived Partridge Point and cowsharks on Tuesday to complete Open Water and Divemaster courses, and then spent some time just off Millers Point watching three huge short tail stingrays in the shallows. We were also fortunate to see humpback whales on the way back to Simon’s Town. (Yes, I did take a picture and yes they were humpbacks despite this not being the time of year for them!)
Dive conditions forecast
The forecast for the weekend is for very little swell, very little wind and lots of sunshine (29-30 degrees on both days). My kind of weather! The water temperature in False Bay is also pleasant and is between 16-20 degrees depending on how deep you go.
It is a good time to go diving. We will launch from Simon’s Town jetty as usual and the plan is to dive Atlantis and the Ark Rock wrecks on Saturday, and on Sunday Photographer’s Reef and Shark Alley. If you have a burning desire to go somewhere else, let me know and I’ll see what we can do! As usual, text or email me if you want to get on the boat.
Please remember to have your MPA permits up to date (this applies if you’re coming to Sodwana, too – they will be checked). Also remember that if you book a dive and can’t make it for whatever reason, you need to let me know the evening before otherwise I will have to charge you for the spot on the boat.
On a beautiful day in Hout Bay towards the end of last year, we were entertained by a seal that had caught a west coast rock lobster. The seal spent a lot of time parading around near the boat with his lobster, and we were suitably entertained. We dived the SS Maoriand Die Josie and enjoyed the very mellow surface conditions and warm sun.
I was diving with Open Water students, so Gary skippered for us. On our way back into the harbour we came across the local NSRI station personnel doing towing exercises with their two vessels.
Saturday: Two shallow (maximum depth 18 metres) dives from Hout Bay
Sunday: Two launches if conditions warrant it, from Hout Bay or OPBC
The week’s diving
It has not been a great week of diving as there has been quite a lot of south easterly wind. We launched last Friday and had to hunt around for clean water, ending up at Roman Rock and the Brunswick. There was a huge amount of fish activity close inshore and the phase of the moon wasn’t favourable, so we canned our planned night dive for last Friday evening. We’ll watch the conditions and try again soon. Please enjoy this picture of submarine activity in False Bay, taken on Friday.
False Bay is currently a pale shade of green whilst the Atlantic is a mixture of clean and green patches. Friday’s wind, surprise surprise, will be south easterly, so it may help to improve the Atlantic viz. Tomorrow’s divers have requested a False Bay launch, hence our planned expedition there.
The Atlantic is the only option for the weekend as the Navy Festival in Simon’s Town will draw a crowd, and this will lunch up all the parking, especially around the yacht club, where we would launch. Miller’s Point is just so far down on my list of nice (and safe and clean) places to launch…
I do think first choice will be out of Hout Bay for Saturday and possibly Sunday, but OPBC will be our second option, depending on how much wind there is tomorrow. On Saturday the boat is primarily students, so both launches will be to sites with a maximum depth of 18 metres. Sunday is wide open and if you have a special request, let me know. As usual, text or email if you’d like to dive this weekend!
We were boatless last week so could do shore dives only, but by Friday the boat was back after repontooning.
This week we have been blown out most days, but today we headed off to Diaz Beach inside the Cape Point Nature Reserve with a group of very tough and brave swimmers that swam from Diaz Beach to Buffels Bay, a distance of approximately 8 kilometres around the tip of Cape Point. The swim was called Swim for Hope and was in aid of the Little Fighters Cancer Trust.
Each swimmer had a support boat and each boat had a shark shield, but there was nothing to shield them from the cold or the huge shore-break they faced at the start. Once round the Point the wind eased and the swell dropped and it was far better. Our swimmer, 61 year old Richard Child, swam tirelessly and had nothing more than a few swigs of hot chocolate on the way. He started with a stroke rate of 70 strokes per minute and ended on 68. Very impressive.
Tomorrow is a good westerly wind, this will improve the viz inshore so we will do two dives tomorrow from the boat and then a night dive at Long Beach. There is a fair swell this weekend so I think Long Beach would be the best option . Saturday we launch again but it will be really early as the wind is set to pump from midday. On Sunday we are staying home while 35,000 very energetic cyclists compete for space on the peninsula road network.
On Monday we are also launching, and the first dive has not yet been decided (if you book first you get to choose!) but after lunch we will run down to Pyramid Rock to see the cowsharks.
We had a really good long weekend away in the KZN bush and were very lucky to see the big five and a number of other creatures, from chameleons to giraffes. We also watched a cheetah stalk, chase and take down a small impala – a pretty spectacular predation event that we were very fortunate to witness. I’ve been teaching all week, so there are no underwater photos for this newsletter. Can you make do with some terrestrial wildlife instead?
False Bay has been the place to be this week and the water temperature has consistently been between 19 and 22 degrees. It is also the place to be this weekend – well, certainly tomorrow and Saturday, but by Sunday it seems the wind picks up to around 35-40 km/h which will be unpleasant (and unsafe).
The temperature of the Atlantic peaked at 22 degrees yesterday but has dropped down to 10 degrees in the last 24 hours. This normally means clean water and it is quite likely an option for tomorrow, but tomorrow the forecast is for no wind and 30 degrees of baking sun which will probably green the water up really quickly.
We are close to the final stretch for our two Divemaster candidates and for the current bunch of Open Water and Advanced students. In February will might be a little calmer, and we will concentrate or our Research diver program!
Our Sodwana trip is growing, and at this stage there are 14 of us heading up there for some clean water and lazy beach days. We have been adding people as they express an interest, so if you are keen, mail me for the details.
On Friday we are shore diving A Frame as the Divemaster candidates are working on a mapping project. On Saturday the boat will be in False Bay but is already full as we have a bunch of Open Water students to qualify. That leaves Sunday open for two launches to somewhere that we can dive without a white stick. If you want to be notified on Sunday morning as to whether conditions will permit us to dive, reply to this mail or send me a text message.
Last week’s diving
This weekend signals the end of most of the up country visitors’ vacation time, and life slowly goes back to normal. You can once again find parking at most of the beaches and and go back to swearing quietly at the idiots on the road because they could be your neighbour.
It’s been a week of really poor diving with swell, surge and low visibility. The Atlantic is not very clean, and nor is False Bay. The storm that hit the Cape2Rio Fleet did its best to fill the bay with kelp, silt and garbage. Today we have had some westerly winds which has helped to clean this up a little, and the forecast for the weekend is a southerly wind. That’s good in some places in the bay, and not so good in others. Today I was in the pool doing skills and equipment exchange with two Divemaster candidates. At least the visibility there was excellent…
Most of you will be aware that last weekend there was a serious diving accident on the wreck of the MV Rockeater in Smitswinkel Bay. The dive community is a small one, and even though we did not know the diver concerned, we have felt the loss keenly and Clare and I have spent a lot of time discussing it. The full details of what happened have not been released, but there is always something to learn when things go wrong, even from partial information.
When incidents like this occur there is a tendency for them to be swept under the carpet, as people tend to believe that it will cause harm to the dive industry. I don’t share this view. Finding someone to point a finger at has no value (and often there isn’t anyone who can be blamed), but a lesson learned has huge value to a diver who is still on the learning curve. Hopefully we are all still on that curve. Not everyone has a person in their life who understands scuba diving and with whom they can work through an incident like this. If you’d like to discuss it at all, please give me a call or drop me an email.
Sodwana trip in April
On a much happier note, we are planning a dive trip to Sodwana from 26 April to 30 April. We will stay at Coral Divers and do six dives (at least) over three days, with one day for travel on each side (fly to Durban, drive approximately 400km to Sodwana). This will be a busy time at Sodwana because of the public holidays and the fact that schools will be mostly closed that week, so we need to get into gear quickly on this one.
We’ve done this trip a couple of times before – read about one of those occasions here, and see what kind of diving you can expect here. A hint: it’s warm and colourful! You will need to be a confident boat diver, but an Open Water qualification is sufficient. If you’re interested let me know and I’ll send you more details – you only need to pay a 10% deposit to secure your booking, with full payment due 14 days before our arrival. The Coral Divers price list for 2014 can be found here.
Everyone needs something to look forward to at the start of the year… Think about it!
On Saturday we will be shore diving at Long Beach and on Sunday we will be diving from the boat, launching at False Bay Yacht Club. Sunday’s wind is not all that predictable as yet, so we will make a firm plan late on Saturday afternoon.
The water temperature in False Bay is close to the 20 degree mark, so if it’s warm water you have been waiting for then now is your chance. The wind, mostly south easterly, has not really trashed False Bay as it sometimes can but at the same time it has not really cleaned the Atlantic the way it should.
This weekend’s wind will supposedly be more north westerly so False Bay should be quite good for the weekend – not that it’s that bad right now.
So, we are into early January and Santa has yet to deliver my present. My request was simple: no swell, favourable winds, and good visibility. Never mind – I am patient and will wait and hope that he arrives soon.
Over the last two weeks we have done some diving, seldom in stunning conditions and seldom with terrific viz… But then Santa may still arrive. December and January are traditionally busy months for courses and we are busy with Open Water, Advanced, Rescue and Divemaster courses right now.
The Divemaster trainees did part of their mapping project at A Frame today and we had 19 degree water and around 5 metre visibility.
Plans for 2014
When the visibility clears up enough for photography (other than macro) we are looking forward to making some contributions to the Spot the Sevengill Shark project. If you want to know what you can do to help identify the sevengill cowsharks that frequent False Bay, there’s some information here, and you should go and like the Spot the Sevengill facebook page, too.
We’re also going to start thinking about dive travel for 2014. We haven’t been to Sodwana for a little while, so I think that’ll be where we point our noses first… Watch this space!