Newsletter: Green, brown and blue

Hi divers

In the midst of the red tide/dirty water!
In the midst of the red tide/dirty water!

We’ve had really odd conditions in False Bay this past week – some absolutely spectacular visibility, mixed with some decidedly brown, murky water. Conditions last Saturday were good underwater, but the wind was far too strong and the surface conditions were too bad for new divers so we called off the second Open Water dive that day.

Last Sunday we did two boat dives in False Bay, the first of which featured some truly awful visibility (picture above), and the second of which (picture below) boasted some of the best visibility that one ever sees in False Bay. There’s been an extensive red tide which has been visible from Boyes Drive for over a week, and this is seriously affecting the visibility in certain areas of the bay.

Goot deploys an SMB in the crystal clear water at Caravan Reef
Goot deploys an SMB in the crystal clear water at Caravan Reef

There was a very strong surface current (and current underwater) during last weekend’s boat dives, and we were reminded of the importance of carrying a signalling device such as an SMB, and a whistle on your inflator hose to call the boat. If you need an SMB, Andre in Simon’s Town has some very good ones which are not negatively buoyant, making them much easier to inflate while you’re below the surface.

Colourful reef life at Roman Rock
Colourful reef life at Roman Rock

We had 15 metres of visibility on the Clan Stuart on Monday, which is truly unusual for this wreck as it’s quite exposed. There seems to have been some water mixing going on over the last few days, however, and today there were patches of clean water interspersed with pockets of green, milky water at Windmill and Long Beach. The wind is blowing from a favourable direction, however, so we hope it’ll clean the bay a bit more before the weekend.

Compass sea jellies and fish in the current at Caravan Reef
Compass sea jellies and fish in the current at Caravan Reef

Weekend diving

Tomorrow I have Discover Scuba divers at Long Beach, and then some time in the pool. The weekend is chock full of Open Water and Discover Scuba Diving dives, so I’ll spend most of the time at Long Beach and, conditions permitting, Windmill, A Frame and/or the Clan Stuart.

If you’d like to tag along give me a shout. A shore dive at a familiar site is the perfect opportunity to hone your skills and test new gear.

Student news & travel

Congratulations to Gerard and Goot, both of whom have just (about half an hour ago) qualified as Enriched Air and Deep divers. These two courses are a very good idea if you plan to dive a lot in Cape Town, and – as I told them this evening – after finishing them, they’re complete divers who will only benefit from further experience.

We also found this picture of Cecil that was taken on his very first Open Water dive, late last year. Compare that to his recently-acquired cave diving qualification… Time flies! This time last year Kate was also with us, finishing her Advanced course and on the way to Divemaster. She’s now a fully-fledged PADI Instructor, having qualified in June in Sodwana.

A root mouth jellyfish eating a compass sea jelly at Caravan Reef
A root mouth jellyfish eating a compass sea jelly at Caravan Reef

While on the subject of current and former students, Tami, Keren and Nils have just finshed some (apparently wonderful) dives in the Red Sea as part of a family holiday to Israel. We’re looking forward to hearing about their trip when they get home.

Peter Southwood swimming a shallow contour at Caravan Reef (south)
Peter Southwood swimming a shallow contour at Caravan Reef (south)

If word of all this dive travel is giving you itchy feet, fear not: we have not forgotten about a dive trip for early next year, and will keep you posted as the plan emerges!

Clare and I visited OMSAC in Pinelands last Thursday evening for a talk on SASSI, and plan to visit again on Thursday 24 November to listen to Alistair Downing from Underwater Explorers talking about West Coast wrecks. OMSAC is a friendly, vibrant little club and we felt very welcome there even though technically we are members of their rivals FBUC! I will remind you of Alistair’s talk closer to the time – it’s a good opportunity to visit the club.

Regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog

Diving is addictive!

Bookshelf: Lost World

Lost World: The Marine Realm of Aldabra and the Seychelles – Thomas P. Peschak

I’m a big fan of Thomas Peschak’s work, and more than a little envious of his job (Chief Photographer for the Save Our Seas Foundation). This is the third of his books that I’ve read, the other two being South Africa’s Great White Shark and Wild Seas Secret Shores of Africa. He’s the photographer who took that iconic photo off the Cape coast of a researcher in a kayak, with a great white shark behind him.

Lost World
Lost World

In this book Peschak presents the results of several expeditions to the Seychelles, with particular focus on the Aldabra coral atoll (the world’s second largest) which is in the Aldabra group of islands. This region is as untouched by man as almost any other marine habitat on the planet, and is home to a variety of unique flora and fauna.

The chapters of the book cover Aldabra, seabirds, the interaction between man and nature in this region, and the life on the coral reef and in the lagoon. There’s a bit of text to introduce the bulk of the chapters (which is the photographs), and as usual Peschak manages to fit a surprising amount of information into the captions under the pictures, without seeming too didactic.

It’s lovely and awe-inspiring to see pictures of a region that is seemingly so unspoiled by man’s footprint. The only disturbing pictures in the book are of a manta ray caught by some local fishermen, a destroyed coral reef, and Fish Aggregating Devices – basically temporary artificial reefs erected by fishermen, who then return a while later and sweep up all the marine creatures (particularly pelagic fish such as tuna) that have taken shelter under the nets and buoys.

My favourite section, after the photographs themselves, was the appendix which described the circumstances under which each photograph was taken, the equipment used, and something about how (and if) the shot was conceived. Much of wildlife photography involves extreme patience, but luck also plays a large role. Peschak clearly delights in the interactions he experiences with the creatures that he photographs.

The photographs are magnificent – you can see a lot of them on Peschak’s website, here. There’s a punt for the book on the Save Our Seas website, too.

You can buy the book here if you’re in South Africa. If you’re overseas, go here.

ScubaPro Day 2011 (Cape Town)

ScubaPro Day 2011 at False Bay Yacht Club
ScubaPro Day 2011 at False Bay Yacht Club

On 1 October ScubaPro held a dive day at False Bay Yacht Club in Simon’s Town. This is an extremely congenial venue to dive from – most of the local boat charters were in attendance, mooring at the floating jetty in the marina. The grass was set up with a fenced off area for each boat charter, a stand for the wonderful Dive Site magazine, and an extensive area showcasing ScubaPro gear, manned by experienced salesmen. There’s a very reasonable little restaurant, a bar upstairs, hot showers, grass, tables and benches to relax on between dives, and lots to look at. We were expecting parking to be a nightmare, but it seemed to be fine.

The venue for the day (all the divers were inside at prizegiving)
The venue for the day (all the divers were inside at prizegiving)

The idea of the day was for ScubaPro to sell lots of gear, and I think the local ScubaPro suppliers will have had a good week after the divers tried out the SeaWing Nova fins, various kinds of BCDs, and regulators! Unfortunately since Tami and I bought our SeaWing Novas, the material from which they are made has been changed – from a really solid, just flexible enough, smooth-edged substance to a cheap and nasty, brittle plastic that is almost transparent and feels as though it’ll snap under stress. The price, unsurprisingly, has stayed the same (so perhaps look for a pair of these fins on gumtree before you rush out and buy some new ones). They are fantastic fins, and it’s a real pity to see nasty knock-off versions being sold at the same price as the original high quality ones were.

Cindy, Maurice and Corne in their trial pairs of Seawing Nova fins (and me in my own pair) on Grant's boat
Cindy, Maurice and Corne in their trial pairs of Seawing Nova fins (and me in my own pair) on Grant’s boat

Several of the Learn to Dive Today divers tested BCDs (and regulators – Sophie was forced to after the inflator hose on her old regulator wouldn’t fit the new BCD). For those whose kit fitted properly reviews were very positive indeed, but unfortunately the salesmen weren’t good at sizing the lady divers and didn’t even have a full range of sizes available, despite Tony emailing in advance to check this very fact… So not everyone who wanted to was able to try out gear, and there were some tense moments on the boat trying to get cummerbunds to close over thick wetsuits!

The floating jetty where the dive boats moored
The floating jetty where the dive boats moored

In order to try gear, one had to hand in an existing set of gear as security. Those divers who didn’t have their own kit had to rent gear first, and then hand it in, before they could test equipment. Expensive, but no doubt very happy-making for the nearby dive centres. Perhaps as a more fair system next year (unless the aim really is just to enrich the local ScubaPro supplier, in which case fair enough) dive cards or ID books could be held as security for those divers who don’t yet own their own gear. The diving community is small enough that divers who run away with kit can be easly tracked down, and named and shamed if necessary! No proof of ID or dive card was requested when exchanging old kit for new, so the reasoning was flawed anyway – I could have said my name was Priscilla, handed in a dodgy old BCD, and skipped home with a new one if that was really what was motivating me.

Walking to load gear on the dive boats
Walking to load gear on the dive boats

The launches went off mostly very smoothly, and it was extremely pleasant to have gear carriers available to tote our kit to and from the boats. We tied up our hoses to avoid them getting banged on the ground. The diving conditions were mixed – visibility from 2-8 metres depending on the site, and truly awful surface conditions thanks to a nasty little southeaster that was blowing. A photographic competion yielded some surprisingly good entries given the conditions – underwater it looked as though snow was falling, and backscatter was the order of the day. Fortunately the requirements were not technical brilliance, but more to capture the “spirit of diving” – how awesome it is, and something that would encourage a non-diver to take up the sport. I had a private chuckle looking at the jellyfish photos – there were lots of compass sea jellies in False Bay – and thinking of a student of Tony’s who has a jellyfish phobia second to none and would run a mile if she saw a picture of a diver anywhere near a jellyfish!

Sophie and I discussing whether to get a hot chocolate now, or later
Sophie and I discussing whether to get a hot chocolate now, or later

In order to enter the photo competition divers had to set the date on their cameras to 25 December 2011, a slightly insulting proviso intended (I assume) to ensure that nobody cheated by entering a photo taken the day before. This, combined with the issue of having to hand in kit in order to try some, left one feeling that the organisers didn’t trust divers at all. I can’t speak for those who have a financial interest in selling gear, but ordinary Joe Soap scuba divers are decent, helpful people in general, and as a rule don’t steal or cheat.

The ScubaPro display stands
The ScubaPro display stands

We did two boat dives, the first (at 0800) and the last (at 1400) launches, to Photographer’s Reef and Roman Rock. We had about eight metres of visibility on the first dive, dropping off as we rounded the seaward side of the reef. Fortunately we had a monster current to distract us! The second dive yielded up about four metres of visibility, and in both cases we had beautiful jellies and small breaking waves to greet us on the surface. The sites we visited are beautiful and I’m looking forward to going there again on a day with better water conditions.

There were some seasick divers, and an emergency situation in which a diver experienced an uncontrolled ascent from 20 metres. He had tingling extremities – indicating possible DCS – and lay on the grass for over an hour breathing oxygen (fortunately several of the boats had emergency oxygen on board) while the organisers tried to find the phone number for National Hyperbarics, who operate a chamber at Kingsbury Hospital. When we realised this was what was going on (it was kept rather low-key and the diver was hidden behind some bushes) Tony went over and provided the number, which he keeps on a card in his wallet. The diver in question was not a member of DAN (I am guessing he now is!) which meant that instead of DAN handing all emergency evacuation procedures, arranging an ambulance and alerting the chamber operator, the recompression chamber operator had to be contacted directly. Unlike the OMSAC events we have attended, where there has been an impressively strong emergency and medical presence, there were no provisions made at this event except for those by the individual boat charters, and the incident was poorly handled. Hopefully some lessons have been learned here!

Gathered in the bar for prizegiving
Gathered in the bar for prizegiving

Despite sub-optimal water conditions, the day was extremely enjoyable. We were very grateful to the dive charters who launched for only R100 per dive – that price makes for razor-thin profit margins and in order to come out even slightly ahead their boats had to be full for every dive. Most of them were, and I really hope that it didn’t end up costing anyone money to participate in this event, considering that it probably enriched ScubaPro quite a bit. Seeing so many divers together, making the most of Cape Town oceans, was very encouraging. I hope some divers – encouraged by the cheap boat dives – got back into the water after a long break, and that the end result will be more happy divers in the Cape.

Newsletter: Where did all the treasure go?

Hi divers

Beautiful colours at Roman Rock
Beautiful colours at Roman Rock

As the seasons change from spring to summer so do the winds, the southeaster gets more air time than most winds and diving starts the annual pilgrimage to the Atlantic. It becomes a little harder to predict the diving conditions for the next several months and my weather prediction success rate will plummet from around 10% to zero!!!

Knobbly anemone on Photographer's Reef
Knobbly anemone on Photographer’s Reef

Local diving is also entering its silly season with many dive operators vying for top spot as being the one that can post the most rubbish on facebook in one week. In an effort to appear popular and busy some claim to have dived in “flat calm with 10m viz” having not even left the couch at home. On a good day (yesterday, for example) the viz is claimed to be 2 metres, 7 metres and 10 metres within minutes of one another by different operators. While this provides incomparable amusement for those of us who watch the weather ourselves, divers who do not consult Magic Seaweedor a similar site for information on wind and swells will be very disappointed!

Keren ascending after her first boat dive as a qualified Open Water diver
Keren ascending after her first boat dive as a qualified Open Water diver

Last weekend

Fun in the sun at the ScubaPro day
Fun in the sun at the ScubaPro day

The ScubaPro day was a success with around 140 people enjoying boat dives at R100 each. The False Bay Yacht Club is a nice venue and often the only place to dive students when the southeaster gets up and humming. There were four launches by five boats so a lot of good diving was had. We had an early dive to Photographer’s Reef with good visibility and the last launch to Roman Rock had a slight drop of but the diving was great.

Blue gas flame nudibranch at Roman Rock
Blue gas flame nudibranch at Roman Rock

On Monday I dived a fairly new dive site called Atlantis, twin pinnacles just north of Smitswinkel Bay that start at 6-7 metres and drop off to 34 metres on the sand. This site had the biggest schools of fish I had ever seen in Cape Town, and then went to Pyramid Rock to dive with the cowsharks. We saw lots of sharks and a small spotted gully shark. I was happy to see that an injured shark we spotted earlier this year had recovered well and was looking far more healthy. The shark has lost a huge portion of its tail fin so it is quite distinct. The snoek boats are all out fishing so two more sharks have hooks trailing in their mouths as they apparently chase the fishing boats taking the catch of the fishermen’s lines.

These two dives were done off a hard boat called Shark Explorer – I was Divemastering for a company called Shark Explorers who do various kinds of shark-focused diving including shark cage diving in False Bay. It was a backward roll and a half!

Nils negotiates a gap in the rocks at Photographer's Reef (gives an idea of the visibility, too)
Nils negotiates a gap in the rocks at Photographer’s Reef (gives an idea of the visibility, too)

Tuesday I spent in the pool with Cecil and his double tank configuration as he worked through the training drills for valve shut down and other skills in preparation for his foray into the world of cave diving. His skills practice went well despite me doing my level best to stress him by shutting valves, intentionally tangling him in line, flooding his mask and a few other tests of his patience!

Compass sea jelly at Roman Rock
Compass sea jelly at Roman Rock

This weekend

The wind and swell arrive tomorrow, 4.5 metres of swell and a strong southeaster. This will spoil Saturday for sure and it is unlikely Sunday will survive unscathed. There is less swell and wind on Sunday but the visibility will have dropped. I will dive on Sunday, a shore entry at the best looking sight so text me if you want to dive, I just can’t be sure of the conditions as yet.

Upcoming events

Clare and I plan to attend a talk at OMSAC in Pinelands about the WWF’s SASSI program (encouraging and empowering consumers to eat responsibly fished, non-endangered seafood) on Thursday 20 October. The event invitation is here. If you care about the sea and like to eat fish, this will be an informative and useful evening. Plus we’re looking forward to checking out OMSAC – we’ve attended several of their events but never visited the clubhouse.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog

Diving is addictive!

Dive sites: MFV Orotava

View across the MFV Orotava
View across the MFV Orotava

The MFV Orotava was part of the I&J fishing fleet, and was scuttled in Smitswinkel Bay in 1983. She lies alongside the SAS Transvaal, and within a few hundred metres of the SAS Good Hope, the MV Rockeater, and the MFV Princess Elizabeth. She is a steel trawler, 50 metres long and just over 9 metres wide. It’s possible to see the entire wreck in a single dive; she rests on the sand at 34 metres, leaning at a slight angle, and the top of her superstructure is at about 23 metres.

We dived this wreck two weekends in a row. The first time we had very good visibility, and to me the ship looked as though it was festooned with flowers. There are lots of steel pipes and other bits sticking up, with arches and door frames and other framing devices that make for wonderful photographic opportunities. The wreck is overgrown with feather stars, sea fans, soft corals, and other invertebrate life.

A masked crab evades my flash on the sand
A masked crab evades my flash on the sand
Walking anemone
Walking anemone

Most notable to me was the presence of multiple frilled nudibranchs. I saw these for the first time on the MV Rockeater, also in Smitswinkel Bay, but the profusion of these beautiful little creatures on the Orotava has to be seen to be believed. I probably photographed 20 unique specimens on each dive, whilst swimming over several others (with regret).

A gathering of frilled nudibranchs
A gathering of frilled nudibranchs

The interior of the wreck is small, tight and not really suitable for penetration. The next two photos are horrible and have no artistic merit whatsoever (even by my standards), but they are of a hole in the deck. There are vertical steel plates visibile inside the hole that were moving several feet back and forth with each wash of the surge – you can see them in two distinct positions in the pictures. Take care.

Dive date: 27 August 2011

Air temperature: 17 degrees

Water temperature: 14 degrees

Maximum depth: 30.3 metres

Visibility: 12 metres

Dive duration: 33 minutes

Close up of the bow railings
Close up of the bow railings

We returned to the MFV Orotava the following week to look for a GoPro camera lost by one of the other divers on the boat the previous week. No luck finding it, unfortunately!

Tiny basket star on a sea fan
Tiny basket star on a sea fan

On our second visit to the wreck, Tony was below me on the sand with a student doing skills for a Deep Specialty course. I hung about near the top of the hull, trying to take shelter from the surge, which was particularly violent that day. Next to me, on some small sea fans, were two baby basket stars. This is the first time I’ve seen them in False Bay (I think they are found at several of the deeper reefs towards the southern end of the bay, such as Rocky Bank) – we usually see them on deep Atlantic dives such as on Klein Tafelberg Reef.

Baby basket star
Baby basket star

I thought the Orotava was a very pretty wreck, and look forward to returning there. Anywhere I can see my frilled nudibranchs or basket stars (!!!!) is a happy place for me.

Dive date: 4 September 2011

Air temperature: 15 degrees

Water temperature: 14 degrees

Maximum depth: 32.9 metres

Visibility: 5 metres

Dive duration: 36 minutes

Newsletter: Ever had a bad Monday? Come diving on Tuesday!

Hello diving people

Anemone at Long Beach
Anemone at Long Beach

You will probably have heard about the shark bite that occurred at Clovelly this morning, at the far end of Fish Hoek beach. For a balanced description of the events, you can read what the NSRI says here. At this time of year sharks do move inshore from Seal Island, and as a swimmer or surfer it is essential to pay attention to the Shark Spotter sirens and flags. As divers we are less concerned about sharks, because it’s highly unlikely that a shark will mistake you for anything other than what you are: a noisy, neoprene-clad figure exhaling clouds of bubbles, unlike any other creature in its domain! I have dived extensively with sharks – when I was working in Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique, our first dive of the day was almost invariably to a reef called Pinnacles, where we saw hammerheads and Zambezi (bull) sharks almost daily, and sometimes tiger sharks. They just do not bug divers.

However, it is recommended to avoid flailing around on the surface too much at any time of the year in Cape Town’s waters, even if you’re in scuba gear. Controlled buoyancy and businesslike behaviour when you surface after a dive will contribute to your peace of mind. If you’d like to chat about sharks or are concerned about what to do if you see one while diving, please get in touch (my contact details are below or on the About page). You can also read this post in our Frequently Asked Questions section for more information, and my account of seeing a great white shark while diving. There is a follow-up on that sighting here.

Sharks are a reality of life lived close to and in the ocean, and we are privileged to reside in a country where great white sharks have been protected for nearly 20 years. Increased shark sightings in Cape Town are attributable both to population growth of great whites – back towards their natural levels before fishing for them was popular – and to increased efforts being put into minimising interactions between bathers and sharks, chiefly by the excellent Shark Spotters campaign. For a bit of background and some food for thought, you can read this post about the history of Shark Spotters, and this movie review.

Tony and Gerard on Tafelberg Reef
Tony and Gerard on Tafelberg Reef

Sharks aside, the ocean has been kind to us of late. We dived both the Atlantic side and the False Bay coastline this last weekend and had a good 12 metres visibility with 10 degrees at Tafelberg Reef, and at Long Beach we had 6 metres visibility and 15 degree water. Yesterday we dived Partridge Point with some tourists and had 15 degree water with 8 metre visibility, and some friendly and playful seals made the tourists extremely happy. On the way out we saw several whales from the boat, and then on our way back our skipper took us on a tour to see the penguins, oystercatchers, and some other tourists standing on the beach!

Bluefin gurnard at Long Beach
Bluefin gurnard at Long Beach

On Saturday ScubaPro will be holding a dive day. This is taking place at the False Bay Yacht Club in Simon’s Town and there will be five or so dive boats running dives at R100 each. Tonight was the deadline for booking a spot on the boat so hopefully you have all made a plan. We had 12 spots but they are all taken. If you are on the first launch on Saturday (8am), please be at the yacht club by 7am. Directions here.

Basket star on Tafelberg Reef
Basket star on Tafelberg Reef

ScubaPro will have gear available for testing on a dive so if you have finally saved up some hard earned cash to purchase a BCD for example, you could test the one you have had dreams of owning… Oh, no you can’t do that… You need to hand in your old one to test a new one. Or fork out some cash to hire one first so that you can hand it in. Once again the local dive gear suppliers show little or no concern for new divers getting into the sport except to take their money.

Anyway, this is how the day will look:

GOODIE BAGS for every diver booked on a dive with a participating Charter – Please note, only bookings received by Wednesday 28th September are eligible for Goodie Bags. Collect your Goodie bag on registration day.

DEMO GEAR: Hand in your gear and borrow the latest & greatest for a test dive!

SPIRIT of SEALIFE Photo Comp: A fun competition where the picture that best captures the fun & wonder of diving wins, not necessarily the picture that is technically best!

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY at the Prize Giving Party! Great food and beverages will be available and there’ll be music and a slide show from the Sealife Photo Comp! Prize giving for the photo comp and the lucky draw will take place at 16h30.

WORLD CUP RUGBY on a BIG SCREEN:

Although there’s no Springbok match, we’ll be screening the World Cup matches in the morning (07h00 and 09h30).

WIN OVER R17 000-00 WORTH OF PRIZES: Try any item of demo gear to qualify for the Lucky Draw.

On Sunday I will spend the day at Long Beach as there are six people wanting to experience scuba diving for the first time, so it will be a DSD day.

Close up of a basket star at Tafelberg Reef
Close up of a basket star at Tafelberg Reef

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog

Diving is addictive!

Checking out the kink in the chain at Long Beach
Checking out the kink in the chain at Long Beach

Dive sites: Roman’s Rest

Tony swims over the rocky bottom
Tony swims over the rocky bottom

Roman Rock lighthouse stands near the entrance to the navy harbour in Simon’s Town. In its general (I use the term very loosely) vicinity one finds – amongst other sites – Tivoli Pinnacles, Castor Rock, Wonder Reef, Rambler Rock, and, of course, the Roman Rock reef system, which is right under and around the lighthouse. Grant didn’t drop the shot line right at the lighthouse as one would to dive Roman Rock itself, but at a set of pinnacles called Roman’s Rest which are at the eastern end of the Castor Rock reef complex. Wonder Reef is at the western end.

A flagellar sea fan swaying in the surge
A flagellar sea fan swaying in the surge

Tami and I agreed that this was one of the most beautiful dive sites we’ve visited in False Bay – it’s comprised mostly of large granite boulders and huge flat, sloping rocks that are rich with invertebrate life. The whole area is populated by various types of sea fan, giving the effect of an underwater forest.

Flagellar sea fan
Flagellar sea fan
Lots of cauliflower soft coral on top of the reef
Lots of cauliflower soft coral on top of the reef

I was a bit cold (it was the second dive I did that day, and I had not put on enough layers of wetsuit to compensate for the freezing boat rides to and from the sites!) so I didn’t manage any half-decent photos of fish. But we saw Roman (of course!), and a large school of hottentot or other nondescript silver fish hanging in midwater over the reef. There were many nudibranchs – contrary to our usual experience of seeing one at a time, we saw several that were often so close together that I could include them all in one photo.

Sea fans stand like small outcrops of trees over the reef
Sea fans stand like small outcrops of trees over the reef

The part of Roman Rock that we dived is a newish area, I think, that Peter Southwood is busy mapping for the Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay wikivoyage site. It’s a very, very special site – highly recommended. With the right equipment and good visibility, lovely wide-angle photographs can be possible.

A six-legged granular sea star
A six-legged granular sea star

There are a couple more pictures from this dive in the newsletter Tony put out in the week after we dived the site. The surface conditions were horrible but you can see that the visibility was very good indeed (by False Bay standards!).

Dive date: 27 August 2011

Air temperature: 19 degrees

Water temperature: 14 degrees

Maximum depth: 21.4 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 42 minutes

Floating egg ribbon (?) at the safety stop
Floating egg ribbon (?) at the safety stop

Newsletter: Hout Bay to Mozambique

Hi divers

What we have been up to

For those of you that did not make it to the ocean last weekend I can truly say you missed out big time!! The OMSAC clean-up dive on Saturday morning was really enjoyable with some amazing articles being removed from Hout Bay harbour. True to form OMSAC ran an excellent event with everything happening on schedule. After the clean-up we dived the Aster wreck. We dived on Nitrox to maximise our bottom time and penetrated the forward hold. Goot and Gerard were doing their Nitrox specialty dives, Goot had a taste of wreck penetration, and Cecil was also test diving his new twin tank setup so we had a ‘’busy’’ dive.

Tiny basket stars on the Aster
Tiny basket stars on the Aster
The mast of the Aster at night
The mast of the Aster at night

Back on dry land we waited out the sunset and then went back out to the Aster for a night dive. The conditions were great, visibility 10 -12 metres and cold water (11 degrees) on the bottom. Night dives to the deeper wrecks are more challenging than shore night dives so a big well done to the guys and girls that joined.

Goot, Tami, Tony, Clare, Gerard and Cecil, ready for a night dive on the Aster
Goot, Tami, Tony, Clare, Gerard and Cecil, ready for a night dive on the Aster

Talks

On Tuesday evening we attended a talk and slide show at Dive Action. Barry had done some diving in a fjord in Norway and recounted the trip with a lot of info and photos of the dive centre there and the wrecks. He also talked us through the logistics of diving far from home with a few hundred kilograms of dive gear. As you know I have absolutely no knowledge of rebreathers so if you want to know more about diving with a re-breather then Barry is the man to see.

The Fernedale and the Parat side by side
The Fernedale and the Parat side by side

As you can see in this photo (courtesy of Gulen Dive Centre, kindly shared with us by Sarah from the Dive Action team), the visibility in the fjords is something else. It was taken at around 30 metres and the wreck on the right sits on the sand at over 55 metres.

This evening we attended a talk at the Save Our Seas Shark Centre by George Branch… He is one of the authors of the Two Oceans book and is an almost legendary figure in South African marine biology. The talks at SOSSC are always very good and are always ocean related so you should make an effort to attend a few… You are never too old to learn something new!!! Visit their facebook page and like them and this way you will be informed of their activities. Their page is constantly updated with some stunning photos and lots of info on sharks.

Hyperbaric chamber

Clare and I were taken on a tour of the hyperbaric medical facility in the Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont today. It is the only chamber of its kind in Cape Town and is used for many forms of medical treatments not related to diving, but should you have a  problem on a dive and get DCS, this is the place you will go! This centre is also home to one of the most respected diving doctors in South Africa. As a diver you should have DAN Medical Insurance and you should know where the nearest chamber is, how to get there and who to call. All of this information should be in your log book. Their website is here. We will post a detailed report of this visit on the blog soon. This is a fully equipped medical facility and a lot different to the chamber we did our 50 metre chamber dive in!

What we are going to get up to

Training

Saturday is pool day and if you want to join and play with your gear and buoyancy text me before 2pm Friday. The cost to scuba dive in the pool (if you’re not on course) is R50, and if you just want to swim it’s R7. We are still busy with Deep and Nitrox Specialties which we will continue with early Sunday morning, launching out of Hout Bay at 7.30am. The boat takes 14 and we are already confirmed for 10 people so text me quickly if you are in.

After the boat dive we will move to False Bay and then do dive 3 & 4 for a few Open Water students. If the conditions are good we will try the Clan Stuart or A Frame. The visibility in the bay at the moment is 10 – 15 metres and despite some southeaster for the next two day I doubt it will do too much harm so diving will be good.

Scubapro Day – 1 October

Scubapro are having a ScubaPro Day in the Simon’s Town yacht basin on 1 October. They will allow you to test dive the latest gear from their range. There will be food, drinks and goodie bags plus lots of divers and other kinds of people. Boat dives are going to cost R100 and R25 gets you a goodie bag and registration at the event. I have booked 12 places on two dives on the boat, big brother to this boat.

Ruby Runner's little cousin, spotted in Germany
Ruby Runner’s little cousin, spotted in Germany

If you want to participate you need to book and you need to do this soon. Boat dives at R100 don’t come round too often so book this week or lose out. You will need to book and pay by Tuesday next week for this event. The dives are at 8.00am and 2.00pm.

Travels

There is a trip to Mozambique on the weekend 4-6 of November. It is a five dive/three night package that starts at R1850. You will need to mail me for more info as it is a trip shared with a dive centre in Durban and will need some quick decisions.

Reminders

  1. A diver is currently in jail in Cape Town for diving without a permit… Don’t let it be you… Get a permit if you don’t have one.
  2. Book for the boat for Sunday and October 1 (ScubaPro Day) NOW!

Bye for now,

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog

Diving is addictive!

Newsletter: Wreck penetration and night dives

Hi diving people

Last weekend

Valve handles in dodgy visibility on the SAS Fleur
Valve handles in dodgy visibility on the SAS Fleur

Last weekend we dived the SAS Fleur. This rates as the best wreck dive in Cape Town, in my book. It is closely followed by the MV Aster which we plan to dive and penetrate this weekend. Back to the Fleur: we did not have exceptional visibility (about 6 metres – Clare apologises for the dodgy pictures), and the current was quite strong at depth. But as we were doing a Deep Specialty, on Nitrox, this was a perfect site. We had lots of seals during the dive and many stayed with us during our deep stop and the extended 5 metre safety stop.

Being photo-bombed by seals at the safety stop on the Fleur
Being photo-bombed by seals at the safety stop on the Fleur

After the Fleur we did two dives at Long Beach, being dive 1 & 2 for Open Water students. We visited the new Lady Long Beach reef project being built by Pisces Dive Centre.

Slightly beaten up cuttlefish at Long Beach
Slightly beaten up cuttlefish at Long Beach

Many have heard of the sardine run, well Steve Benjamin from Animal Ocean will be doing a squid run, in Cape St Francis. Diving 25th Oct – 29th Oct (5 days), this is just as the Commercial squid season closes. Visit his website for more info and look at some of the sardine run photos.

Tami approaching a swarm of box jellies at Long Beach
Tami approaching a swarm of box jellies at Long Beach

This weekend

This weekend we are diving in Hout Bay harbour on Saturday morning as part of the clean up dive organised by OMSAC. Diving starts at 9.00 am and even if you are not diving come along and join the fun. The harbour will be alive with divers, boats and humans. This is also a very photogenic part of Cape Town so bring your camera.

If you plan to participate in the cleanup dive, you must register beforehand – visit the OMSAC website for more details.

You must ensure you have your dive card AND your MPA permit with you on Saturday.

Compass sea jelly at the deep stop on the Fleur
Compass sea jelly at the deep stop on the Fleur

We have booked two dives for the afternoon with Underwater Explorers (you may remember Alistair from this post). At 2.00 pm we will do a dive to the Aster wreck, lay lines and do some penetration. Entering the wreck is not for everyone and some of the divers will stay outside while a few of us are inside. We will also attach a few cyalumes as we are doing the second dive there at 6.30 pm.

There is still space on the afternoon dive but the night dive is almost full… Speak up quickly if you want to join. We will be making a day of it so bring chairs, braai stuff and chocolate. We have also ordered sun so bring sunscreen.

There are a lot of people doing these dives on Saturday so it’s important you mail me to book any gear you want to rent. I have bought a few more wetsuits, BCDs, cylinders and regulators so I am sure we will manage but don’t wait until Saturday to let me know what you need – I’ll pack on Friday evening and leave home very early on Saturday. I also only have 6 torches to rent. You can of course go and buy these things from Andre‘s shop in Simon’s Town – email him here!

Sunday we are doing dive 3 & 4 for Open Water and if conditions are good we will dive the Clan Stuart or Windmill. Meeting time will be 10.30 as all my cylinders will be empty from the night dive and I only have one bicycle pump.

Bits and pieces of the Fleur
Bits and pieces of the Fleur

Travel plans

The planning of a Mozambique trip is taking shape and within a few weeks we will have a solid plan. We will most likely go to Ponta Do Ouro and will do the same thing we did for the Sodwana trips: fly to Durban, rent cars and have cheap tents or upmarket chalet options for accommodation. Car sharing, tent sharing and sleeping bag sharing… are all options. If you missed the last two trips then you won’t know how much fun we had but you can read all about it here.

Salps at Long Beach
Salps at Long Beach

(For more information on exactly what a salp is, check out Wikipedia. They’re alive!)

Talks

There is a talk by Barry, the owner of Dive Action, at the Dive Action shop next Tuesday evening on diving in Norway with stunning pictures. Free, starts at 6.30pm.

On Wednesday night there is a talk at 7.00pm by George Branch, author of the classic The Living Shores of South Africa and expert on all things marine biology-related, at the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Centre in Kalk Bay. The topic is evolution, and the cost is R50. (It’s for a good cause and you also get soup and rolls.) Save Our Seas foundation does many things but the Kalk Bay centre focuses on shark conservation. They also have a marine tank that is amazing… You get to see that too. The talks here are always very good and worth the money.

Text me if you are coming to either talk (booking is essential for the Save Our Seas talk) and I will book for you and send you directions. (Well actually Clare will!)

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog

Diving is addictive!

Sponges and coral of Malta

I have broken up the invertebrate life into things (mostly) with eyes, and things without. Behold, the things without eyes…

Sponges

Red sponge (Crambe crambe)
Red sponge (Crambe crambe)

The Mediterranean has a history of sponge diving that goes back to antiquity, and we saw quite a variety of sponges, but not vast numbers of them. The Mediterranean bath sponge is the primary target of sponge divers, and comes in a variety of exterior hues. It’s apparently creamy yellow to beige inside.

Bathing sponge (Spongia officinalis) traditionally harvested by Mediterranean sponge divers
Bathing sponge (Spongia officinalis) traditionally harvested by Mediterranean sponge divers
Spongia lamella, the elephant ear sponge
Spongia lamella, the elephant ear sponge
Scalarispongia scalaris
Scalarispongia scalaris
Unknown (to me) but pretty sponge
Unknown (to me) but pretty sponge
Could be the elephant ear sponge... Probably isn't!
Could be the elephant ear sponge... Probably isn't!

Coral

Gold star coral (Astroides calycularis)
Gold star coral (Astroides calycularis)