One of the locals in Struisbaai has a small, black dog that was playing at the harbour when we were exploring (and filming stingrays). The activity of choice was retrieving pebbles from the small shore break, with a small breath-hold as required, and then vigorously burying them in the sand higher up the beach. Passers by were encouraged to participate in the game, which is how we got involved – the harbour was quiet that day and we could not resist her wagging tail and persistent barking at the end of the jetty. I think this little dog would get on well with Dori from Ponta do Ouro…
Here’s a small video I took of the dog and her game:
There’s something beautifully incongruous about surfacing after a dive to be greeted by a dog on the pontoon of the boat. We had this privilege after a dive to Creche, a dive site near Ponta Malongane. Dori SeaDog, who officially belongs to Wayne and Petro (formerly of Simply Scuba) and unofficially belongs to the entire diving community of Ponta do Ouro, accompanied us on the boat to the dive site, and then waited on the boat with Mike for the divers to surface.
Please enjoy this very short glimpse of Dori on the boat as we surfaced! On the way back to the beach she was spotted with one paw on the end of a lollipop stick, holding it against the deck of the boat, while she licked the lollipop on the other end.
Earlier this month we returned from our second ever dive trip to Ponta do Ouro. (It was my third time there – on my first trip, in 2009, I wasn’t qualified to dive yet, and met my future husband, where he was diving and skippering five times a day and living in a reed hut. I still sometimes feel guilty for having a part in him leaving this little piece of paradise.) We flew to Durban. A shuttle transported us to the Kosi Bay border post, where we were met by Mike of Blowing Bubbles Diving. Mike drove us and our luggage over the dunes into town, and dropped us at Planet Scuba, where we would stay for the week.
Planet Scuba is situated on top of the hill that overlooks Ponta’s central square. Since my last visit (I think), a pharmacy has opened on the corner (pictured above), and later in the trip we purchased a much needed decongestant there (for a fairly princely sum, but beggars can’t be choosers).
Every morning we would walk down the steps to the road that leads to the beach, and head towards the point to meet up with the boat for diving. After diving, we would either walk back or get a ride on the back of the Blowing Bubbles bakkie. We breakfasted between dives, and then returned to the beach. The dives in Ponta do Ouro are boat dives, and the skippers launch the boat off the beach through the waves. There was almost no swell while we were there, so the surf launches were quite tame!
We dived for five days, most of us doing ten dives in total. We contemplated a dolphin trip with Dolphin Encountours, but reports were that boats were only seeing one or two dolphins, if any, and the trips cost more than a dive so we carried on diving instead. We were so, so lucky to see a huge pod of dolphins at the end of our last dive, near Ponta Malongane. On our first dive that day we had seen big schools of baitfish near the surface, and the dolphins had probably come to the area for feeding. We weren’t allowed to get into the water with them, but they swam past the boat for ages, and we heard them breathing as they passed by. Tony and I stuck our cameras over the side of the boat, and it turned out there were many more dolphins underwater than we could see on the surface.
The pace of life was very mellow. We dived, ate, slept, and repeated various iterations of that sequence. We admired the community of friendly dogs down at the beach. We enjoyed hungry cats and condensed milk milkshakes at Neptune’s, with a view over the Motel do Mar (where we stayed on our last trip) to the beach. We had a healthy and delicious lunch at Mango above the Dolphin Centre, and got thoroughly soaked by a tropical rainstorm on the way back to Planet Scuba. Christo, Esther and Laurine sampled the “chemical s***storm in a glass” (I quote Esther) that is Ponta do Ouro’s famous R&R (rum and raspberry). Strangely, none of them wanted any more…
The diving was excellent. The water temperature was 23 degrees, and we had (apparently mediocre for Ponta) visibility of about 10 metres, sometimes more. This was very acceptable to us as Capetonians. The reefs are teeming with life, and all of us saw something new. Laurine was enchanted by a turtle, Tony spent most of his dives upside down with his head in crevices in the reef, Christo directed all of us to exciting discoveries with his torch and pigsticker (a metal kebab stick slash pointer that must have a different name but I don’t know it), and Esther maintained her sense of wonder and calm as she brought up the rear of our little group on most dives. On one of the dives a very strong current gave us opportunities to use our SMBs, which was an excellent learning experience and a reminder of how important a safety sausage is, no matter where you are diving.
The air temperature was warm, the wind hardly blew, and for a while we could forget that at home in Cape Town it was cold, frequently dark, and overflowing with commitments and obligations. We returned the way we had come, but feeling a little more ready to cope with the rest of the Cape winter. We’ll be back in a couple of years, Ponta!
(I’ll share some little videos and more photos from the trip over the next couple of weeks.)
Do your fellow divers not give you the respect you feel you deserve? Lisa has the answer to all your problems: scare them with a high fashion Doberman hoodie! Some visual intimidation will do the trick.
She was trying out a new hoodie that was a gift from a friend on a dive just after Christmas. I thought she looked like a very friendly Doberman, but maybe it is a superhero hoodie like my Batman one. Whatever the case, it looks pretty awesome.
We have had a hard run of howling winds so most of the water time this week has been in the pool, much of it on a lilo. We did get to dive last weekend at Long Beach, and had decent conditions given the weather system floating around. Elmi’s beautiful pooch came to supervise activities.
Weekend conditions look good for False Bay, especially on Saturday, as its an almost windless day after strong north westerly winds on Friday; the viz should be really good. Sunday is not too bad, but the wind is north north west and the north part doesn’t do as much for False Bay as the west part does. We will plan to dive but will make a final call early on Sunday. Text or email me if you want to dive.
Events to diarise
This coming Thursday 6 March there is a talk at the Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT) about the Clan Stuart and the Brunswick wrecks at 6pm. More information on how to book can be found on facebook, here.
Our Sodwana trip takes place from 26-30 April. There are still one or two spaces available…
There is a DAN Day on 17 May. DAN provides medical assistance to divers in trouble, and their regular and informative events are a great source of information. If you’d like to know more, reply to this mail.
Long Beach, Noordhoek (not to be confused with Long Beach, Simon’s Town) is the most wonderful beach in Cape Town to walk on. It’s spacious, scenic, dog friendly, and sometimes you can see horses there. It goes on for miles. The water is freezing cold. There are a couple of places to surf, with a Shark Spotter on duty at the Chapmans Peak end. Also, there’s a shipwreck if you walk far enough (just don’t go alone – it’s not safe).
Tony and I watched this team of huskies running up and down the beach just before sunset one beautiful afternoon late last year. I think they are part of Mush It Up Sledding. Beautiful dogs doing what they were born to do: run! In the background some surfers get a few waves in before it gets dark.
While we were in Denmark just after Christmas we paid a visit to the Tempo Bådudstyr in the suburb of Greve, just outside Copenhagen. It was fabulous. Tony was genuinely browsing the wares, while I photographed things that looked cool. My favourite items were the mini life vests for dogs (we have seen a lot of dogs on the sailing boats that frequent the small marinas throughout Denmark).
We got a ride back from the boat shop with the pastor of the local Lutheran church, who lived in Glostrup where we were staying. He took us home via the hard standing at the marina where he keeps his little sailing boat. In winter all the pleasure boats are removed from the water because the harbours ice up. They are placed on stilts in huge boat parking areas. In spring when the weather softens, they are returned to the sea.
Please enjoy a small selection of photographs of the maritime delights that can be found in this particular Danish boat store:
Tony and I visited the lighthouse at Danger Point, the sharp peninsula separating Walker Bay (on which lie Hermanus and De Kelders) from Gansbaai, on a miserable, windy, freezing day. We were pelted by rain and I was unable to take many photographs because of the conditions.
The Danger Point lighthouse was commissioned in 1895, over forty years after the famous and tragic wreck of the HMS Birkenhead on Danger Point. Its tower is 18.3 metres high, with its focal plane (level of the light) 45 metres above sea level. The range of the light is 27 nautical miles. I learned these things from Lighthouses of South Africa, by Gerald Hoberman.
It is open to the public and is a manned lighthouse, but was not open on the day we visited. There is a plaque commemorating the loss of the Birkenhead on the wall of the tower, as well as a memorial nearby. This shipwreck was apparently the first one on which the “women and children first” protocol was used, now known as the “Birkenhead drill.” Of the approximately 640 souls on board, 445 perished at sea. Some of the horses came on shore at De Kelders, at a location known as “Die Stal”, and which is marked by a sign.
Tony made friends with the lighthouse keeper’s dog as the two of them sheltered from the rain – which felt like buckshot hitting our faces – in the lee of the tower.