Basket stars at Tafelberg Reef

Dive sites: Klein Tafelberg Reef

I’ve dived Klein Tafelberg before, with Tony. It’s a short boat trip straight out of Hout Bay harbour, and forms part of a large reef complex comprising Tafelberg Reef, Tafelberg Deep, and Klein Tafelberg.

Tony has been ragging Grant incessantly about the existence (or lack thereof) of a yacht that lies at Klein Tafelberg, so when we visited Klein Tafelberg Grant dropped the shotline practically on top of the hapless Patti. Klein Tafelberg is characterised by a pinnacle that extends from the sand at about 34 metres, up to 15 metres.

Wreck of the yacht Patti
Wreck of the yacht Patti

Next to the pinnacle lie the remains of Patti, the yacht, at a precipitous angle (my pictures of the yacht aren’t great). I can attest that she does exist, but is missing her propellor. We explored her for a few minutes, and then swam north east to a sandy patch where Cecil did some skills.

Yacht wreckage
Yacht wreckage

There are a few things that make this a magnificent dive.

Visibility

Both times I’ve dived the Tafelberg Reef complex, the visibility has been magnificent. The water is cold (very cold!) but so clean you almost feel dizzy when you fall over the side of the boat. Clean water means that even below 30 metres, light penetrates. There isn’t so much colour loss, and it isn’t dark like the dive we did on the SAS Fleur a couple of weekends ago. The day we did this dive was sunny, which made for a very beautiful experience.

Topography

Side of the pinnacle at Klein Tafelberg
Side of the pinnacle at Klein Tafelberg

The Tafelberg Reef complex is huge, and very spectacular. The clean water allowed us to appreciate the massive granite boulders and pinnacles, some split dramatically. The yacht wreck stands almost vertically with lots of railings and piping lying around her.

Marine life

This is an Atlantic dive site, and is characterised by a fair amount of kelp and the usual red seaweeds that we found on the Maori and BOS 400. Because the reef is so spectacular, my focus wasn’t so much on hunting for nudibranchs (though I’m sure they’re there) as appreciating the awesome landscape we found ourselves in. I couldn’t miss the many West coast rock lobster hiding between the boulders, though.

There are two really special inhabitants of Tafelberg Reef I’d like to mention.

Basket stars

Basket stars at Tafelberg Reef
Basket stars at Tafelberg Reef

Basket stars are related to starfish and brittle stars. They are usually found in deep water and last time we visited Tafelberg Reef I (with no camera) was totally enchanted with their beautiful curly arms. They extend them into the water column to feed. I was determined to find myself a basket star on this dive, and I located several. They are so extravagantly beautiful that it’s hard to believe that they’re fully functional creatures as well!

Basket star feeding
Basket star feeding

Seals

We were doing a dive for Cecil’s Deep Specialty course, and needed to do two things: one was to let him breathe off an alternate air source (Tony took a 7 litre stage cylinder along for this purpose) and the other was to do an eight minute safety stop, as a simulated deco requirement. Our computers were all set on air, although we were all using a fairly rich mix of Nitrox, so although our computers went into deco and demanded the safety stop, it wasn’t actually required. As part of Cecil’s training, however, it was essential.

Anyway… During our extremely long safety stop we were visited by several frisky Cape fur seals from the nearby colony at Duiker Island. They came to investigate the boat when we arrived at the dive site, and stuck around until we surfaced.

Cape fur seal silhouetted from below
Cape fur seal silhouetted from below

Seals are lots of fun in the water. They’re like dogs. Sometimes they bare their (large, yellow) teeth at you and bark, and sometimes they like to bite things. Fortunately, as long as you keep your fingers out the way, they can’t get a proper grip on any sensitive body parts.

Dancing Cape fur seal
Dancing Cape fur seal

Tony had his head munched, as well as one of his fins, and Cecil nearly lost part of his buttocks and had his pillar valve investigated thoroughly. I was torn between laughing and taking photographs, and wondering whether the seal needed me to bitch slap it to show who was boss.

Colonial ascidians
Colonial ascidians

Dive date: 10 April 2011

Air temperature: 24 degrees

Water temperature: 10 degrees

Maximum depth: 37.1 metres

Visibility: 20 metres

Dive duration: 36 minutes

We descended and ascended through a beautiful cloud of tiny jellyfish, illuminated by the sun.

Jellyfish, bubbles and sunlight
Jellyfish, bubbles and sunlight

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Clare

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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