Windmill Beach

Dive sites: Windmill Beach

A wedding at Windmill, with divers emerging (James Bond-like) from the sea in the background
A wedding at Windmill, with divers emerging (James Bond-like) from the sea in the background

It’s actually ridiculous that I haven’t written anything about Windmill Beach yet for the blog. It’s probably one of the three most popular shore entry sites on the western side of False Bay, and it’s absolutely beautiful. The beach is also a popular wedding venue – take care not to spoil the photos as you tramp past in your scuba gear!

Blue gas flame nudibranch
Blue gas flame nudibranch

Right next to Boulders Beach, Windmill shares the same type of topography: large, rounded boulders sheltering small inlets. On a calm day with no large swell, it’s paradise. (When there is a big swell, it’s a washing machine and not worth the walk down to the beach.) A huge variety of life colonises the granite boulders around the beach, and the patient observer will find other interesting creatures on the coarse, sandy bottom between the rocks.

The entrance to the beach, seen from the parking area
The entrance to the beach, seen from the parking area

Parking is at the end of Links Crescent, so-called because it runs behind the golf course in Simon’s Town. There’s often a man in a penguin suit standing on the corner of Bellevue Road, which is where you must turn left off the main road. Links Crescent is the first road to your right after the golf course. On weekends the site teems with divers, but during the week it’s advisable to organise yourself a car guard (Happy Valley Homeless Shelter can often oblige). The parking is right next to the golf course – be warned! There are public loos on the way down to the beach, but optimistically the most they can be said to provide in terms of amenities is a modicum of privacy. The well-maintained loos at Long Beach have spoiled us in this regard!

Common feather star
Common feather star

The two coves are very sheltered. The northernmost (left hand) one is very shallow and slopes very gently; the eastern (right hand) cove is the more popular entry point, and is ideal for skills training on the sandy bottom, as it is very protected and one can quickly get 1.5 to 2 metres of depth. There is plenty to see on the rocks around the edge of the cove, and in adverse conditions an entire dive could be conducted without leaving the protection of the rocks. At least one very large octopus lives in the shallows on the right hand side of the cove.

A red sea star... count the legs!
A red sea star… count the legs!

The maximum depth you’ll find at Windmill is about 8 metres – getting deeper requires quite a swim offshore. I think it involves more than a little luck as well as some navigation skils, but it’s possible to enter at the eastern cove, swim out and around the rocks, and exit at the northern cove. There is a narrow gap between the rocks (shortcut into the northern cove) that is terrible when there’s a swell – the first time I dived Windmill, with Fritz (just after I started diving) we got washed through it at a precipitous speed. If you skip the gap, knowing when to turn west and find the seaward entrance of the north cove is also quite an art, and a “surface to look around” may be required.

Blue gas flame nudibranch
Blue gas flame nudibranch

All that said, Windmill is an exceptionally attractive dive site. There are several passages to swim through, and the southern right whales that visit False Bay every year seem to like this spot. I have heard more than one story of divers encountering a jubilant whale in the shallow (for a whale) water. If you are one of the lucky ones who does, remember that these whales are very, very large in comparison to you, and an accidental sideswipe with its tail could well catapault you into next week.

Box sea jellies at Windmill Beach
Box sea jellies at Windmill Beach
A Cape rock crab in the kelp
A Cape rock crab in the kelp

When we dived there recently I found a white seacatfish, but wasn’t fast enough to photograph him as he disappeared into a crack in the rocks. There are lots of klipfish, gorgeous nudibranchs, and a wealth of other invertebrate life. You won’t find a single abalone (but lots of shells) – I think they’ve been poached out. The place is crawling with alikreukel. Fortunately at Photographer’s Reef, a 400 metre swim directly out into the bay from Windmill, there is a reasonably large and healthy population. Like A Frame, we saw many false plum anemones, and the Cape rock crab population at Windmill seems particularly healthy. If you want to see kelp forests, the ones at Windmill are particularly alluring, sloping gently upwards with a vivid scattering of urchins and anemones on the rocks beneath.

Octopus in the shallows at Windmill
Octopus in the shallows at Windmill

Dive date: 15 October 2011

Air temperature: 19 degrees

Water temperature: 15 degrees

Maximum depth: 6.6 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 40 minutes

Gregarious fanworms next to a teat sponge
Gregarious fanworms next to a teat sponge

Published by

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.

2 thoughts on “Dive sites: Windmill Beach”

  1. Nice Article

    I am really trying to find out more accurate info on windmill

    I’ve dived here about 25 times and I feel I know it pretty well
    my current route is to go down straight away in the east cove and start working my way out around the rock. From there you see the kelp and reef start extending back and you can follow it out to a number of large pinaccles going futher and futher out.
    I usually hit a max depth of 9- 10 meters there and there is also a nice red sea fan on the inwards side of the reef ….then I head back exactly the same way slowly going through the east cove again. It usually takes me an hour. What I would like to find out is more clear mapping of the Pinaccles at the back , exactly where their location is in regard to the big rock , how many there really are and how far the reef extends

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