Bookshelf: Watching Whales & Dolphins in Southern Africa

Watching Whales & Dolphins in Southern Africa – Noel & Belinda Ashton

Watching Whales & Dolphins in Southern Africa
Watching Whales & Dolphins in Southern Africa

This is an enormously useful book for local whale watchers, and provides details on the life history and characteristics of the cetaceans found in Southern Africa’s waters. The text is illustrated by beautiful paintings and photographs showing the animals in full from various angles, including what you’d see if they were on the surface of the sea or about to sound.

Noel Ashton is an artist, sculptor and conservationist, whose sculptural work can be seen in the foyer of the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town. Nature writer and designer Belinda Ashton has co-authored several books with him.  The Ashtons also provided the whale and dolphin identification posters upstairs between the Predator Exhibit and the Kelp Forest tank. Their love for the natural world is evident in the beautiful illustrations and careful attention to detail in this book.

There is a history of whaling in South Africa, but fortunately there is now a yearly strong recovery in whale numbers and an appreciation of the economic value of whales alive rather than dead. There are incredible whale watching opportunities all around South Africa’s coast, including world-class shore-based viewing from Cape Town to De Hoop via Hermanus and De Kelders. There is boat-based whale watching out of Cape Town and from Gansbaai, Hermanus, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Durban, St Lucia, and other locations in between. For those who do not remember whaling, it is easy to become blasé about this embarrassment of cetacean riches, but it makes us, as South Africans, extremely privileged indeed.

For ocean lovers, this book is as indispensable as a bird book to a twitcher. It is highly recommended.

You can get a copy of the book here (South Africa) or here.

A few days in Knysna

Beaching the ferry in shallow water
Beaching the ferry in shallow water

We were very upset to hear that Lightley’s Houseboats, operating on the Knysna lagoon, went into liquidation last year. Fortunately the boats and licence to operate have been acquired by a lovely Dutch couple who are now operating under the name Knysna Houseboats. We took a short break in late April and spent four nights on a houseboat on the lagoon. The boats have been refurbished, standards have been raised, and the company has moved from the jetty at Belvidere to one in the Thesen Island harbour.

Entrance to the Knysna lagoon from the sea
Entrance to the Knysna lagoon from the sea

Houseboating is the most relaxing kind of holiday you can have; no unexpected visitors, no television (well, we don’t have one of those at home either), no computers (Tony forgot his and didn’t miss it at all), and nowhere particular to go. A skipper’s licence isn’t required to pilot the boats, but you have to go through a half hour course and write a short test before being issued with a temporary licence. The boats have a single 40 hp motor, and ours reached a roaring top speed of 10km/h heading downcurrent.

The last two occasions we’ve visited Knysna we dived in search of seahorses, beneath the Sanparks jetty on Thesen Island. The time to do this is half an hour before high tide, for a couple of reasons. One is that the tidal currents in the lagoon are something fierce; unless you want to do a drift dive out through the Heads, you have to dive near slack water. The other is that the rising tide brings clean seawater into the lagoon, increasing visibility. At low tide (we discovered last time we dived there) the visibility is so bad you can’t see a hand in front of your face. We found seahorses both times we dived in Knysna, but the second time (at low tide) more luck than skill was involved.

This time, high tide fell very early in the morning and in the evening. Because it’s close to winter, days are short, and we’d have had to have dived just before sunrise or just before sunset to coincide with the tide. This seemed like hard (and cold) work. We were on holiday, and lazy, so we left the dive gear at home this time. Hopefully next time we go to Knysna the tides will be in our favour, because I did miss seeing those little critters!

One thing we did do that caused us raucous enjoyment was to sit on the edge of our boat one evening as the tide was going out, with a torch and a plastic salad bowl. The most amazing creatures swam past on the outgoing tide, and with some judicious co-ordination of torch and bowl we were able to catch one or two of them, take their picture, ooh and aah, and then release them back into the lagoon. We saw flatworms, lots of baby sole, shrimps with incredible glowing eyes and almost transparent bodies, and even a small blue fish shaped like a needle that we weren’t quick enough to catch.

Seal beating an octopus

During the day we looked at birds, motored around the lagoon a little bit, read, napped (embarrassingly much), and enjoyed the view. On one occasion we beached the boat and Tony wandered up and down a sandbank, where we could hear the sounds of mudprawns and a host of other creatures living just under the mud exposed by the retreating tide.

Heron on a moored boat
Heron on a moored boat
Geese in formation
Geese in formation

There is currently no dive operator or shop in Knysna, but they seem to open and close frequently. There is an angling and diving club in Knysna, and they can probably refer you to a local diver who can guide you if you want to dive the wreck of the Paquita near the Heads, or one of the other reefs in the area outside the Heads.

Rowing boat on shore
Rowing boat on shore

Newsletter: Cannon ball run

Hi divers

The seasons’ change has had us diving in mixed conditions, clean one day and dirty the next. Last weekend we dived Hout Bay on Saturday (the Maori and Die Josie) and had mediocre viz, but on Sunday diving in False Bay was far better. We visited the cowsharks and seals at Partridge Point.

At three metres my visibility testing tool is all but invisible
At three metres my visibility testing tool is all but invisible

This weekend is again a mixed bag as the water colour and temperature are not promising. Hout Bay has green water and the temperature there today was 15 degrees. The temperature in False Bay today was 17 degrees and I went from Simon’s Town to Cape Point and back as well as far out into the centre of the bay (looking for the orcas) and did not find any clean water anywhere. The picture above is of my visibility testing tool (patent pending) three metres underwater near Atlantis Reef. It’s almost invisible.

Leaving Simon's Town harbour with a navy patrol boat escort
Leaving Simon’s Town harbour with a navy patrol boat escort

The orcas were most likely terrified by the naval canon firing… I know I was! The navy patrol boats escorted us past the vessel that was firing. Just before taking the boat out of the water I cruised slowly north of Long Beach and when the sonar read 2.5 metres I could barely see the bottom. There is/has been a plankton bloom of some sort and I think that has been a big factor. There is also a surprising amount of garbage in the water. There is a 3-4 metre swell predicted for the weekend.

Having said that its likely to be a good weather weekend as there is little wind and lots of warm sunshine. Luckily I will not have to put my forecasting skills to the test as we are off to Knysna for a spell of houseboating and seahorse hunting (the little ones that live in the lagoon).

Christo holding the reel while Craig adjusts his weight belt on the SS Maori
Christo holding the reel while Craig adjusts his weight belt on the SS Maori


We have both SDI and PADI Open Water courses running, as well as PADI Advanced, SDI Nitrox and PADI Rescue.

Our training pool is in and full, not quite crystal clean yet but will be soon and we will run a Discover Scuba Diving special during May so if you have a friend that needs to experience scuba get in touch.

Almost finished swimming pool at home
Almost finished swimming pool at home


We’re off to Durban in June for three days of wreck diving with Calypso at uShaka Marine World. Durban has warm water like Sodwana, a well known balmy climate, and all the coral reef critters as well as some spectacular shipwrecks. Plus there’s lots to do if the weather doesn’t pan out every day. We’re going in the week of 17 June (a Monday, and a public holiday). If you’re interested let me know and I’ll forward the details.

Our Red Sea trip still seems frustratingly far away, but October creeps closer. The Red Sea is a must visit destination for any scuba diver, and what better way to do it with some non-threatening semi-nice people like us? As Gob from Arrested Development would say, come on!


Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099

Diving is addictive!

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Series: Shoreline


In the grand tradition of putting the cart before the horse (or similar), I read the coffee table book accompanying the locally-produced television series Shoreline before watching the series. The book gave me serious wanderlust, and the series did the same. Four presenters (a marine biologist, an archaeologist, a historian and a main anchor) travel the 2,700 kilometres of South Africa’s magnificent coastline, exploring the events that shape both the coast and human history.

My favourite was the helicopter footage – in truth, if the series had just been a continuous helicopter shot of the entire coast, with pauses for loo breaks, I’d have watched it. There were some surprisingly moving stories related to the war – the loss of the troop ship SS Mendi, carrying over 800 troops of the South African Native Labour Corps to France, struck me in particular. Most of the troops were rural Pondo people. The vessel was struck by another ship in the English Channel, and began sinking immediately. The men, gathered on the deck of the ship, were exhorted by their chaplain to meet death with dignity:

Be quiet and calm, my countrymen. What is happening now is what you came to do… You are going to die, but that is what you came to do. Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers… Swazis, Pondos, Basotho… So let us die like brothers. We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war-cries, brothers, for though they made us leave our assegaais in the kraal, our voices are left with our bodies.

They apparently danced and sang as the ship disappeared beneath the waves. There is a memorial to the men in Port Elizabeth. I found so much grace to be exhibited here, by soldiers who were fighting a war to defend a country that had very little time for them, and placed them at an economic and social disadvantage.

I was also all stirred up by an interview with two elderly ladies who were members of the South African Women’s Auxiliary Naval Service (SWANS). Almost 300 women served as harbour defence staff (monitoring defence systems) and administrators during the latter years of World War II. This opened up a whole world of possibilities to the women of that era, whose career options were as limited as one can imagine in 1940. It must have been very empowering to these women to be able to participate and perform vital wartime functions in the service of their country.

One of the harbours where they served was Saldanha Bay, where a system of mines defended the bay from invasion by enemy submarines. On 1 June 1944 one of the SWANS on duty detonated two rows of mines after spotting a suspected enemy submarine on her screen. This story, as well as the revelation that during World War II there were Catalina flying boats (totally awesome planes that could float) stationed at Lake St Lucia in northern KwaZulu Natal, which flew patrols to Madagascar and back, looking for German submarines, surprised me. South Africa seems so far from the European source of the war, but there were German U-boats all the way down here and a serious war effort taking place.

For the water babies, there’s some wonderful footage of a dive with coelocanths done by the chaps from ReefTeach in Sodwana Bay, and a shark dive on Aliwal Shoal. Sand sharks in Langebaan Lagoon, shysharks at Arniston, seahorses in Knysna, leatherback turtles nesting at Sodwana, and the larger cetacean inhabitants of our coast are featured in various episodes. Unfortunately the segment on the KwaZulu Natal shark nets was poorly done, with a propaganda speech that implied that the nets are a benign invention, with most of the sharks caught in the nets surviving to be released, and not many other creatures caught at all. There was however an excellent piece on the NSRI, which I hope alerted many South Africans to this national treasure and the need to support its efforts.

The script – written by the very brilliant Tom Eaton – makes full use of the strengths and knowledge that the presenters bring to the series in their personal capacities, and there are very inspiring and pride-inducing moments that made me very pleased to be South African, and living here. I can highly recommend this series. The production values are surprisingly high given that it’s an SABC production (no offence intended). We sent it as a gift to Tony’s son in Denmark and I hope it helps him to understand some of what we love about this country.

The official website for the series is here. You can get the series on DVD here. There’s also a companion hardcover book, that you can get here.

Bookshelf: Dive South Africa

Dive South Africa – Al J. Venter & John H. Visser

Dive South Africa
Dive South Africa

Veteran war correspondent (and veteran scuba diver) Al J. Venter has written over 35 books – chiefly about the various conflicts and wars he has covered, but also several about diving. Where to Dive, The Ultimate Handbook on Diving in Southern Africa, and The South African Handbook for Divers are long out of print, but his most recent volume, Dive South Africa, was published in 2009 and is available in many dive shops. I have a feeling I picked up my copy at Lightley’s Houseboats in Knysna. I read it just after I started diving, and I fear it gave me a rather skewed view of what scuba diving can be about. I reread it recently, with a little more knowledge and slightly higher expectations of the sport, and humans in general.

This book is basically about overgrown boys shooting stuff and looting things. An aggressive, macho diving culture is portrayed here, and many beautiful reefs are described in terms of what you can find there to kill with your speargun (and, presumably, feel terribly manly afterwards). FIST BUMP! Women are not mentioned without the qualifier “pretty” or “attractive” – no other attribute apparently matters. Sharks are uniformly referred to as “beasts”, “monsters” or “brutes”.

Venter covers dive locations such as Port Elizabeth, Durban, Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, Arniston, East London, Port Alfred, the Mossel Bay area and a number of other destinations with good diving. These destinations sometimes get poor exposure – local diving magazines are particularly guilty of this – at the expense of Sodwana and Aliwal Shoal (which also feature in some detail). A lot of the focus – in the coverage of all these locations – is on where to go to shoot big fish, but these are somewhat useful chapters for divers who want to go off the beaten track a little bit, and experience even more of the diving that South Africa has to offer. Use of this book as a reference – perhaps in conjunction with the Atlas of Dive Sites of Southern Africa and Mozambique is probably ideal for the explorer at heart. It is the chapters on particular destinations – some of them off the beaten track and even lacking dive centres within a hundred kilometres – that are the most useful part of this book. There is even a chapter on diving a wreck in Mozambican waters, with the attendant difficulties of operating in what was then a guerilla state.

A seasoned wreck diver, Venter devotes several chapters to important wrecks in South African waters. An entire chapter – with atmospheric photographs – is dedicated to the wreck of the Maori. Chapters are also devoted to the Colebrooke, the Klipfontein, and the City of Hankow in Saldanha. Much mention is made of the Birkenhead near Arniston. Venter has an interest both in the wrecks as they are now, and the stories behind their sinking and the rescue of their crew and passengers (if that took place). Some of the wrecks are not permitted to be dived any more, so the oral histories recorded here of what the condition of the wrecks are (and even their location) are important. The extensive looting of many of the shipwrecks Venter describes (many in False Bay and Table Bay), however, would make an archaeologist (a proper one) tear his hair out. SAHRA, the body meant to regulate these activities, doesn’t seem to care, and actually didn’t exist when a lot of the plunder and pilfering took place.

There are several chapters about sharks, including a lengthy one about Walter Bernardis of African Watersports, a veteran baited shark dive operator. Bernardis describes in detail the process for doing baited dives with large sharks such as tigers and bull (Zambezi) sharks, as well as an incident in 2006 when he himself was bitten. Strong respect and awe for the sharks is clearly present in both Venter and Bernardis, but the feeling I was left with after reading the chapter on baited tiger shark dives was that it’s a completely stupid idea, and extremely dangerous – both to the divers and to the sharks. Pictures such as the horrible one in this blog post, depicting sharks hurting themselves on the mechanisms used to chum – often involving steel cable and washing machine drums – show that this exploitation cannot be good for the sharks. It is purely a money-making racket and there is very little actual regard for the animals themselves.

Moreover, there are just too many caveats – dive briefings must take HOURS – and the sharks are not in a state that is conducive to calm interaction, which is not good for the divers’ peace of mind either. Venter’s endorsement of Bernardis’ practice of riding the sharks is disappointing, but shouldn’t surprise me I suppose! It has been extremely lucky, thus far, that no one has been badly injured by a shark in – understandably – a frustrated feeding frenzy. There have been incidents, and recently, but the practice continues and is extremely lucrative for the often completely unethical and fame-hungry operators that offer it.

Beautiful colour photographs by Peter Pinnock, Andrew Woodburn and others appear in plates in three sections of the book. Throughout the rest of the book, black and white images taken both above and below the water are featured. There is a brief chapter on underwater photography in which Venter interviews some of the more renowned practitioners of the art, and Thomas Peschak gets a mention.

The book has no index, which makes finding a piece of information after the fact – such as the chapter on diving in Knysna in preparation for our second visit there – completely impossible.

Venter has clearly led a rich, full life and enjoyed a variety of thrilling and hair-raising experiences underwater. His knowledge of our coastline is top notch. For the information on diving conditions and locations around our coast it’s a far more useful reference, however, than The Dive Spots of Southern Africa, for example, even if the information (depths, distances, etc) is slightly less comprehensive. It should NOT be the first book on South African diving that you read (purely from the perspective of the outdated “dive culture” that it presents), but it WILL expand your knowledge – of both facts and the origins of South African diving culture – if you do decide to add it to your library.

You can buy the book at your local dive shop.

Bookshelf: Poseidon’s Steed

Poseidon’s Steed – Helen Scales

Poseidon's Steed
Poseidon's Steed

Poseidon’s Steed is marine biologist Helen Scales’ first book; its subject is the seahorse. The book is short – I read it in less than half a day whilst convalescing with a cold – but packed with everything that is interesting about seahorses.

I am well acquainted with the pull that these (mostly) tiny creatures exercise on people – Tony has been obsessed with seeing a seahorse for years, and I was delighted to share in his first sighting during a dive in the Knysna lagoon just after we met. The Knysna (or Cape) seahorse, Hippocampus capensis, features towards the end of Scales’ book, where she discusses the threats to its habitat and its extremely limited geographical range.

The first section of the book situates seahorses in culture, myth and history, and reveals that they have been venerated and depicted in art and design for thousands of years. Scales hops – seemingly – from topic to topic with great ease, and before you realise it she’s painted a complete picture of the seahorse and its role in human life for generations.

Scales describes seahorse biology, clearing up for me the reason why we saw such colour variation among the seahorses we spotted in Knysna: they are able to change their body colour at will. This makes it tricky to differentiate species, but extensive research has placed the current known number of seahorse species at about 40. Unique among animals, the male seahorse actually experiences pregnancy, and these creatures exhibit great fidelity to their mates. Pipefish, those close relatives of the seahorse, are also covered.

Seahorses are popular exhibits in aquaria – including tanks maintained by private individuals – and Scales traces the history of the aquarium from its origin in Victorian times, when it satisfied the prevailing mania for collecting and categorising. Husbandry of seahorses for aquaria is big business, and Scales mentions a company called Ocean Rider as an example of seahorse breeders. This takes the pressure off populations of wild seahorses, which are particularly vulnerable to human exploitation and pollution because they exhibit such habitat fidelity.

Seahorses are also vulnerable because they have attained almost mythic status in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and are used to cure all manner of ailments. A chapter on their role as medicine gives perspective on the use of species from both the plant and animal world as medicine – Scales locates TCM nicely in history, tracing its development and explaining the difficulties of testing whether a specific item – such as ground up seahorse – can cure a specific ailment (the holistic approach taken by practitioners of this type of medicine means that each individual receives a very specific, tailored cocktail of medications).

Project Seahorse began in 1996, in response to the realisation that harvesting of seahorses from their habitats was far more widespread and intensive than had been suspected. The project was piloted in the Philippines, and involved the local community – who derived income from the seahorse trade – in setting aside part of the ocean on their doorstep as a no-take marine reserve. The community also allowed researchers to measure and weigh the seahorses that they did harvest, and logged their catch daily for study purposes. The results have been encouraging, and it is clear that involving the local community – who make a living from the resource – in the conservation effort was key. Project Seahorse has subsequently expanded its reach and scope considerably.

Seahorses do not perform a misson-critical role in our oceans; they are not a “keystone species“, and if we remove all of them our oceans won’t collapse and cease to function as ecosystems. In the epilogue, Scales quotes David Attenborough (from page 4 of this interview) as saying that the primary reason for conservation of our natural world is “Man’s imaginative health”.

I can partly support this view, but I think it’s the English literature major in me that’s getting behind it. Certainly, in the case of the seahorse, the greatest loss would be the sense of wonder experienced daily by visitors to the Tennessee Aquarium  and many other public aquaria, scuba divers in Australia, Mozambique, the Knysna Lagoon, and visitors to countless other sensitive locations around the world where these creatures are found. There is, on the other hand, a hint of arrogance in claiming that the primary reason for us not to damage the earth and decimate her species is for our own good. Elsewhere in the interview Attenborough says:

The fundamental issue is the moral issue – and I’ve always said that. The moral issue is that we should not impoverish this world.’

And this, I think, is the point: for us to have arrived, at the end of a process longer than we can adequately comprehend, and behave as though our late arrival gives us licence to wreak havoc on ecosystems that have existed – in balance, without interference – for aeons – is wrong. Just wrong.

Whale sharks are one of the species referred to as charismatic megafauna – species with wide popular appeal that can be used as icons by conservationists and elicit disproportionately strong responses to appeals for their protection. Perhaps seahorses should be listed as charismatic microfauna (I’m not entirely sure that’s a formal name for anything!) – they seem to capture the imagination all out of proportion to their size.

There is much to love about seahorses. You can buy the book here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise click here. If you want to read it on your Kindle, go here.


Looking for seahorses in Knysna

Tony is obsessed – and I mean obsessed – with seahorses, and by all accounts has been hunting for them everywhere he’s ever dived. For this reason he was very keen to dive in Knysna, home of the Knysna seahorse, and to see if we could find some.

We go houseboating in Knysna every year (so far), and we’re able to dock the houseboat on Thesen Island at the jetty there. The first time we went, Tony’s friend Cameron showed us where to dive, and accompanied us in the water while his girlfriend Claire paddled her kayak around on the surface.

The magnificent Knysna Lagoon opens to the sea through a very narrow opening called the Heads. Because it’s so narrow, the tidal pull into and out of the lagoon is incredibly strong, and it’s not wise to dive while the tide is going in or out. The dive sites inside the Heads (and there are several, including a wreck called the Paquita which I’m dying to visit) should only be dived around the turn of the tide, from half an hour before to half an hour after, unless you have a hectic drift dive in mind (and some people do!).

The first time we dived the Sanparks Quay on Thesen Island was in August 2009, and we dived at high tide one afternoon. It’s a bit of a walk from the houseboats jetty to the Sanparks Quay, especially wearing full kit, but at high tide the entrance is reasonably easy. You just stride down some steps next to the quay and into the water. It’s a so-called junkyard dive, with lots of tyres, bottles and other bits of rubbish, but also very beautiful to see how the sea life has colonised the junk. At high tide the water is deep, clean, and still. The fishermen on the quay were profoundly amused by our antics, and one has to watch out for their lines and hooks while diving this site.


Junkyard dive
Beauty in the junkyard

The seahorses are really hard to spot – many of them are brown (we did find a bright yellow one), smallish, and well-camoflaged among the debris. They wrap their little tails around things and sway in the current. We saw three or four, and Tony was so excited when we spotted the first one that I could hear him shouting through his regulator.


Knysna seahorse in hiding
Knysna seahorse in hiding

Dive date: 18 August 2009

Air temperature: 22 degrees

Water temperature: 15 degrees

Maximum depth: 5 metres

Visibility: 15 metres

Dive duration: 19 minutes

The second time Tony and I dived the Sanparks Quay was at low tide (high tides were at night while we were there) in June this year. We were alone, and it wasn’t as easy as the previous time. The bottom of the steps ended before the waterline, so we had to leap off instead of just walk into the water. The visibility was less than a metre – like swimming in ProNutro – so I held onto Tony’s arm for dear life for most of the dive because if he moved too far I lost him.  The tide going out stirs up a lot of silt and brings dirty water from higher in the lagoon, which makes it very hard to see anything.

Despite the conditions, we did spot one tiny little sea horse, which made it worthwhile. There was also a crowned and an orange-clubbed nudibranch nudibranch, but we didn’t stay long because the conditions were so poor. We swam under the pier a little, which we didn’t do the first time. We learned why it’s a good idea to dive at HIGH tide next time!

Dive date: 16 June 2010

Air temperature: 20 degrees

Water temperature: 12 degrees

Maximum depth: 4.9 metres

Visibility: 0.5 metres

Dive duration: 35 minutes

If you don’t spot any seahorses, or don’t fancy a dive, you can visit the Sanparks office at the far end of the quay (closest to the Heads). They have a beautiful tank FULL of seahorses, who are extremely obliging photographic subjects.


Knysna seahorse
Knysna seahorse in the Sanparks Building


Ode to the logbook

I am a numbers person. I love to record things, analyse trends, draw graphs, and notice patterns in data. For this reason, I’m totally obsessive about filling in my dive logbook. Apart from making me happy to record all that information, and filling a wonderful hour or two after each dive looking up what I’ve just seen in the pile of books on sea life that Tony and I have amassed between us, it has had some other, unexpected benefits:

  • I’ve been able to track my progress as a diver with respect to air consumption. When I look back at early dives, I feel proud about how much longer I can stay down with the experience I’ve built.
  • I can track my progress as a diver with respect to buoyancy and lack thereof – when I started diving, the dive centre loaded me with 12 kilograms of weight, including cylinder weights. I sank like a lead cannonball. With Tony’s help, we’ve reduced my weight to somewhere between six and nine kilograms (depending on how many wetsuits I am wearing and how much custard has been consumed in the recent past).
  • I can look back on different gear configurations, and see what worked in order to reproduce successful ones: how much weight I wore and where (on my weight belt or as integrated weights or as cylinder weights), how many layers of neoprene were donned, how large my cylinder was, and so on.
  • Regional information is useful. When planning our annual houseboating trip this year, I was able to look back on the water temperature from when we dived in Knysna in 2009, and decide how many layers of wetsuit I would need.
  • Seasonal information on fish life (what appears when – for example, giant short-tailed sting rays visit Long Beach in summer), water temperatures and general conditions is useful and interesting. Now that I’ve been diving for over a year, I’m delighted to start noticing the different patterns of life… what time of year we see lots of juvenile fish, when there are lots of egg ribbons at Long Beach, how visibility correlates with water temperature, when the shaggy sea hares are out in force, and more.
  • We like exploring, and have on occasion dived forgotten sites or even places that aren’t recognised dive sites as such, but we’re curious to see what’s there. Recording dive information and what we saw makes it easy to tell others about these sites, and to assist when we decide whether they’re worth visiting again.
  • The bucket list aspect is also fun. Tony and I want to try and dive as many of the dive sites listed on Peter Southwood’s Wikivoyage site for the Cape Peninsula and False Bay as possible. Recording the dives in my logbook is like ticking the places off on a list!
The Number Two Cat understands the importance of keeping a logbook
The Number Two Cat understands the importance of keeping a logbook

Many people start a logbook as students on their Open Water course, and then lose interest. Don’t give it up – aside from these personal benefits, your logbook will be useful in at least two other situations involving other people:

  • If you go diving or want to rent gear somewhere other than where you learned to dive, or with new people (for example a club), you may be asked for your logbook (as well as your certification card). The club or dive centre may want to verify that you have the experience to handle the dives you have signed up for. If you’re certified with a lesser-known agency, your logbook can also help persuade the dive centre that you know what you’re doing.
  • For certain PADI courses you need a minimum number of logged dives (for example, 60 for Divemaster and 100 for Instructor). If you don’t have a record of the dives you’ve done, it complicates matters somewhat!