City of Cape Town’s new protocol for cleaning tidal pools

Early in November I attended an information session at the Kalk Bay Community Centre, where the City of Cape Town announced that they will be trialling an environmentally friendly cleaning process on five of the 19 tidal pools on the 260 kilometres of Cape Town’s coastline managed by the City. This coast stretches from Silwerstroom on the West Coast to Kogel Bay on the eastern shores of False Bay.

St James tidal pool
St James tidal pool

The presentation was made by team members from the City’s Recreation and Parks department, which – among other things – is responsible for beaches, outdoor signage, ablutions, lifesaving, environmental education, and administration of Blue Flag status for the beaches and marinas that earn it. This department is also responsible for the tidal pools. (Incidentally the City’s assortment of safe seawater bathing facilities includes two of the largest tidal pools in the southern hemisphere, at Monwabisi and Strand.)

Until now, the City would use chlorine to clean the walls (top and sides) and steps in the tidal pools. The cleaning would be done after draining the pool completely. This year, a supply chain management issue meant that there was no cleaning of the tidal pools between July and November. During this time, regular swimmers (some of them members of the Sea-Change project) noticed that marine life flourished in the pools, and engaged with the City to try to find a way to keep the tidal pools safe but also to preserve the diversity of marine species that had been thriving in the pools during the cleaning hiatus. Safety, of course, is why they are cleaned: slippery, algae-covered steps are dangerous.

The tidal pool at Millers Point
The tidal pool at Millers Point

It was agreed that five of the pools – St James, Dalebrook, Wooley’s Pool, and the two pools at Kalk Bay station – would be subject to a trial of a new, environmentally friendly cleaning regimen. These pools are relatively close together in the north western corner of False Bay. The aim is still to ensure that the tops of the pool’s walls and steps are not slippery, and thus safe for bathers. But a second aim has been added by the City, which is to ensure the environmental integrity of the pools.

Under the new cleaning protocol, the following will be done:

  • the pools will be drained only when necessary, and only as far as is required to reach areas that are covered by water and in need of cleaning (for example, the steps at Dalebrook)
  • animals in harm’s way will be relocated
  • excess kelp and sea urchins will be removed from the pools
  • the tops of the walls and steps will be scraped to remove algae (the sides of the walls used to be scraped too, but this will no longer take place)
  • environmentally friendly chemicals will be used to remove the algal residue after scraping – no more chlorine and no more whitewashing!

All of the above means that the pools will be ready for use by the public immediately after cleaning, in contrast to the old protocol, which renders the pool unusable for a period after the cleaning crew has chlorined it.

I’ve asked the City for more information about the drainage procedure, and for more information about the earth-friendly chemicals that the cleaning contractor will use, but with no response so far. (If I get one I’ll obviously update this post.)

Buffels Bay tidal pool inside the Cape Point section of Table Mountain National Park
Buffels Bay tidal pool inside the Cape Point section of Table Mountain National Park

Many of the City of Cape Town’s tidal pools fall within the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, and it therefore makes perfect sense to aim to protect the animals living in them while maintaining public safety. Dr Maya Pfaff, another speaker at the information session, even suggested that some of the animals that may now thrive in the pools may actually help to keep the water clean. Mussels and feather duster worms filter the water and improve the clarity, algae take up nutrients, and limpets clean algae off the rocks.

Particularly over the festive season, the beaches and tidal pools around Cape Town are extremely busy. This is a wonderful opportunity for thousands of beach-goers to experience both safe swimming and a little bit more of what the ocean has to offer, instead of a sterile, salt-water pool devoid of healthy marine life. Bringing a snorkel and mask with you when next you go swimming will be well rewarded. To see some pictures of the amazing animals – from nudibranchs to a cuttlefish with eggs – in the St James tidal pool, check out Lisa’s instagram profile.

Do you swim regularly in any of the five pools in which the new cleaning regimen is being tested? What do you think about it? If you think that environmentally gentle cleaning of tidal pools is a good idea, what about letting the city know that you appreciate having tidal pools that are both safe and biodiverse. A short message on the City of Cape Town facebook page to say thank you and keep up the good work (and a request to extend it to the other tidal pools) is a good place to start!

You can read a news article about the new cleaning protocol here.

Night dive on the wreck of the Clan Stuart

Before the Clan Stuart night dive
Before the Clan Stuart night dive

This footage is five years old and very grainy, but has some sentimental value to me. Tony filmed it after a night dive on the SS Clan Stuart, which on Friday celebrated (?) 100 years aground in False Bay. It was his first night dive in Cape Town (might have been his first dive of any kind in Cape Town, but I’m not sure) and my first ever night dive. I was pretty freshly qualified as an Open Water diver but still had (have) a lot to learn.

I can see just enough of myself towards the end of the video to note that I have my mask pushed up on top of my head, which is stupid. Don’t do that, kids.

Christmas gift guide 2013

Ok so this is a bit late, and if you haven’t done your Christmas, Hannukah and Festivus shopping yet, shame on you. Or just shame. Most of these ideas don’t entail going to a mall and having your personal space invaded by ten thousand hormonal adolescents. You can order online, or make a phone call or two. Get going!

Christmas at Sandy Cove
Christmas at Sandy Cove

Books

For the reader, you could check out our book reviews, arranged by topic:

I’m not going to suggest a magazine subscription – I’ve let most of ours lapse as we seem to have entered a long dark teatime of the soul when it comes to South African diving magazines. If the quality picks up, they’ll be back on the gift list at the end of 2014.

Dive gear

Check out What’s in My Dive Bag for some ideas… You can contact Andre for most of these:

Make sure you know the returns/exchanges policy of wherever you make your purchases. Some places can be difficult, and if the mask doesn’t fit it’s no good at all!

For lady divers

For the diving lady in your life (or your man friend with too much hair), what about some rich hair conditioner to apply before going in the water? Suggestions here. A pack of cheap, soft fabric elasticated hairbands is a good stocking filler.

Some high SPF, waterproof sunscreen, or a nice hooded towel for grown ups (available in one or two of the surf shops in Muizenberg) would also not go amiss.

Experiences

Don’t forget to add a memory card for the lucky recipient’s camera if you plan to gift any of these! Contact Tony for prices.

For the non diver, you could inspire a love for our oceans with one of these:

For those who need (or like) to relax

Memberships

Wall art

Clip Clop designs and prints beautiful tide charts for Cape Town and Durban and moon phase charts for the year. You can order online or usually find them at Exclusive Books.

My underwater alphabet is available for R200 in A1 size, fully laminated. Shout if you want a copy.

If you take your own photos, you could print and frame a couple, or experiment with stretched canvas prints if that’s your thing. A digital photo frame pre-loaded with underwater images is also a lovely gift for a diving friend.

Donations

For the person who has everything, or because you’re feeling grateful:

Newsletter: Flippers and goggles

Hi divers

Last weekend we dived Sunday at Alpha Reef and it was really surgy and the viz not so great. It is odd that the visibility is so low given the amount of westerly wind we have had, but I suspect the very large swells that have accompanied the storms may have something to do with it. We then dived the wreck of the Brunswick where the visibility was a bit better, and finished off some Divemaster training.

Craig and Dinho treading water
Craig and Dinho treading water

Weekend diving

This weekend I am staying out of the water due to some scheduled maintenance but the glue should be dry by the end of next week… Luckily for you, if you want to dive, OMSAC are holding a Treasure Hunt, and you can join one of the boats going out on that day. There are also a few shore dives. We went two years ago and it was great fun. The event details are here. You need to book in advance if possible and it’s filled up quickly, so get to it.

And finally…

If you learned to dive with me and do find yourself on another dive boat, please do not use the words flippers or goggles. Too embarrassing. I would never be able to look that skipper and Divemaster in the eye again!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Dive sites (Durban): Coopers light wreck

Exploring the bow
Exploring the bow

I’ve tried to dive the Coopers light wreck before. It didn’t end well. This time, I was determined to see the wreck, and see it I did, on the third and final day of diving that we did on our Durban trip. The visibility was at least 25 metres – in the range where it almost doesn’t matter what the number is, it’s so fantastic. The water was warm, even at the bottom, and the wreck is something special to see.

Maurice swimming the length of the Coopers light wreck
Maurice swimming the length of the Coopers light wreck

No one knows what the name of the ship that lies wrecked opposite the Cooper lighthouse on the Bluff (hence it being commonly referred to as the Coopers light wreck). There is speculation that it’s an old whaler because of a curious structure on the aft deck that looks like a harpoon gun. It is in fact part of the ship’s steering mechanism – whaling ships had guns on their bows, not at the back of the ship.

Craig explores the bow of the Coopers light wreck
Craig explores the bow of the Coopers light wreck

According to Patrick at Calypso, here is a possibility that this wreck is the Terrier IV, an old whaler chartered by Peter Gimbel and Ron and Valerie Taylor for the filming of their shark documentary Blue Water White DeathThe Terrier sailed from Durban to Sri Lanka to Australia, as recounted by Peter Matthiessen in his book about the trip, entitled Blue Meridian.

I digress. The wreck is about 76 metres long and a bit over 10 metres wide, with a single propellor. There are two huge boilers near the middle of the wreck, and the bow and stern are fairly intact. The wreck and its vicinity teem with harlequin goldies, lionfish, and baitfish. We saw a large ray swimming languidly past behind a curtain of piggies, and a large scorpionfish resting at the bow. The size of the wreck makes it quite suitable to explore in its entirety on a single dive, although it is the kind of place that will bear many repeat visits.

We dived the wreck on 32% Nitrox, which gave us decent bottom time, the wreck lying at a maximum depth of 30 metres on the sand. I was having mask (actually, probably hair) trouble again, however, and used up a fifth of my air just clearing my mask. So I didn’t have as long a dive as I’d have liked.

There’s a nice African Diver article about the wreck here, with some more photos.

Soft corals on the wreck
Soft corals on the wreck

Dive date: 20 June 2013

Air temperature: 24 degrees

Water temperature:  23 degrees

Maximum depth: 29.6 metres

Visibility: 25 metres

Dive duration: 37  minutes

Christo approaching on the wreck
Christo approaching on the wreck

Dive sites (Durban): Bikini

A raggy scorpionfish
A raggy scorpionfish

Unfortunately my dive on Bikini – the second one I did in Durban – was really horrible, as my mask kept flooding (I think I had hair caught under the skirt). After a while fighting off the feeling of imminent drowning became too exhausting, and I surfaced early. I didn’t take many photographs, but what I remember of the creatures on view is that they were many and varied – geometric moray eels, lionfish, scorpionfish, nudibranchs, a frogfish and the other usual suspects found on South Africa’s east coast. I took so few photos that I’ve borrowed a lovely one that Maurice took of said eel. Here it is:

Geometric moray eel saying hello
Geometric moray eel saying hello

The reef structure was much like we see at Sodwana, made of sandstone with potholes and little overhangs. I saw mostly soft corals – none of the big plate corals that are common in southern Mozambique and beyond. This reef is part of the Blood Reef system that stretches along parallel to the Bluff. The reef system got its name because the old whaling station used to pump out blood and offal from slaughtered whales into the ocean, causing the reef to thrive and supporting an impressive population of oceanic white tip sharks. We didn’t see any sharks – I’m sure they were all too busy being killed in the gill nets off the Durban beaches to come and visit divers.

Blackspotted (I think) blaasop
Blackspotted (I think) blaasop

Bikini Reef is small, and covers the good bits (this is allegedly the origin of its name). It’s a regular haunt of pineapplefish, but the current was going in the wrong direction for us to comfortably visit the overhang that many of these fish frequent. We had a pleasant drift dive (mask issues aside) and an easy introduction to the Blood Reef complex.

I should mention that my Durban photos are mostly questionably lit and poorly executed because I am using a new camera, and prior to the Durban trip had only done two dives with it! Hopefully matters will improve so I don’t have to revert back to my trusty Sony DSC-TX5. I’m still using the Ikelite AF-35 strobe, though (not that it’s much in evidence here).

Dive date: 19 June 2013

Air temperature: 23 degrees

Water temperature: 22 degrees

Maximum depth: 23.5 metres

Visibility: 20 metres

Dive duration: 28 minutes

Christmas gift guide 2012

In the interest of planning ahead, here’s our annual Christmas gift guide. This is specially for the people whose idea of a good gift is “whatever’s available in a shop close to the mall entrance on 23 December!”

Books

For the reader, you could check out our book reviews, arranged by topic:

There are also a couple of children’s books to consider.

Dive gear

Check out What’s in My Dive Bag for some ideas… You can contact Andre for most of these:

Make sure you know the returns/exchanges policy of wherever you make your purchases. Some places can be difficult, and if the mask doesn’t fit it’s no good at all!

For lady divers

For the diving lady in your life (or your man friend with too much hair), what about some rich hair conditioner to apply before going in the water – suggestions here, otherwise try what I’m currently using: Aussie Moist Three Minute Miracle, which is available at Clicks. A pack of cheap, soft fabric elasticated hairbands is a good stocking filler.

Some high SPF, waterproof sunscreen, or a nice hooded towel for grown ups (available in one or two of the surf shops in Muizenberg) would also not go amiss.

Experiences

Don’t forget to add a memory card for the lucky recipient’s camera if you plan to gift any of these! Contact Tony for prices.

For those who need (or like) to relax

Magazine subscriptions

Memberships

Wall art

Clip Clop designs and prints beautiful tide charts for Cape Town and Durban and moon phase charts for the year. You can order online or find them at Exclusive Books.

My underwater alphabet is available for R200 in A1 size, fully laminated. Shout if you want a copy.

If you take your own photos, you could print and frame a couple, or experiment with stretched canvas prints if that’s your thing. A digital photo frame pre-loaded with underwater images is also a lovely gift for a diving friend.

Donations

For the person who has everything, or because you’re feeling grateful:

The joys of a good mask: ScubaPro Scout

The ScubaPro scout mask
The ScubaPro scout mask

When I started diving with Tony, I was wearing a mask that looked like this:

This is the definition of a high volume mask
This is the definition of a high volume mask

It was not pretty, particularly when I needed to clear it. That took several minutes and several breaths. In this picture, it also seems to be misted up, but that’s probably a salivary issue more than anything else.

I didn’t know that there was anything different or better out there, but Tony did. He patiently had me dive with each mask in his large collection, and when I’d found one that fitted, he presented me with it as a Christmas present. The mask that fitted was the ScubaPro Scout, pictured above. I’m onto my second one (the first one lasted about two years and 200-odd dives) and when I get my hair in order and hoodie out of the way, I don’t even have to think about my mask during the dive. When I do have to clear it, it’s a cinch – the mask holds so little water that it takes but a second.

This isn’t so much a paean of praise to the Scout mask in particular – it’s for narrow faces, and won’t suit everyone. What I would like to say is what a big difference a well-fitting mask makes to your diving. As Tony points out here, don’t buy a mask based on its colour – seriously – this is not important. The key thing is the fit, and this can be determined by the test you probably did just before the first time you ever stuck your face underwater on your Open Water course. Hold the mask to your face, breathe in, and let go of the mask. It should stay on your face while you inhale.

Other factors to make sure the mask fits well include positioning the strap on your head so it’s more or less in a straight line above your ears. If it’s too high, you’ll get a sore nose as it’s pulled up by the mask, and if it’s too low the mask may fall off and will definitely leak.

Don’t rush into a mask purchase. Try and test a few (ask friends or your instructor) before you settle on one you like. It’ll make a world of difference to your comfort levels underwater.

Mask remove and replace

Kirsten taking off her mask in the pool
Kirsten taking off her mask in the pool

Mask remove and replace is a skill that some find quite tricky, but once you’ve relaxed, adjusted your mind to the fact that you probably aren’t going to see much when the mask is off, and told yourself that water isn’t going to go up your nose, it’s not too difficult to master.

It’s not something you’ll have to do in the course of a routine dive, but it’s to prepare you for the event when your mask strap breaks, a fellow diver kicks your mask off, or your mask floods for some other reason (such has excessive hair inside the seal). Wearing a hoodie definitely helps with the “replace” part of the equation, as the strap goes on easily.