Who to follow


So I am sick in bed today while Tony enjoys the sea and southeaster with students. In the absence of my diving fix, I have to rely on the Internet to feed my currently short attention span. Enter Twitter.

To me, Twitter incorporates my favourite feature of Facebook – constant stream of bite-sized news and views – and leaves out all the other guff (Farmville, Zombie Vampire Slayers, Are You Feeling Hot Today?).

It’s not all about socialising and keeping up with your online friends… It’s also useful for news, activism, and informative updates from individuals and organisations whose work interests you. If you want to beef up the list of users you’re following, check out our “followees”!


Learn to Dive Today: @learn2divetoday (of course!)


South Africa

SANCCOB – the organisation that rescues, cleans and protects our coastal birds: @SANCCOB

Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town: @2oceansaquarium

Shark Spotters for reports of shark activity in False Bay: @SharkSpotters

World Wildlife Foundation South Africa: @WWFSouthAfrica

Conservation & Agencies

NOAA’s National Ocean Service: @usoceangov

NOAA’s Ocean Explorer educational program: @oceanexplorer

Project Aware – conservation agency by divers: @projectaware

Save Our Seas: @saveourseas

World Wildlife Foundation: @WWF

Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society: @whales_org

NASA (they do ocean exploration too!): @NASA

Ocean Information Center (OCEANIC) at the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean and Environment: @oceandata

The Smithsonian Institute: @smithsonian

Smithsonian Ocean Portal: @oceanportal

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (because everyone can do with a bit of radical extremism to spice things up now and then!): @seashepherd

Ocean Conservancy: @OurOcean

Ocean Institute: @oceaninstitute

Oceana: @oceana


Bonica Snapper video cameras (the manufacturers of Tony’s newish toy): @bonicahddv

Fiona Ayerst, underwater photographer who offers courses: @Fayerst

Orms (more awesome camera equipment, knowledgeable sales staff and a top-notch D&P facility): @OrmsdDirect

SA Camera (very reasonably priced photographic equipment, including underwater housings): @SAcamera

Scott Kelby, author of fantastic photography books: @scottkelby

Writing & Television

National Geographic: @NatGeoSociety

Urban Times Oceans: @UT_Oceans

The Guardian Environment section: @guardianeco

PBS NOVA will keep you up to date with science news and cool gadgets: @novapbs

Fish identification and conservation

Here are some useful web resources on identifying and conserving fish and marine life…

South Africa

Southern Underwater Research Group (SURG) – if you send them a picture of the creature you can’t identify, they will help! They have also published several books on identification of marine species.

The South African Saltwater and Offshore Fish Species List has a list of species, with information about some of them.


Census of Marine Life – this project occasionally makes the news with the discovery of new species.

FishBase – incredibly comprehensive database search of fish species.

World Register of Marine Species (WORMS) aims to be the most authoritative list of marine species’ names ever published.

Project GloBAL assesses the impact of fisheries’ bycatch on populations of long-lived marine species such as turtles, seabirds and ocean mammals such as dolphins.

The International Whaling Commission attempts to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks.

The Southwest Fisheries Science Center has a list of the species they monitor, plus good information, on their Species page.

Newsletters you should be subscribed to

As a veteran newsletter subscriber, and someone who actually ENJOYS getting them in my inbox (not everyone does) – probably a sad reflection on my self esteem, that I need to request people to email me! – I can offer you the following hints for signing up:

  • Some websites have a Subscribe box on their front page. Use it!
  • The other place to look for a subscription option is on the Contact page.
  • If there’s no explicit newsletter link, it’s often worth dropping the site owner an email asking to be subscribed to their newsletter if they have one. If they don’t, perhaps they’ll take the hint and start something up…

You can get subscribed to Tony’s newsletter by emailing him. It tells you about planned dives and courses, as well as report backs on recent underwater activity.

If that’s not enough, check out the following newsletter writers:

Cape Town

Keep up with what’s going on at the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront by signing up for their newsletter. They have regular concerts, conservation activities, and other special events at the aquarium.

Chris and Monique Fallows at Apex Predators run shark cage diving and photography trips to Seal Island. We haven’t done a trip yet – wanted to go in high shark season but this year it corresponded with high World Cup tourist season, so we’ll do it next year – but their detailed updates on the marine activity in False Bay are awesome… Sightings of of orcas, dolphins, whales and sharks abound, and Chris’s photos are amazing.


PADI sends out newsletters periodically, describing diving destinations, certification options, and other bits and bobs related to scuba diving. Depending on which box you ticked when you registered for your course, you may already be on their mailing list.


The Dive Site is South Africa’s best diving magazine. By a LONG way. And that’s after only one issue! They send out a weekly newsletter by email filled with photos, blogs, competitions and event notifications, and if you haven’t managed to get a print subscription to the magazine, it’s available on their website in digital format.

African Diver Magazine is an online-only magazine published once a quarter. If you join their mailing list, you’ll get a notification when the new edition is released.

Conservation & Volunteering

South African

If you’re using the ocean at all, whether as a diver, surfer, beachgoer or sailor, you should be supporting the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI). They are staffed entirely by volunteers and do amazing work. It costs R100 per year to be a member, and you get a cool magazine every quarter. They also have a newsletter.

SANCCOB (The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) is in the news every time an oil spill gets on the feathers of our cormorants and penguins. They are a non-profit seabird conservation and protection organisation based in Cape Town. There is a volunteer program if you want to get your hands dirty (and get nipped!). They have a newsletter.

Conservation and shark specialty diver training body SharkLife has a newsletter – look for the link in the left column of their site.

Underwater Africa is an advocacy group that liaises with government regarding Marine Protected Areas and the permits we require to dive in them. Register with them to receive updates – this should concern all South African divers.

The South African branch of the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) has an e-newsletter. They’re the people who run the SASSI initiative – if you don’t know about it, you should!


National Geographic has a range of newsletters you can pick and choose from. Their photography in particular is spectacular.

The National Ocean Service is part of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and sends out a periodic newsletter. Their educational Ocean Explorer program also has a newsletter.

Project AWARE is all about divers conserving marine environments. They’re an international organisation and it’s well worth getting on their mailing list to stay informed. There’s a Project AWARE specialty course that divers can do.

Ocean Conservancy is the non-profit organisation behind International Coastal Cleanup Day and several other conservation initiatives. Worth keeping up to date with their news.

The Save Our Seas Foundation has a newsletter, but it seems to get sent out VERY irregularly… like once a year. May be worth signing up for, as they do really good work.

The Smithsonian Ocean Portal sends out a newsletter advertising events, updates to their blogs, and covering ocean news. The Smithsonian is a venerable institution that encapsulates almost everything that is interesting about America… Check it out!

Diving in Cape Town – Wikivoyage

I’ve mentioned Peter Southwood a couple of times, in the context of a set of web pages that he’s largely responsible for. It’s on the Wikivoyage website, which (like Wikipedia) is a collaborative project where many contributors work together to create something useful. In this case, the something useful is a worldwide travel guide.

Peter’s project is to catalogue the dive sites of South Africa. The area that has received most attention thus far is the Cape Peninsula and False Bay – he has a list of the dive sites in each area, and most of the Cape Town have at least a skeleton article in place.

There is a detailed article on Diving in South Africa, and one for Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay. The introductory article lists dive operators, describes local climate, weather and sea conditions, lists reference books on the marine life in the area, describes the marine ecology, recommends equipment configurations, covers any legal requirements such as permits, details emergency services available, and provides safety and travel tips. The overview article also lists the dive sites in the area, with links to the detailed page on each site. This information is very useful for tourist divers coming to South Africa, but also contains a host of information useful to the local diver.

Peter Southwood maps the sites in a lot of detail. He has a small polystyrene boat, painted red, with a waterproof container containing a GPS mounted on it. This is towed behind him like a buoy as he dives (often solo) and maps the sites. Particular projects of his with very comprehensive reference pages and detailed maps are Long Beach in Simon’s Town (including a fantastic navigation route that covers a series of highlights of the site), and the Partridge Point area, where a location has been named Peter’s Pinnacles in his honour.

The dive site pages are very comprehensive, covering everything you could possibly wish to know about each area:

  • position (GPS co-ordinates are usually given)
  • naming convention and origins of the name of the location
  • depth
  • visibility – what the usual range is
  • bottom topography and composition
  • expected conditions, including tips on when it’s good to dive there
  • access information (boat or shore, with detail on the entry point if it’s a shore dive)
  • facilities on site (for shore dives) such as parking, restrooms and showers
  • marine life in the area
  • features of the site – caves, overhangs, pinnacles, air traps and so on
  • photography information – what equipment is recommended, and what subjects are promising
  • routes around the site
  • hazards
  • recommended equipment (e.g. an SMB, a light, etc.)
  • required skills to dive the site – sometimes relatively shallow sites are only suitable for more advanced or experienced divers… Shark Alley comes to mind!

The Cape Peninsula and False Bay wikivoyage page is Tony’s and my go-to guide whenever we want to dive a new site, as well as a good reference to familiar places. Even the articles on well-known sites give new insights or tips on what can be found there. The evolving nature of the online medium means that we check back often for updates and improvements to the articles. The Partridge Point article is a case in point – it’s undergone huge development in recent months.

This project deserves as much publicity as it can get – it’s incredibly impressive and useful, and reflects years of work on the part of Peter Southwood. The fact that he has made it freely available online is very generous. What’s more, the collaborative nature of the site it’s hosted on means that other divers can create accounts and contribute to the detailed information already there.