Newsletter: Staying out of trouble

Hi divers

Weekend diving

No diving this weekend!

Conditions forecast

The conditions forecast for this weekend is not very different from the weather we had last weekend and as the weather experts say,we are in a seven day cycle. This has been very evident as we have had some really stunning midweek diving days with great conditions and good visibility. My guess is that Saturday will be lousy and although the weather clears on Sunday, it does so in the late afternoon only. Not to mention there are a few drastic swell direction changes starting tomorrow… So I reckon its a stay home weekend.

Sunrise over Sun Valley
Sunrise over Sun Valley

Things to do

There are a lot of things to keep you out of trouble if you aren’t diving:

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Exploring False Bay

Hi divers

Weekend plans

Sunday: False Bay photo cruise, meet at 7.15 am on Simon’s Town jetty

Sunrise in Simon's Town yacht basin
Sunrise in Simon’s Town yacht basin

Dive conditions

We have had really good conditions for a few weeks now with visibility between 10 and 20 metres depending on where in the bay you are diving.

This weekend is however more like one of those hard to call weekends we have so often in summer. There is a lot of rain in the next two days, a 5.5 metre swell and gale force winds but that is mostly gone by Sunday. The question is where will the dirty rain water run off end up, and how much surge will remain from the south westerly swell? Not to mention the day time temperature will max out at 12 degrees.

Sunrise at Roman Rock
Sunrise at Roman Rock

I think the best weekend option is to cover the tank rack with the bench on Sunday and have an early morning meeting time (7.15 am on the Simon’s Town jetty) and do another trip to Seal Island, Muizenberg, Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay… or head south to Rocky Bank Whittle Rock and Cape Point. On last weekend’s trip we saw a breaching great white shark at Seal Island, a small pod of dolphins, and the most beautiful sunrise. There are some photos on facebook from last Sunday’s trip.

Text or email me if you want to join us on Sunday to explore False Bay, and remember to dress warmly!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

To subscribe to receive this newsletter by email, use the form on this page!

Sodwana 2014 trip report

Happy divers on the beach in Sodwana
Happy divers on the beach in Sodwana

Our third Sodwana trip (prior ones were in October 2010 and April 2011, with a Mozambique trip and a Durban trip in between) was from 26-30 April 2014. As usual we flew from Cape Town to Durban, rented vehicles (three cars between ten of us – two other reprobates drove ALL the way from Cape Town, although we suspect Shane hitched a lift on a car carrier for part of the way…) and drove the 350 kilometres from Durban to Sodwana. We stopped in Ballito for food, as we were planning to self cater.

Sodwana beach early in the morning
Sodwana beach early in the morning

Coral Divers was our destination. Most of us had already dived with them on prior trips (Angie even learned to dive there!), and their position inside the park and excellent facilities and staff led us to choose to dive with them again. They have a gazebo on the beach, regular transport between the camp and the beach, and dive planning and organisation runs like clockwork. Our only quibble this time around was that their school rental gear – which several of our divers made use of – was in quite poor condition. Matthijs tried four different masks before he found one that didn’t leak, and the well ventilated wetsuits left something to be desired. Fortunately the water was a comfortable 25 degrees!

On the tractor heading to the beach - picture by Otti
On the tractor heading to the beach – picture by Otti

We did six dives over three days, all on Two Mile reef. This is the cheapest option, and if conditions are dubious (as they were on our first day on the water), the best option. The further reefs (Five, Seven and Nine Mile) are magnificent, but require excellent buoyancy skills from visiting divers to protect the coral there, as well as favourable sea conditions for the longer boat ride.

The dives are for 50 minutes or until you reach 50 bar of air, whichever comes first. We visited mostly shallow sites (some of the Advanced divers did a deep dive on one of the days) so we were able to dive for a full 50 minutes most of the time. Because we were a group of twelve, we were generally split across two boats. We did manage some dives where we were all together at the same site, which was lots of fun! Some of the dives were lovely drift dives, which are fantastic because you use so little air. The surge (which has previously bedevilled me in Sodwana) was only severe on one of the days we dived.

After our two morning dives each day, we ate and then napped (me) or went exploring. In the evenings we braaied, cooked in the communal kitchen or ordered from the on site restaurant, and actually ended up going to bed fairly early. This was partly to escape Gerard when he got out of hand (on one notable occasion!), and partly because we were completely exhausted from our dives. We were also getting up very early to be ready to head down to the beach at 0645 each day.

Dinner time braai
Dinner time braai

It was a pleasure to spend time with such hilarious and interesting people, to do lovely long, warm, colourful dives, and to walk around in shorts and a t shirt while a warm 28 degree breeze blew. I hadn’t really scuba dived since last December, so it was great to get back into it again and remember how it’s done. Unfortunately I didn’t take many (or many nice…) photos underwater, as I was struggling with my (own, not rented) mask and I also initially didn’t feel confident enough to get close to anything. Once I settled my buoyancy – on the last day, alas! – I got going a bit more with my camera.

At the end of our trip, we said good bye to the other divers, and Tony and I stuck around in northern KwaZulu Natal to go to the bush for a couple of days. That’s another story…

Shark cage diving in False Bay (some photos)

Sunrise
Sunrise

We took a trip to Seal Island in False Bay to see the white sharks there, in late July. I’ve already posted my video footage from the cage. We also took some photos – mostly Tony. The trip entailed getting up very early, so as to be at Seal Island by sunrise. Once there, we scanned the horizon for predatory behaviour: typically, the white sharks here attack the juvenile seals from below, often launching their entire bodies out of the water in an explosive burst of energy.

Video still of one of the great white sharks we saw
Video still of one of the great white sharks we saw

It was a very rough day with a swell of about five metres, and from speaking to people who come to Seal Island often, I gather that the sharks tend to be less active on days like this. Their accuracy in striking the seals is reduced by the movement of the water column. Nonetheless we did see a couple of predation events, with the characteristic flock of seabirds waiting to pick up any leftovers, and the slick of “oily seal juices” (to quote Gary!) left on the surface afterwards. The sharks are so quick that if you’re looking the wrong way, it’ll all be over by the time you turn around.

After some time watching natural behaviour, a decoy (surprisingly realistic looking, made to resemble a young seal) is towed behind the boat, to try and elicit breaching behaviour from the sharks. We didn’t have much luck here, again probably because of the surgy seas, but one shark made a few investigations of the decoy before losing interest.

White shark next to the boat
White shark next to the boat

Finally sharks are attracted to the boat using chum, which is mostly fish oils and other fishy substances. A tuna head was splashed in the water near the boat, and when sharks came to investigate it they were visible from the cage. While in the cage we breathed off scuba regulators, which was great. Trying to breath-hold or snorkel while the sea was so choppy would have been next to impossible. The sound of the bubbles emanating from our regulators didn’t bother the sharks at all.

Bernita and some stormy seas
Bernita and some stormy seas

We spent about twenty minutes (or maybe more – I am not sure) in the cage, some of it just waiting for action, and some of it with our full attention focused on the enormous fish swimming by and looking at us with its black eyes. Five minutes of looking at a great white shark, eye to eye, gives sudden perspective on life and the natural world. I’ll recommend this experience to anyone who will listen!

 

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

A Day on the Bay: Bounce diving in Hout Bay

Date: 13 April 2013

Hout Bay near sunrise
Hout Bay near sunrise

Saturday 13 April was a magnificent, windless day. I had only a few divers on the boat, as the Open Water student who was meant to do her qualifying dives that day (as a double tank dive) had woken up with sinusitis. We made the most of the amazing surface conditions to cruise around the area looking for clean water. The visibility wasn’t terrible, at around 8-10 metres, but it was inconsistent and wouldn’t qualify as a magnificent Atlantic day.

First view of the BOS 400 when entering Maori Bay from the south
First view of the BOS 400 when entering Maori Bay from the south

Despite that we had a great time – did three dives in various locations, checked out the BOS 400, and the wreckage on shore close to Middelmas Blinder (Hakka Reef), just around the corner from Maori Bay. I’ll share more photos of the BOS 400 tomorrow.

Friday photo: Fish Hoek beach

Fish Hoek beach
Fish Hoek beach

This Friday’s photo is of Fish Hoek beach, taken at sunrise on the day that the shark exclusion net was trialled for the first time. This was a good day for Fish Hoek, for people, and for sharks. Fish Hoek is a very popular swimming beach, with a large number of elderly folk who swim every morning (all year around). There’s also an excellent lifesaving club which is at the centre of much of life in this coastal town.

Trial deployment of shark exclusion net at Fish Hoek beach (part I)

Breaking dawn, minus the vampires
Breaking dawn, minus the vampires

A shark exclusion net has for some time been planned for Fish Hoek beach. The net will not kill sharks and other marine creatures like the ones in KwaZulu Natal do, but rather forms a close-meshed barrier that aims to keep sharks out, swimmers in, and everyone alive. For reasons outlined here, the process of designing and building the net has been a fairly lengthy one, and something that neither the City of Cape Town nor the Shark Spotters wanted to be hasty about.

It was therefore a happy day last Friday (22 March) when the first trial deployment of the net was conducted at Fish Hoek beach. The net is a world first, and it will take a couple of practice attempts by the parties involved (the City, the trek net fishermen who will do much of the work to deploy the net, and the Shark Spotters who will monitor it) before it’s a smooth process. The net will be put out each morning (given suitable conditions) and removed in the evening.

The net in its trailer
The net in its trailer

On Friday I spent the morning on the beach, watching the process, enjoying the beautiful calm weather, and taking photos. I spoke to a number of community members – mostly elderly people who come down to Fish Hoek every morning for a swim – and they were unreservedly enthusiastic about this “historic” project.

There is a press release regarding the net here. I suggest you read it. There’s an album of photos on facebook, here.

A Day on the Bay: Racing at sea

Sunrise behind Simon's Town Yacht Club
Sunrise behind Simon’s Town Yacht Club

Clare is not good at early mornings, but I love to see the sun rise, and one beautiful Saturday just before Christmas – when visibility was unfortunately too poor to take divers out – I took Seahorse to False Bay Yacht Club at first light. The day turned out to be quite hectic for other ocean users, but I was able to calmly observe the action.

I started with a quiet tour to Ark Rock and past Roman Rock lighthouse. I spotted a lone baby penguin heading home to Boulders Beach. He was making quite a lot of noise, telling me where he was going.

Abandoned rubber duck off Cape Point

NSRI Simon's Town rescue boat Spirit of Safmarine
NSRI Simon’s Town rescue boat Spirit of Safmarine

The NSRI were out and about for a surfski race (see below), but their rescue boat was called away owing to reports of an abandoned rubber duck, found 4 nautical miles off Cape Point by fishermen. The tiny duck was towed (at high speed) back to base, where several sets of dive gear were found on board. The boat was handed over to the police, and it’s a mystery whether or not they located the owner.

The rubber duck under tow
The rubber duck under tow

Cape Point Challenge

Once they had towed the rubber duck, the NSRI went back to monitoring the Cape Point Challenge surfski race. This race involved a paddle from Scarborough, around Cape Point, into False Bay and up to Fish Hoek. I spotted Gary, our neighbour and Divemaster candidate, looking strong.

Gary working his paddle!
Gary working his paddle!

Governor’s Cup

Yachting in False Bay
Yachting in False Bay

When I decided to call it a day and return to the Yacht Club I was faced with a small challenge. 22 December happened also to be the starting date for the Governor’s Cup yacht race from Simon’s Town to St Helena island, several thousand kilometres away. There was a lot ofboat traffic, and I had to queue for the slipway for quite a while. There were the race participants, as well as a large number of smaller sailing and motor vessels seeing them off.

The Governor's Cup yacht race started from Simon's Town
The Governor’s Cup yacht race started from Simon’s Town

Sophie, our diving buddy who has travelled with us to Sodwana before, happened to be on one of the yachts. Fortunately it was such a beautiful day I didn’t mind waiting.