Best Advice for Happy Scuba Diving in Cape Town

Everything you need to know about scuba diving in Cape Town…


Are you thinking of diving in Cape Town? Here’s everything you need to know to make sure you have a comfortable and happy scuba diving experience…

The waters of Cape Town are rich in marine life and offer year round diving for all scuba divers. Whether you’re looking for haunting wrecks, vibrant reefs or glittering kelp forests, Cape Town has it all!

Where to scuba dive in Cape Town

Cape Town diving is split into three main areas:

  • The western coast of the Cape Peninsula, referred to by the locals as “The Atlantic Side”
  • The western side of False Bay (Simon’s Town area)
  • The eastern side of False Bay (Gordon’s Bay to Rooi Els).

Cape Town Water Temperatures

The water temperature in Cape Town depends on where you are diving. You might have heard that the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet at Cape Point? However, they actually meet further east at Cape Agulhas. There is actually a distinct difference in temperature between the waters of the western coast of the Peninsula and those of False Bay. This is due to the cold Benguela current which makes its way north from the Antarctic, up the west coast of Africa. Because of this, the waters along the western coast of the Peninsula have an average temperature of between 8 °C and 12 °C. If you’re looking for warmer water, the more protected False Bay has temperatures of between 12C and `19C.

To make sure you are comfy diving in Cape Town, we recommend you wear a 7mm wetsuit with a hoodie, booties and gloves. But don’t worry – we’ll keep you warm! We have a great selection of rental equipment if you don’t own anything like this!

Where to dive in Cape Town and when

As the ocean temperatures influence the diving, so do the seasons and the winds that accompany them. Because of this, you need to know where the best place is to dive whilst in Cape Town. In summer (October – April), the South Easterly winds bring clear water to the eastern side of False Bay (Gordon’s Bay) and the western coast of the Cape Peninsula (Atlantic Side). Furthermore, in Cape Town winter (May – September) it is typical for the North Easterly wind to blow, clearing up the waters on the western side of False Bay (Simon’s Town). Now that you know when to dive where in Cape Town, let’s find out what you can expect to see there…

Summer diving – Atlantic Side

Summer diving in the colder waters of the “Atlantic Side” is exhilarating and fascinating. You can enjoy a number of beautiful shore-entry dives here. You can also dive a number of deeper reefs and wrecks from dive boats that leave from Hout Bay harbour, a short drive from Cape Town. Underwater, you can expect to see huge, rounded granite and sandstone boulders, often covered with kelp. These underwater wonderlands play host to prolific marine life, including colourful fields of purple, pink, orange and green sea urchins; brightly coloured sponges and soft corals so typical of Cape Town diving. Fish such as Hottentot, Galjoen, Shy Sharks and Red Roman are plentiful on most dives, as is the opportunity to be accompanied by playful and inquisitive seals.

scuba-diving-sterretjies-reef-Gordons-Bay
Scuba Diving Sterretjies Reef in Gordons Bay

Summer diving – Gordon’s Bay

The eastern side of False Bay offers fantastic boat and shore dives in summer. Here, you can expect the dive sites along the craggy cliffs between Gordon’s Bay and Rooi Els to reach a maximum depth of about 18 metres. This is a short drive from Cape Town and one of the best diving spots around. Although a few reefs are accessible from the shore, we highly recommend you do the boat dives in this area. You will be amazed by the diversity and colour of the marine life here.

You will dive beautiful kelp forests and glittering reefs here. Because of the nutrient-rich water, marine life is very colourful and diverse. The reefs are covered with soft sponges; sea fans, feather stars and orange, pink and purple anemones. The riot of colour is even further added to by vibrant orange sea fans and many types of beautiful nudibranchs. Also, there are many types of fish species including Twotone Fingerfin, Galjoen, Jutjaw, Puffadder Shy Shark and Klipvis. If you’re lucky, you could even see gully Sharks and sevengill cow sharks in this area!

scuba-diving-cape-town-whittle-rock
Reef at Whittle Rock in Simon’s Town.

Winter diving – Simon’s Town

Winter diving in Cape Town takes place along the western side of False Bay, from Glencairn, past Simon’s Town to the point of the Cape of Good Hope. Underwater topography is markedly different here and comprises of huge rounded granite boulders and smaller sandstone boulders. Furthermore, there are the world-famous Smitswinkel wrecks which lie at an average depth of 25 metres.This is a collection of 5 ships that were scuttled by the Navy in the early 1970s to form an artificial reef. You can reach these wrecks by boat launching from Simon’s Town.

You can also dive a number of beautiful reefs straight from shore here. Boat dives will take you to kelp forests and the beautiful deeper reefs. The reefs are adorned with colourful sponges; sea anemones; green, purple and orange short spine urchins; sea fans; fields of small orange sea cucumbers and brightly coloured nudibranchs.

To find out more about our boat dives, gear rental or to book your dives, please contact us today!

If you’d like to read an article Kate’s written about Underwater Photography in Cape Town for X-Ray Dive Magazine, please follow this link.

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