Dive Report – Atlantis Reef and SAS Pietermaritznurg

After a week on dry land while I was on 24 hour standby for work, I was super excited to hit the water again this past weekend and what better way to do so than on back to back boat dives in Cape Town’s scuba hotspot: False Bay. The weather had played along beautifully with a windless and sunny Saturday which would mean that the vis would be pretty good on Sunday, which we confirmed when we arrived at Miller’s Point at 09h00 on Sunday morning. The early morning surf played host to some long period swell but that luckily subsided by the end of the first dive. Still, it did not have any notable effect on visibility for the day which was at a very reasonable 8-10m.

Our first dive was Atlantis Reef, which is a site consisting of multiple pinnacles starting as shallow as 5m from the surface and running down all the way to around 24m. This site falls with in the MPA (Marine Protected Area) which means that it was teeming all forms of marine life, from the very smallest to the enormous… Yes, although we could not see them, we were lucky enough to be serenaded by a couple of Humpback Whales in the bay that were in such close proximity to us that I could feel the vibrations of their song resonating in my chest and thanks to my GoPro recording at the time, it’s also clearly audible in the video of the dive which I will be sharing shortly. The pinnacles are all completely covered in an abundance of big, colourful fans, anemone, fanworm, klipfish, basket stars and schools of hottentot and stumpnose with the odd roman and zebra here and there. Each pinnacle also plays host to multiple overhangs, cliffs and cracks in which the marine life accumulates in an attempt to alleviate the effect of the surge and currents which are channeled inbetween the respective pinnacles. After diving Atlantis Reef, I could not help but feel disappointed at every local dive school who did not make use of this site during every Advanced Open Water Course. It was such an obvious progression from Open Water, not to mention a comfortable deep/boat dive for beginners as there are multiple big and visually appealing reference points from the point of entry to the very bottom.

For our second dive, we opted for the SAS Pietermaritzburg: A well known local wreck which offers an enjoyable dive with multiple reasonably safe swim-through’s despite it’s ever worsening condition. There are some easily avoidable hazards, such as sections that were previously supported by sheet metal coming undone as a result of the metal’s natural decay, but over all the PMB has not lost it’s appeal as a primary go-to wreck dive as it’s not too deep at a mere 22m and the fact that it’s deteriorating state has not reached a point where it obscures it’s overall size and shape, meaning that you’ll know that you’re diving a shipwreck unlike the Clan Stuart which has over years of taking a beating being so close to shore, become nothing more than a dark patch with some scattered evidence of the ship that once was. The PMB still exhibits the prominent features from it’s glory days on the surface, and despite the bow leaning sideways slightly, it sits fairly upright on the sand giving the diver the opportunity to really admire it’s size. In short: It still feels like a wreck dive, unlike so many other wrecks which have decayed to a point where they’re barely recognizable. Our 37min dive on the PMB did not yield much out of the ordinary (the ordinary being absolutely terrific) on the day, but it remains a favourite nevertheless. I noticed that someone had removed the old toilet seat from it’s original resting place next to the toilet and moved it to the bow of the wreck; no doubt someone that was looking to score a souvenir on their dive and was then (hopefully) promptly stopped by their dive leader or charter.

To those who do not frequent our local sites, know this: There are multiple dive clubs in and around Cape Town not to mention all the local schools who dive these sites on a weekly basis. Just like you would notice if someone visited your home and nabbed your garden gnome, this is our garden. We know these sites like we know our homes. We celebrate new life and mourn the loss of it, just like we do the integrity of our local wrecks. It’s in our human nature to want to keep something or a piece thereof when we know we can’t return to it frequently, but by stopping yourself and others from taking anything but photos, you are granting future generations of divers the opportunity to experience these sites with the same awe as you were able to when you dived them.

Let’s all work together to preserve that which we hold so dearly to our hearts, take plenty of photos, tell stories, inspire and promote action to keep our oceans clean, blue and alive!

-M