On Saturday 13 September, our dive club set out to make the most of the great weather and free entry at the Cape Point Nature Reserve which forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. Entry is normally charged at R105.00 per person but on this day, it was free to all South African citizens. One of the many attractions within the reserve is Buffelsbay: An untouched beach within the protected area sporting braai facilities where we would be spending the day enjoying the many treasures the cape peninsula has to offer.
The line-up for the day included multiple shore and boat dives thanks to OMSAC‘s Rochelle Harwin and none other than Cape Town’s own Tony Lindeque, a local dive school and charter operating as Learn To Dive Today. After a quick establishment of the regulations and plans for the day, our big group split into two smaller ones: Some heading off on the boat while others took to the kelp forest. The morning surf had very little swell to begin with, and this diminished even further as the day passed revealing tranquil turquoise waters with top to bottom visibility as far as we could see from the shoreline. The water was a very reasonable 15 degrees with a slight surge gently swaying the kelp around. I am always amazed at how good conditions can have drug-like effects on divers. We started the dive with a carefully planned route, procedures and time/pressure limits. Plan your dive and dive your plan right? Well once we reached the clearing behind the fringe of kelp, everyone just kind of dozed off, pausing and continuously looking around admiring the awesome splendor of sunlight gently playing across fringed rocks and igniting the vibrant colours that surrounded us, schools of tiny fish making their way around us and the ever popular Cape Dorids glowing eerily from under the leaves and crevasses they inhabit whilst the gentle heartbeat of the ocean sways us into a trance-like state.
The experience was unfortunately cut short when my wife and faithful dive buddy complained about recurring symptoms of mild barotrauma she had suffered two weeks earlier, so reluctantly we ended our dive and headed for shore… But not for long! I had tagged along all of my cylinders for the day and would be repeating the dive as soon as the first group returned. I spent some time having a drink and something to nibble while waiting for the others to return, but remained in my suit. Before long the others surfaced with equally positive experiences and it was not hard to convince some to go again. Since the first dive, my fellow deep/wreck enthusiast buddy has managed to find his way to the reserve which was fortunate since my previous buddy would not be repeating any dives soon. A quick cylinder change later, three of us were back in the water!
The swell had subsided since our last dive so entry was much more pleasant this time, and sure enough we reached the clearing again with pretty much the same effect… slow breathing… listening to the bubbles make their way to the surface… admiring the awesome beauty, whether looking at the entire reef or a single nudibranch… closing your eyes while gently swaying… At that point it’s hard to imagine that any wars or sadness exist in the world. Not when something this peaceful is so readily accessible…
Then one of our fellow diver’s suddenly lay flat on his stomach, eyes widened and looking around, and the absolute peace is comes to a shuddering halt, like when you wake up violently 5 minutes after falling asleep. This is never a good sign. A quick hand upright above the head confirmed our suspicion, and it was worsened by a signal made in front of the diver’s head, what we at the time mistook for teeth. It would not be uncommon for Great Whites to pass through here, and it would have been the first time any of us had encountered one. We did the prudent thing in the situation and calmly crapped ourselves while alternating between looking at each other, and looking at the surface. Luckily, my buddy and eye need not communicate outside of exchanging glances to know what the plan of action was at this point.
Into the kelp we went, staying low and sticking to the canyons formed by neighbouring rocks. Although we were at a heightened state of awareness, it did not keep me from admiring the beautiful kelp-covered reefs in the small openings in the kelp forest. In the event of shark presence, staying calm and focused will do more for you than frantically kicking for the shore and in this state it was easy enough to man the GoPro for a few shots of the reef as we made our way out. As we reached the shore, the water colour and visibility slowly started deteriorating and the kelp and reef turned to barren rocks and eventually scattered bits of discarded man-made artefacts: We were approaching the boat launch. Finally we broke the surface and reached the shore, at which point we promptly started discussing the close shave… and learned that what he saw was in fact only a Gully Shark, having referred to it’s sharp nose when signalling rather than it’s sharp teeth. 😀
Neverless, we had amazing dives. Shortly after our arrival back at the land dwelling folk, the boat divers returned with equally amazing stories, having encountered a whale during their dive! Kitted down and dried up, we spent the remainder of the afternoon soaking up the sun, having a braai and discussing the wonder of the underwater world as we watched the sun set behind us and the waves rolling in front of us.
Life does not get any better than this…
Disclaimer: As per DAFF as SANParks regulations, the Cape Peninsula is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) and requires an applicable dive permit, obtainable at any local Post Office, to dive within in legally. Furthermore, diving within the Cape Point Nature Reserve is only permitted from the high water mark on the shore to one nautical mile out and unless special permission is obtained beforehand, does not include boat diving. Our charter on the day had made the necessary arrangements with SANParks beforehand to be able to accommodate our needs while operating within his legal limits. For more information, please see the 2014 Marine Recreational Brochure as distributed by the DAFF