Tag Archives: SCUBA

Exploring the Unknown Underwater World

South Africa’s Atlantic coastline offers some extremely beautiful dives, but only if the Cape of Storms permits it. In order for us to be able to explore down in the kelp forest, we need a 5-star calm sea day, very little wind and some good visibility. Recently we got just what we were waiting for!

The day before the dive, Jan du Toit, our in-house scuba divemaster and instructor, and I, prepared all the gear. Our scuba diving gear is top notch and assures an easy and safe diving experience. Once we were all packed and ready to go we set a time to go down to the caves at De Kelders – 8am the next morning. The divers were all super excited about the unique diving that South Africa offers.

Upon arrival I handed out each diver’s kit, set up to their preference, and we got dressed into our suits. Just to give you an idea of where this dive site is, the parking lot where we set up is elevated well above the entry point (99 steps!), and it can be a little tricky walking down with all your gear, but it always pays off in the end!

Getting wetsuits on and all our gear ready         [Photo credit: Hennie Odendal]

I gathered all the divers on the edge of the road where you can see the dive site as well as the beautiful panoramic view of Walker Bay Nature Reserve, from Die Plaat to Hermanus and all the way past Betty’s Bay to Cape Hangklip. A southern right whale close to our dive site was playing and showing off for us, emphasising just how lucky we were to be there, at just the right moment! I was acting as dive leader, so with all the divers gathered, I briefed them regarding the site, our dive route and emergency procedures.  We created a dive buddy system and went through all our hand signals.  Then we were almost ready to head down to the water but first each dive buddy did final checks on their partner – air open, octo works, purge, weights, 200 bar etc. Check, check, check, always remembering that safety comes first…and then we were ready to take the stairway down to the water’s edge.

A shy shark                        [Photo credit: Zhu Pigolate]

Going out in the kelp is a bit tricky because it wraps around you, your fins, cylinder, everywhere (!) but we all stuck together and helped one another. Out we swam and found a nice open patch to do our descent. I asked if everyone was okay and ready and then off we went, descending into the unknown underwater world.

Nudibranch                           [Photo credit: Wade Lowe]

Wow, what a unique dive, it truly felt like we were in an underwater forest. The sun’s rays shone through the openings between the kelp, making it extremely magical. There was loads of life down there, as we explored along our route we encountered west coast rock lobster, black breams, crabs, sponges, ferns, fans, abalone, alikreukels or giant turban snails, also known fondly as ollycrocks.

Shark eggs or mermaid’s purses                         [Photo credit: Zhu Pigolate]

Purple sea urchin                         [Photo credit: Zhu Pigolate]

My personal favourites on dives like these are the nudibranch species, amazing psychedelic colours, an underwater photographer’s dream! Oh wait, how can I forget… two very curious Cape fur seals joined us all along the way and were intrigued with what we were doing. They gave us quite a show, making me think of sea ballerinas! We took some frozen sardines with us and towards the end of our dive Jan decided it was time to use them.  We crushed them a bit to see if we could attract some shy sharks and before long we had seven or eight of them around us. We even saw some mating behaviour – biting just behind the gills and upwards swimming!

Unfortunately we aren’t fish, even though I’d like to be (!), and our cylinder pressure was running low, so it was time to call an end to the dive.  We slowly ascended back to the surface together as a group. What a bunch of happy faces, chatting and laughing while we battled through the kelp back to shore. It truly was an amazing dive with an awesome group of people. And so we bid the Mother-of-the-Underwater-World farewell…and embarked on our 99 steps back up the cliff with gravity-filled feet again!

Hennie Odendal

Volunteer Coordinator