COW SHARKS AND CAPE FUR SEALS | PISCES DIVERS FALSE BAY, SOUTH AFRICA
Simonstown on the western side of False Bay near Cape Town has an international reputation as the place to go to see great white sharks breaching 3m out of the water off Seal Island. This is a spectacular experience provided by naturalist and photographer Chris Fallows and his wife Monique of Apex Shark Expeditions. They label False Bay as the ‘Serengeti of the Sea’ because of its marine diversity, and as well as their infamous shark cage diving and shark breaching trips, they also promote two other types of dives which are contracted out to local dive operators.
These experiences include an opportunity to dive with Cape fur seals and the primitive seven-gilled cow sharks in the kelp forests of False Bay. These dive sites are on opposite sides of a rocky outcrop known as Partridge Point near Cape Point Nature Reserve where there is a small seal colony.
Winter time (June to August) is best for diving here because the plankton count is lower making visibility much better. 5-8m visibility is good in these waters and anything better than 10m is an outrageous bonus. However weather conditions and currents can impact on this so checking local conditions before a dive is a good idea, although a luxury that most divers can’t afford because of their need to book ahead.
We dived today with Mike Nortje, owner of Pisces Divers. He was easy to spot as he wore contrasting shades of yellow fins and had an uncanny sense of where to point in anticipation of a shark or two moving past. While divers might be wary of a passing great white shark at any moment given their prominent numbers in False Bay, Pisces divers don’t appear to have a history of any sightings of great whites. It seems that the great whites just don’t approach scuba divers according to Mike. So believe me when I say you can concentrate on the diversity and colour on these dives and not be looking over your shoulder constantly!
We dived off Mike’s boat although both dives could have been shore dives and were a maximum of 18m only. The boat drove 15mins out of the harbour to get to the dive sites and the water was a ‘warm’ 17 degrees. I had on 4 layers of clothing being toasty warm for each of our 45-50 mins dive but a ‘local’ diver from Johannesberg wore a dry suit.
The scenery here more than matches anything I have seen on the Great Barrier Reef as feather stars, anemones, urchins, sea squirts and sponges provide a kaleidoscope of colour and an environment that is a macro-photographers dream.