The Best Dive Spots in Cape Town, South Africa

Broadnose sevengill shark swims through Cape Town kelp forest

by wildestanimal / Getty Images

Located on South Africa’s Atlantic seaboard, Cape Town offers a very different scuba diving experience than the country’s popular Indian Ocean dive sites, such as Sodwana Bay and Aliwal Shoal. The water is cold and visibility is often limited, but the diversity of underwater habitats and wildlife make it well worth donning a thick wetsuit or drysuit and taking the plunge. Cape Town dive sites are divided between those on the west coast, and those on the other side of the Cape peninsula in False Bay. West coast dive sites are typically colder with better visibility, while those on the False Bay side are warmer and more protected in winter. Between the two, there are dive sites for every season in the Mother City, where scuba highlights include kelp forests, a wide range of shipwrecks, and close encounters with sharks and Cape fur seals. Here are some of the best dive sites Cape Town has to offer. 

01 of 10

Pyramid Rock

Pyramid Rock

Getty / Alessandro De Maddalena

Address
Simon's Town, Cape Town, 7975, South Africa

Those that want to experience Cape Town’s famous kelp forest diving should book a dive to Pyramid Rock off Simon’s Town for the best experience. In addition to some spectacular underwater scenery defined by sunlight filtering through the towering strands of kelp, this is also one of the best sites for spotting the vulnerable and prehistoric-looking broadnose sevengill shark. These spectacular animals, which can grow up to seven feet in length, naturally congregate in the channel between Pyramid Rock and the shore, allowing for organic encounters without the need for baiting. Other, smaller shark species abound in this habitat too, ranging from the spotted gully shark to several species of catshark. The latter are a family of small, beautifully patterned sharks including the pyjama catshark—so named for its distinctive black and cream horizontal stripes. Maximum depth for this dive site is 40 feet. 

Address
Simon's Town, Cape Town, 7975, South Africa
02 of 10

Partridge Point

Cape fur seal, Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus, encountered off Partridge Point, False Bay, South Africa
Alessandro De Maddalena / Getty Images
Address
59 M4, Cape Peninsula, Cape Town, South Africa

For ocean lovers, Cape Town and the surrounding area is synonymous with great white sharks. There’s a reason these apex predators congregate in these chilly waters: the abundance of tasty Cape fur seals. Cape fur seals are also a top attraction for Cape Town divers, and one of the best places to encounter them in their natural environment is a False Bay haul-out known as Partridge Point. Before entering the water, you can observe the seals lazing on the exposed rock; then, backwards roll into waters teeming with these playful and inquisitive creatures. They are well used to divers and happy to display their acrobatic skills, even sometimes recruiting divers to join them. Seals aside, this dive site offers interesting topography with plenty of smaller boulders and swim-throughs, as well as a rich covering of cold water corals and sea fans. Maximum depth is 65 feet.

Address
59 M4, Cape Peninsula, Cape Town, South Africa
03 of 10

Duiker Island

Cape fur seal, Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus, Duiker Island, Hout Bay, South Africa
Alessandro De Maddalena / Getty Images
Address
Duiker Island, South Africa

For seal encounters on the western seaboard, the best option is Hout Bay’s Duiker Island. This is another key Cape fur seal haul-out, with hundreds of these charismatic animals visible at any given time on the island’s granite boulders. The surrounding waters are shallow, with a maximum depth of around 25 feet—allowing plenty of bottom time for divers and easy conditions for freedivers of all experience levels. The water at Duiker Island is often cleaner than that in False Bay due to the clear, cold waters pushed up from the Atlantic depths. For this readon, underwater photographers often choose Duiker Island over Partridge Point. Nevertheless, this is a tricky dive on days with a lot of swell and conditions should be checked properly before booking. The surrounding reef is also not as picturesque, so seal encounters should be your primary goal. 

Address
Duiker Island, South Africa
04 of 10

Batsata Rock

Rocky Seascape Cape Town
NeilBradfield / Getty Images
Address
Batsata Rock, South Africa

While Cape Town is known for its numerous shore diving opportunities, it’s sometimes worth paying a little extra to get out on a boat. One of the city’s most popular boat dives is Batsata Rock, located roughly three miles off Miller’s Point. This is a fantastic dive site for all experience levels, since the rock itself comes within 20 feet of the surface—putting it well within the reach of beginner divers and photographers relying on natural light. At the same time, advanced divers can descend along the site’s sloping profile to a maximum depth of around 100 feet. Dense hard and soft coral cover and a diverse topography with plenty of pinnacles and gullies combine to create the perfect habitat for a wealth of marine life. Look out for schools of yellowtail kingfish, and giant short-tail stingrays. These rays can grown up to seven feet in diameter.

Address
Batsata Rock, South Africa
Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

SAS Pietermaritzburg

Address
Cape Point Cape Town 7764, Cape Peninsula, Cape Town, South Africa
Phone +27 21 786 1142

One of Cape Town’s favorite wreck dives, the SAS Pietermaritzburg has a fascinating history. She started life as HMS Pelorus, a British Navy minesweeper that saw active service in the Second World War—including during the Normandy landings. After the war she was sold to the South African Navy, where she was renamed SAS Pietermaritzburg and used as a training ship. In 1991 she was listed for disposal, and three years later she was intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef off Miller’s Point. Today, she lies at a maximum depth of 72 feet and is still in good condition despite some of her superstructure having started to collapse. Wreck penetrations are possible only for experienced divers with the necessary training; however, a dive around the exterior of the wreck is rewarding for its abundant marine life as well as its interesting history. 

06 of 10

Smitswinkel Bay

Smitswinkel Bay
JohanSjolander / Getty Images
Address
Smitswinkel Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

Simon’s Town has served as a naval base for more than two centuries, and in the 1970s the South African Navy purposefully sunk five decommissioned ships in nearby Smitswinkel Bay to serve as an artificial dive site. Respectively, these are the wrecks of the navy frigates SAS Good Hope and SAS Transvaal (both still in their original upright position), the fishing trawlers Princess Elizabeth and Oratava, and the diamond dredger Rockeater. Thanks to their close proximity to each other, it is possible to explore each one in depth or to tour all five in a single no-decompression dive known as the Smitswinkel Swim. The wrecks now support their own thriving ecosystems, with plenty of resident corals and fish life. Because they have an average depth of 115 feet and are relatively tricky to navigate, diving with a knowledgeable local guide is recommended.

Address
Smitswinkel Bay, Cape Town, South Africa
07 of 10

BOS 400

Wreck enthusiasts will love the BOS 400 for its novelty appeal as the largest floating crane in South Africa. A French derrick or lay barge designed for offshore construction, she ran aground off Duiker Point in 1994 while being towed from the Republic of Congo to Cape Town. The operation fell foul of the Cape’s notoriously vicious storms, which caused the tow rope to break and the tug to lose control of the giant crane. Today, the wreck remains in its original position, stuck on the rocks with most of the crane above water. Beneath the surface, there is much to explore, including the barge itself and a great reef with plenty of corals, diverse marine life, and a maximum depth of 72 feet. The wreck’s precarious position means that it is constantly at the mercy of winter storms, and is breaking up at a faster pace than usual. Dive it now while you still can. 

08 of 10

Vulcan Rock

Hout Bay, Laura Carey Archive
Laura Carey / Getty Images
Address
Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

One of the western seaboard’s most popular summer dive sites, Vulcan Rock is a pinnacle situated some 20 minutes by boat from Hout Bay harbor. Its location on the Atlantic coast and the fact that it’s further from shore than many of the False Bay sites mean that visibility is often very good here in season. The marine life is excellent too, with schooling game fish and other pelagics attracted by the plentiful reef fish and corals that typically define underwater pinnacles. Look out for hottentot, galjeon (the national fish of South Africa), and large crayfish living in the rock crevices. The pinnacle breaks the surface at low tide and sweeps down to a maximum depth of around 130 feet, making it a great deep dive for advanced divers. As an added bonus, Cape fur seals often make an appearance at Vulcan Rock. 

Address
Vulcan Rock, South Africa
Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Justin's Caves

Address
Victoria Rd, Camps Bay, Cape Town, 8005, South Africa
Phone +27 21 437 9000

For shore divers, Justin’s Caves is one of the most attractive dive sites on the western seaboard. Located roughly 500 feet from the entry point on the coast just north of 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa, it’s a shallow site with a maximum depth of just 60 feet. Its primary appeal is its interesting topography, created by boulders stacked on top of one another to create a series of coral-rich caverns, overhangs, tunnels, and swim-throughs. These are not only fun to explore for divers, but also great hiding places for a wealth of smaller critters, including crayfish, nudibranchs, catsharks, and colorful reef fish. Bring your macro lens if you’re a photographer, and benefit from plenty of natural light and an extended bottom time. Just be aware, however, that this site is not an easy one in rough weather, when the swell can eliminate visibility and make the dive dangerous. 

Address
Victoria Rd, Camps Bay, Cape Town, 8005, South Africa
Phone +27 21 437 9000
10 of 10

Pelagic Shark Dive

Pelagic Shark Dive

Courtesy of Pisces Divers

Address
1 Main Rd, Simon's Town, Cape Town, 7975, South Africa
Phone +27 21 786 3799

For adrenaline junkies, one of the most rewarding Cape Town dive experiences is the pelagic shark dive offered by Pisces Divers in Simon’s Town. On this half-day adventure, you will travel up to 25 nautical miles into the deep blue water off Cape Point. Here, a bait system is used to attract oceanic shark species – most commonly, the magnificent blue shark. If you’re very lucky, you may also see a shortfin mako, the fastest shark in the ocean. This dive is open to divers of all abilities as well as snorkelers and freedivers. However, you must be able to maintain buoyancy at around 16 feet even though the sea floor here is many hundreds of feet deeper. In addition to the sharks, these dives provide an opportunity to see a wealth of other marine life, ranging from pelagic seabirds and game fish like tuna and dorado to humpback and southern right whales. 

Address
1 Main Rd, Simon's Town, Cape Town, 7975, South Africa
Phone +27 21 786 3799
Was this page helpful?
Back to List

The Best Dive Spots in Cape Town, South Africa