As you’ve probably clocked, scuba diving is fast becoming a bigger part of my travelling adventures and when I headed to Cape Town in South Africa alongside my buddy Ally (who incidentally works for a huge dive company) I decided I was keen to explore as much of the underwater landscape as I was on dry land!
Lucky for me Cape Town offers 2 incredible dive opportunities. The first is diving with the local Cape Fur Seal population. The second with the rare 7 gill cow shark.
Now if there’s going to be a day of diving that will fuel my scuba stoke then seals and sharks are definitely top of the agenda!
Into The Cold
After heading to Pisces Dive Centre in Simons Town (a quick, direct train journey from my base at Stoked Backpackers in Muizenberg) the ever lovely Wendy suited and booted us. Ally is, quite frankly, in need of a big cup of cemente when it comes to cold water diving – anything under 20 degrees is baltic conditions for her!
However fresh off my last scuba dive at Silfra, Iceland where a dry suit was the order of the day 10mm worth of rubber didn’t seem all that bad – in fact I even fore went the offer of gloves!
All kitted up we were briefed at the dock by our dive masters about the 2 dives – first with the seals, then with the sharks.
Despite the rather cold air temperature that early in the morning I was pretty stoked and the quick boat journey along the coastline was beautiful – we even spotted a couple of penguins bobbing around looking for a morning snack!
As we rounded so called Seal Island (very well named given its inhabitants!) with its rather potent aroma we go ready to dive into the chilly depths to see what we could find.
Seals and Unexpected Visitors
Within seconds of descending (it’s a pretty shallow dive with a max of around 18m) we were bombarded by curious seals which was freaking awesome! The playful little things darted around, showing off their underwater agility and playing around in our bubbles!
I could’ve easily spent the full 45min dive enjoying their company and trying to keep up with their crazy underwater speed, however out of the corner of my eye I clocked something.
A fully grown, adult 7 gill shark was heading right at me!
Now had this been the second dive site this wouldn’t have been a shock to me – but none of even the dive centre divers had ever set eyes on a 7 gill at this dive site so it caught everyone unaware!
I barely had time to signal “shark” at a rather puzzled looking Ally before I pulled out the camera and cruised alongside the magnificent and prehistoric looking creature after it made a last second detour underneath me.
7 gills – also known as cow sharks – are naturally curious but safe to dive with (obviously they’re wild animals so it’s never 100% safe!) but no one had expected to bump into one this large and at the first dive site so many a flustered hand signal and shakka was being thrown around amongst the dive group!
After it left as calmly and quickly as it arrived we were once again surrounded by the seals which only added to the grin behind my regulator.
After loading back onto the boat and everyone doing their own seal impressions as we lumped ourselves into it, fuelled by chocolate and excited chatter about the dive we headed to the next spot around the corner.
Having already seen a 7 gill so up close the pressure for the actual shark dive was off. We’d seen all we came for so we could kick back and enjoy the dive!
In stark contrast to the first spot the second was set amongst a thick kelp forest and as we entered the underwater tree line it slowly swayed amongst the currents. It was a new experience for me and to be honest it was worth the water time on it’s own.
The sharks didn’t let us down though and as we meandered amongst the kelp they cruised around us, an eerie silhouette that was then greeted by the almost charismatic smile of their jaw line as they swam confidently amongst us – they are an apex predator after all!
As we began to feel the cold – which had been delayed by our sharky delight – me and Ally sat on our safety stop.
Usually sitting there for 3 minutes is no worries but all of a sudden I felt pretty damn woozy.
Knowing full well that panicking would be a ridiculous move here I signalled to Ally as I got even more disorientated – the bubbles of divers below, mixed with the swaying kelp had given me a sudden onset of underwater vertigo!
Lucky for me my PADI training kicked in and I focused on my dive computer, slowly, steadily breathing knowing that Ally was aware of what was going on (to some extent!) and would leap into instructor mode if anything went AWOL!
It was an interesting end to and incredible two dives – to be honest I’m kind of glad it happened too.
Knowing the warning signs and that I can rely on my dive buddies is always good to know, as is the fact I can control myself when things don’t go quite to plan and it’s certainly taught me a bit more about my dive limits, which is never a bad thing!
Pencil It In!
I was stoked with the day I spent with Pisces Divers and it was a pleasure to spend some underwater time with two of my favourite ocean dwellers – I’m already hoping to return in the next year or so to join them on the infamous Sardine Run when the annual sardine migration attracts hundreds of the oceans top predators in a chaotic underwater buffet!
If you’re a certified diver (unfortunately due to the nature of the dive it’s unsuitable for newbies) I highly recommend adding it to your scuba diving bucket list and Cape Town itinerary – with the 2 dive seal and shark package coming in at £80, including all dive equipment, guide and even lunch, a solid travel spend!
**PLEASE NOTE – I received a complimentary dive day courtesy of the awesome guys at Pisces Dive Centre, but rest assure all opinions are honest and my own**