Freediving in Cape Town has slowly become more and more popular over the years. After the famous My Octopus Teacher documentary was released on Netflix last year (which won an Oscar!) there has been a massive surge in people trying out freediving. The Kelp Forests of Cape Town have recently been named one of the seven wonders of the world making freediving in Cape Town a must-try for any nature-lover or adventurer. Luke and I started freediving at the end of 2017 and over the past four years have explored many amazing dive sites around Cape Town and fallen in love with the magical underwater world of the Cape kelp forests. Here’s my guide to the best freediving sites in Cape Town.
Gear & Safety
You’ll need a wetsuit (preferrably a 5mm for the cold), some fins, a mask and snorkel as a bare minimum. If you’re going to be diving down then a weightbelt and weights are also essential. Diver safety is crucial so you need to make sure that you always dive with a buddy. Make sure you don’t dive beyond your limits (be honest with yourself and your buddy about your levels of experience), and always ensure somebody else (not your diving buddy) knows where you’re going and how long you intend on being out for. If you’re trying out a new dive site make sure you go when conditions are good and with someone who has already dived there before. Don’t push your breathhold further than is comfortable and make sure you always have a buddy keeping an eye on you when you go down. If you are a newbie freediver make sure you go with an experienced diver first or check out Cape Town Freediving for a course to learn from the experts.
Best Freediving Sites in Cape Town
There are a multitude of wonderful freediving sites in Cape Town, each with a unique landscape to explore. The False Bay Dive sites are best explored during the winter months while the Atlantic dive sites are clearest on a summer day after a strong South Easter wind. False Bay is much warmer, while Atlantic temperatures can be as low as 7 degrees in summer. False Bay is shallower generally but is host to an incredible array of marine life. You’ll see anemones, starfish, pyjama sharks, nudibranches, puffadder shysharks, jellyfish and maybe even an octopus if you’re lucky! The colder temperatures of the Atlantic side mean it is less populated but you should see seals, cuttlefish, jellies and many hotties. The depths along the Atlantic side are much deeper allowing you to test your breathhold ability.
False Bay dive sites
Windmill is the preferred dive site for beginners and most Cape Town freedivers. It has an easy shore entry and is nestled in a secluded bay. The protection of the bay means the dive site has an abundance of marine life. You’ll see sea stars, shy sharks, pajama sharks, nudis, urchins, streepies and hotties. Enjoy exploring the beautiful Kelp Forest here. Luke and I have dived at Windmill many many times over the years and know it very well now. It’s a really small area but every time we go we see something new and exciting! To get here drive to Boulder’s Beach but take the road to the right just before you get to Boulder’s (Links Crescent). There is a small parking at the bottom of the road or you can park along the road. Windmill is part of the Boulder’s TMNP MPA (Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area) and so is a no take zone.
Water’s Edge is another easy entry False Bay dive site. To get there you will turn down Seaforth road and park at the bottom of the road. You’ll then walk along the road to the right (Kleintuin Road) until you see a wooden gate on your left. Go through here (close the gate behind you to keep the penguins in) and walk down the path to the beach. Water’s Edge is famous for it’s Gully Sharks. I have never had the privilege of seeing them on my dives here. They are pretty big boys getting up to 2m long. They are harmless though, so remain calm in their presence. Water’s Edge is part of the Boulder’s TMNP MPA and so is a no take zone.
You can also freedive at Boulders Beach! This is more of a sandy dive site than a rocky one so your marine life with be limited to schools of fish and penguins.
The entrance fees for Boulders Beach are as follows:
Conservation Fees for 1 November 2020 to 31 October 2021
|South African Citizens and Residents (with ID):
|R40 per adult per day
R20 per child, per day
|SADC Nationals (with passport):
|R85 per adult per day
R42 per child, per day
|Standard Conservation Fee (International Visitors):
|R170 per adult per day
R85 per child, per day
Boulders Beach is part of the Boulders TMNP MPA and so is a no take zone.
I have only freedived at A-Frame once riiiight at the beginning of my freediving journey. Within two minutes of the dive Luke swam into a bluebottle and got stung all over his face. safe to say we didn’t really explore A-Frame too much! Here’s an exert from the Scuba Shack:
“The site lies approximately 5km from Simon’s Town on the Cape Point Road and is one of the more popular shore dives and with reason! The entry point is a flat rocky plateau below the mast which is visible from the road and which can sometimes be submerged depending on the tide followed by a short 60m swim.
Once you are in the water you decend on a shallow sandy area from where you start your tour through the kelp forest and past huge boulders. A few deep holes and overhangs make for interesting swim throughs and colourful invertebrates are plentiful. The smaller of the two rocks has a cave with big sponges. Octopus and cuttlefish are regularly in attendance. There is often a bit of a surge on the outer side of the big rock, but it is usually calm inshore, especially in winter.”
Castle Rock at Miller’s Point
Castle Rock is another wonderful kelp forest dive site. You will park at the Miller’s Point parking and get in at the slipway. Swim towards the right of the slipway for a wonderful dive. Castle Rock is part of the Castle Rock TMNP MPA and so is a no take zone.
Atlantic dive sites
I personally prefer the Atlantic side for freediving. The water is MUCH colder but it is deeper and you have much more open space to just swim. On a clear day the Atlantic side can look almost tropical with its sandy bottom and open spaces of clear blue water. There are however, very few perfect days for diving the Atlantic side. You’ll need to wait until the south easter wind has been pumping for a couple of days. Then let everything settle and jump in. The water will be absolutely FREEZING but crystal clear and blue!
The Antipolis Wreck is a piece of history.
“Antipolis and Romelia were two derelict tankers being towed by a small Japanese tug the Kiyo Maru 2. They were on their way from Greece to the scrapyards in the Far East. All was going well with the passage until the convoy approached Table Bay in the teeth of a North Westerly gale. The Antipolis ended up driven ashore by fifty knot winds at Oudekraal on the Cape Peninsula, and the Romelia was cast ashore on Sunset Rocks, in the Llandudno Bay a few hundred yards away. She finally broke her back and sunk in two halves. Today the skeleton of the Antipolis can still be clearly seen at low tide and has become a very popular shore dive.The Romelia broke up quite a bit more, but even now you can see her rusting stern section silhouetted against the skyline still held fast on Sunset Rocks.” From Submerged.
To access the Antipolis wreck dive site you will park at the parking just before the 12 Apostles Hotel (coming from Hout Bay side) or the parking just after 12 Apostles if you are coming from Town side. If you stand on the edge of the parking and look towards Lion’s Head you should see the top of the wreck sticking out of the water. Once you have kitted up, walk to the left hand side of the parking and you should see a pathway going down. It is very littered and overgrown but will take you down to the rocks for your dive entry. The first part of the wreck is on a few metres from the shore and easy to access. Swimming between your entry point and the rocks across the bay you will see bits of the wreck scattered along the sea floor. There is a large part of the ship with the old engine room a bit further out and in the centre of the bay. I have never found it though. You’ll need to go on a very clear day to be able to see as much of the wreck as possible. Antipolis Wreck is part of the Karbonkelberg TMNP MPA and so is a no take zone.
Sandy Cove at Cosy Bay
Sandy Cove is a stunning dive site which can be accessed from Cosy bay beach. You can park at the top parking and walk down the wooden steps to get to the beach. There is a small pool lined by boulders at the beach. Enter this pool and go to the right hand side where there is a break in the rocks. You’ll need to swim over kelp but will soon enter the Sandy Cove. Sandy Cove is a large dive site with large open spaces with a sandy bottom as well as patches of kelp forests. There is also an anchor lying on the seafloor that you can go check out. Swimming from the Cosy Bay beach you will hug the shore and should arrive at the anchor. It is about 7.6m below the surface so on a clear day you can see it from the surface. This is one of my favourite freediving sites in Cape Town with clear tropical waters in summer and stunning views of Lion’s Head and the 12 Apostles. Sandy Cove is part of the Karbonkelberg TMNP MPA and so is a no take zone.
I have never dived Justin’s Caves but here are some descriptions I have gained from other divers and websites. Here is a really informative YouTube video with all the info you need to dive this site. The parking for this dive site is the bend in the road on the right hand side of the 12 Apostles. You will often see cars parked here. There is a small path down from the road to the water and you will go in straight from the rocks. You will swim over a kelp forest and then arrive at the dive site which is basically the cluster of rocks out from this corner. There are many swim throughs here and the boulders are teaming with life. Just out from Justin’s Caves you will find the main ship anchor of the area. It is 15m below the surface. Justin’s Caves is part of the Karbonkelberg TMNP MPA and so is a no take zone.
Strawberry Rocks dive site is located at the big cluster of rocks far out from Cosy Bay. You will enter the water at the same place as you would for a Sandy Cove dive but you have a 300m swim ahead of you. I have never been to this dive site but I have heard there are many seals to play around with and you will see lots of strawberrry anemones and nudibranches on the rocks. Make sure you go on a flat day where the long swim is safer and more manageable. Strawberry Rocks dive site is part of the Karbonkelberg TMNP MPA and so is a no take zone.
You will see many amazing sea creatures on your freedives around Cape Town including jellies, sea stars, feather stars, anemones, urchins, shysharks and pajama sharks as pictured below.
Whether you’re new to freediving or an avid freediver new to Cape Town I hope this blog post has been helpful in planning your next freediving adventure to one of the best freediving sites in Cape Town
For more Cape Town adventures why not check out my blogs on Tandem Paragliding in Cape Town, Cape Town Cafes That’ll Give You All The Bali Vibes, Best Sunset Spots in Cape Town, Best Tidal pools in Cape Town, The Bo-Kaap, Lion’s Head Full Moon Hike or my Top 10 Hikes in Cape Town .
Looking for a good dive watch? Check out DiveIn’s recommendations for dive watches.