Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/Whittle Rock
This article is a travel topic
Whittle Rock and the surrounding reefs cover a large area, and are the most significant navigational hazard in False Bay, but as very little shipping of large displacement enters the bay, it is not at present that much of a problem. There are no wrecks known from the reef. It is also a popular fishing area for reef fish, and a spectacular dive site. It would certainly be more popular if it was closer to the launch areas.
S34°14.814’ E018°33.755’ about 8km offshore
There is officially a navigation buoy slightly to the east of the reef, but there have been occasions when it was not there. The current buoy replaces the one which sank some years ago. Divers have reported that it lies on the bottom, still attached to its mooring system, and probably simply sank after years of neglect.
This site is partly in a Marine Protected Area (2009) The Eastern border of the Table Mountain National Park MPA passes through the west part of the reef area. Most of the reef is outside the MPA.
This area is marked on the SA Navy charts as a navigational hazard and named "Whittle Rock".
Maximum depth on the sand around the reef is more than 30m. The top of the pinnacle is at about 4m, but the variation is large due to the size of the site.
Visibility is often better than on the inshore reefs, but as with any False Bay reef, it is not very predictable, and there may be better visibility at the bottom below a dirty surface layer. When it is more than 10m this site is particularly impressive, as the topography of pinnacles, gullies, walls, huge boulders and overhangs, with the occarional swimthroughs can be appreciated.
Huge granite corestone outcrops and boulders. The topography varies considerably as it is such a large area. Sector descriptions The main reef area near the 4m pinnacle is the shallowest part of the reef, with an extensive area above 15m. It includes several deep and steep sided gullies, and a large swimthrough at about 18m depth, where an enormous boulder is wedged into a large gully.
The site is exposed to wind and waves from all directions, however it is mostly quite deep, so short period waves will not affect conditions on the bottom greatly. Low short swell and light wind is best. There may be a thermocline, and the visibility may change significantly below the thermocline. Conditions at depth are not easily predictable. There is no specific time of year for diving this site, you just have to wait for low swell and light winds.
A long period swell may produce significant surge at depth, depending on the local topography. In places the gullies will focus the surge, and in other places the high reefs and steep walls may provide relatively sheltered areas.
The site is only accessible by boat. It is about 8.5 km from the slipway at Miller's Point.
Much depends on which part of the reef you dive. There are a wide variety of invertebrates and quite a variety of fish seen in the vicinity, including shoals of Yellowtail. This is a popular fishing area and unfortunately there has been noticeable damage to the reef by anchors in the shallower parts.
This is a good site for photography. (photographic equipment suggestions)
At this stage no particular routes are recommended, but a swim around the 15m contour is a good option for a fairly long dive with lots of scenic views if the visibility is good.
Cold water is possible. Strong winds may develop over a short time, particularly in summer. Great white sharks have been seen in this area.
Much of the reef is fairly deep and beyond the range of novice divers, but there are also extensive shallower areas. The ability to deploy a DSMB is recommended, as this will help the boat crew to see you after the dive, and will warn fishing boats of your presence while surfacing. On some occasions there may be large numbers of small craft fishing in this area, and some of the skippers do not pay much attention to where they are going.
A light is helpful both in deep areas to compensate for the loss of colour, and wherever there are deep cracks, overhangs and other dark areas. A compass is mostly useful for heading towards a planned point, as when heading towards a shallower area at the end of a dive. An SMB is strongly recommended to help the boat keep track of your position, or to find you when you ascend. Nitrox is generally useful to extend no-stop dive times as most dives at Whittle are fairly deep. The water temperature may be low, so good thermal insulation is also recommended.