Diving the Tsitsikamma/Storm's River Mouth
The dive site Storm's River Mouth is a shoreline rocky reef, in the Tsitsikamma National Park in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The waters of the park have high biodiversity and have been protected from fishing for many years, so the marine life is abundant.
This is a shore dive. There is adequate paved parking at the end of the road into the park, in front of the restaurant at the river mouth. At the seaward side of the end of the parking lot is the gravel access road to the slipway. The dive shop is up a short flight of steps and across a flat grassy area to the left of the slipway, just below the resaurant, and is also accessible by steps down from the wooden platform in front of the restaurant
Entry and exit can be from the slipway, from the small sandy beach to the left, below the restaurant, from the rocks to the right of the slipway, or up a steep wooden ladder normally used for boarding boats.
The beach and the old slipway adjacent to the beach can be very surgey if a swell is running, and the new slipway can be very slippery due to algal growth. At low tide the jump from the breakwater/retaining wall alongside the slipway is quite high, so keep as far to the end as possible without landing on the rocks. The concrete steps at the top of the new slipway are convenient and reasonably safe at most states of the tide, but may be tricky in a big swell. The wooden ladder's lower rungs are sometimes tilted by contact with the boat and may not be usable. Check first.
S34°01.355 E023°53.928' (approximately)
The west side of the Storm's River mouth, in front of the restaurant, and near the slipway.
This site is in a Marine Protected Area (2009). A permit is required.
The name "Storm's River Mouth" is a simple geographical description. The site is at the mouth of the Storm's River.
Maximum depth is about 9m, at the east end of the rocky ridges which define the inlet.
Visibility in this area is often poor, and at the river mouth possibly more so than further offshore and to the east. This can also be predicted by the reef life, which is more typical of deeper water where there is less light. However, in spite of the probability of poor visibility it can still be a pleasant and interesting dive. In divable conditions visibility may range from 2m upwards, but probably seldom better than about 6m.
The dive site is in and around a small inlet on the west side of the river mouth. It is protected to some extent from swells from the south west, but is open to swells from the east. There are steep sided rocky ridges to the north and south of this inlet, which has a largely sandy bottom and a small beach to the west below the restourant. These ridges are home to a quite surprising variety of invertebrates. The ridges extend quite a distance beyond the parts visible above the water, and are quite high profile. There are also smaller ridges parallel to these that stick up from the sand bottom toward the east.
Beyond these ridges it is possible to swim around to the south or north into parallel inlets. The one to the north is generally rough to extremely rough, as it is more exposed to waves. This is probably a dangerous area to dive, and almost certainly a dangerous area to try to get out. Do not consider it an alternative exit area unless the conditions are exceptionally calm.
The inlet to the south is far more protected than the inlet to the south, and may be a pleasant dive site, but exit there would require a long hike via steep but good paths to get back to the parking area. It could be used as an emergency exit point.
Geology: Sedimentary rocks of the Table Mountain series. Strike is approximately east-west, and dip is variable but generally very steep. The site is in very tightly folded strata and a synclinal axis appears to be nearby.
The site is exposed to easterly swells and wind waves, so should be dived in westerly swells, preferably short period, as the site is shallow.
The site is usually at it's best in winter but there are also occasional opportunities at other times of the year.
This is an area which sometimes has upwellings of cold water, caused by easterly winds, which may also bring poor visibility.
Good and apparently secure parking close to the site, easy access to the water, a hot fresh water shower, clean toilets, Changing cubicles, a small sandy beach, restaurant and shop. There are also day trails of various lengths along the rivermouth and across a suspension bridge to the top of the escarment on the other side of the river, and through the local indigenous forest. Self catering accommodation is available.
The reef supports a diverse cover of invertebrates and bushy coralline algae that one would normally expect to see in deeper water. This may be a consequence of the commonly poor light levels resulting from poor visibility.
There are more sponges and soft corals than one would expect in such a shallow site, and they are quite colourful. There are also a variety of fish typical of this part of the coast, and you will probably see Roman, Blacktail and Fransmadam, but others are possible, and occasionally a fairly large shoal may be seen.
Other invertebrates include basket stars, brittle stars, and spiny starfish, Cape sea urchins, Knobbly, False plum, Striped and Violet spotted anemones, sea squirts of a few species, and a variety of colonial ascidians.
As the visibility is often limited, macro photography is most likely to produce acceptable results.
A map of the recommended scuba and snorkel routes is displayed on site outside the dive shop. These are basically to explore the ridges to the south and north of the inlet, to the east of the new slipway.
Strong surge and sharp rocks.
No special skills required. The site is suitable for snorkelling. It may be possible to arrange for night diving.
No special equipment recommended. A surface marker buoy per buddy pair will alert the excursion boat to your presence, and will allow your buddy to find you more easily if you are separated in poor visibilty.
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