This article is intended to provide the already qualified Scuba diver with information which will help to plan dives in the waters around Port Elizabeth, whether as a local resident or a visitor. Information is provided without prejudice, and is not guaranteed accurate or complete. Use it at your own risk.
Port Elizabeth is situated on the west side of Algoa Bay, which is a wide indentation on the South African east coast, some 683 km east of the Cape of Good Hope. The bay is bounded in the west by Cape Recife and in the east by Cape Padrone, and much of the shoreline is sandy beaches. The greter metropolitan area extends some distance to the west of Cape Recife, and this rocky part of the coastline includes a number of the most popular dive sites.
"The Windy City" has a subtropical climate with light rain throughout the year. The area lies between the winter rainfall, Mediterranean climate zones of the Western Cape and the summer rainfall regions of eastern South Africa. The proximity to the ocean has a moderating effect on the climate, so winters are cool but mild and summers are warm but considerably less humid and hot than more northerly parts of South Africa's east coast. Jan Max: 25 °C, Min: 18 °C; Jul Max: 20 °C, Min: 9 °C
Port Elizabeth is within the warm temperate Agulhas bioregion, which extends from Cape Point to the Mbashe River. It is some 360km from Mbashe mouth and 660km from Cape Point, so is somewhat towards the warmer side of the region. Upwelling on the south coast of South Africa is largely driven by the Agulhas current and the continental shelf. This form of upwelling forces cold deep water up onto the continental shelf, but not necessarily above the thermocline. In the region east of the Agulhas bank, wind enhanced upwelling, occurring mainly in summer, augments the current driven upwelling bringing the colder deeper waters to the surface. This enhances biological productivity by supply of nutrients to the euphotic zone (where plants have sufficient light to flourish) which fuels phytoplankton production, and rocky shores that are supplied with the nutrient rich water support rich algal biomass. The annual chokka spawning takes place largely in this region.
No special equipment is required for most of the sites. Wet or semi-dry suits will be adequate for most divers most of the time, though for those who wish to do multiple dives of longer duration, or are sensitive to the cold, a dry suit is recommended.
If you intend to dive autonomously, rather than follow thr divemaster, a DSMB (Delayed/deployable Surface Marker Buoy) and reel or spool is recommended, so the boat will know where you are surfacing, particularly if there is a current running. This will also help alert other vessels of your proximity to the surface so they can avoid you in time.
Nitrox is available at some filling stations, but your choice of mix may be limited.
The Noordhoek Dive Festival is held every June at the Noordhoek dive and boating club on Marine drive, which has a slipway a short distance to the east of Cape Recife, just outside of Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth, towards Schoenmakerskop.
Divers from all over South Africa gather for a three-day festival of Scuba diving. Several boats make strictly scheduled launches several times per day depending on conditions, and dives are generally limited to 30 minutes to allow schedules to be kept.
Dive operators and other sponsors from Port Elizabeth and surrounding areas support this festival of diving which was started in 1999 and has grown to be the best known and probably largest event of its kind in South Africa. The organisors and crew are all unpaid volunteers, and the takings go to charities: deposits are not refundable.
The festival is well organised, but can be disrupted by adverse weather conditions.
Features offered include:
Dives on about 9 different dive sites with maximum depths from 10 to 26 meters.
Colourful reefs with hard and soft coral and a wide range of other organisms.
On site tank refills, basic equipment hire, shuttle service from parking area...and secure parking.
Online booking and payment.
Stalls with leading brands of dive gear for sale.
Refreshment stalls and bar facilities.
Ablution facilities with showers.
Lucky draws and prizes every day (your dive booking tickets go into the draw).
On site entertainment sideshows. Details vary from year to year, but have included powerlifting displays, rescue competitions, aerobatic displays and the like.
Mike's Dive Shop, 63 Western Road, Port Elizabeth, ☎ +27 (0)41 585 3367. Retail dive equipment, Importer and agent for several brands, Cylinder testing, Air fills.edit
Ocean Divers International (ODI), 10 Albert Road, Walmer 6065, Port Elizabeth, ☎ +27 (0)41 581 5121 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Tu-F 9:00AM-5:00PM, Sa-Su 7:00AM-2:00PM. editDive charters, Equipment sales (rental?), Air fills, SSI diver training (Open Water Diver to Instructor)
Prodive, 189 Main Road, Walmer 6065, Port Elizabeth, ☎ +27 (0)41 581 1144 (email@example.com, fax: +27 (0)41581 1144), . M-F 8:00AM-5:30PM, Sa 9:00AM-3:00PM. editDive charters, Equipment rental and sale, Air and Nitrox 32% fills, Cylinder servicing, PADI diver training (Open Water to Instructor)
Wildside diving, Noordhoek Ski-boat Club, Marine Drive, Port Elizabeth, ☎ +27 (0)82 729 8062, . editScuba diving club — They encourage visitors to join in their social events and invite visitors to dive with them. Wildside also hosts the annual PE Dive festival, which is supported by most of the local dive operators, and attended by visitors from all over the country.
Position: — Approximately S34°03.48' E025°38.79'. At the north side of a rocky reef shown on the SAN charts about 2.3km south of the Noordhoek/Wildside slipway.
Depth: — About 29m on the sand at the base of the reef, about 20m at the top of the reef.
Topography: — High profile reef of sedimentary rock, probably hard quartzitic sandstone of the Ordovician Peninsula formation. Steep sided and fairly narrow gulley referred to as the gorge. Coarse shelly white sand bottom in the gorge.
Conditions: — Surge can be strong in a large or long period swell, though the bottom of the gorge is to some extent protected. Visibility of more than 5m is considered good for this area.
Marine life: — Prolific and very colourful invertebrate cover on the reef. High density of sponges and sea fans. Large numbers of basket stars. Also soft corals, noble corals, false corals, Elegant feather stars, colonial ascidians, nudibranchs, Striped anemones, arborescent bryozoans and hydroids. Fish include Fransmadam, shy sharks and Koester
Photography: — A good site for macro photography, and if conditons are good, also for wide angle work.
Suggested Routes: — The site is quite deep, and the dive can be extended by spending some time on the shallower parts of the reef. However the main attraction is the gorge, which is small but well worth a visit.