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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/Atlantis Reef

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The dive site Atlantis Reef or Pillars of Hercules is an offshore rocky reef in the Finlay's Point area of the Castle Rocks Restricted area on the False Bay coast of the Cape Peninsula, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

Understand

Map of the dive site at Atlantis Reef
One of the "Pillars of Hercules" pinnacles


Atlantis reef is a section of the granite reef of the Castle Rocks restricted zone, so the marine life has been protected for many years and is flourishing. There is no record that the site has been dived in the past, so it is in pristine condition. The two massive pinnacles marking the site and known as the Pillars of Hercules, were known to exist for some time, as they occasionally show up on the echo sounder of passing boats, but they are a really small target and difficult to find again. However in early September 2011, the dive boat Animal Ocean started investigating the site and reported an exceptionally beautiful area of reef with two impressive pinnacles reaching nearly to the surface but with very small peaks, so they do not break very often, and are in any case to some extent in the lee of the Seal Rock at Partridge Point. Further exploration revealed that the surrounding reef includes some areas of high profile reef near the pinnacles, and further offshore, and extensive low profile and broken reef further inshore.

The first GPS survey of the reef places it on one of the sections identified by the Council for Geoscience side-scan survey of 2011.

Position

  • Approximate position S34°15' E018°29'


This site is in a Marine Protected Area (2004). A permit is required. It is entirely inside the Castle Rocks Restricted Zone, so no fishing of any kind is permitted.


Topography

The site is dominated by a pair of massive pinnacles, which rise from a jumbled mass of boulders below 18m to within 5m of the surface. The tops of the pinnacles are quite small and pointed, and are probably in the order of 3m diameter, but they spread out to 15 to 20m with roughly rectangular plan at 12 to 15m depth. There is a ledge to the north at about 18m, and a number of very large boulders in the immediate vicinity. There is sand nearby to the south.

To the east of the pinnacles the reef edge comprises medium to large outcrops of granite corestone, with sand between them in the gaps. The reef tends to get lower to the north and more broken to the north west, where large areas are quite low and made up of small boulders and low outcrops.

Geology: Pre-cambrian granite of the Peninsula pluton.


Conditions

Get in

This is a boat access dive site. It is technically possible to dive it from the shore, but there would be a long steep climb down from the road to the shore on a slippery path, followed by a long urface swim. Then you would have to find the site, which in itself is not easy.

At present (September 2011) only Animal Ocean (Steven Benjamin), 0794885053, [1]. have the exact GPS co-ordinates for the pinnacles.


See

Marine life

Photography

The site has only been dived in conditions of good visibility, and some good wide angle scenic shots were taken. The reef life is diverse and prolific, and there are opportunities for both macro photography of benthic organisms, and wide angle photos of the shoals of small fish.

Suggested Routes

No special routes are known at this stage, but the pinnacles are the highlight of the site, and the dense gorgonian forests on the edge of the reef slightly to the south east of the pinnacles are well worth a visit. The area near the pinnacles appears to be the most topographically interesting, so explore the area, and let us know what you find.

Stay safe

Hazards

No special hazards known.

Skills

No special skills required. Certification to dive to the depths found at the site would be expected, but parts of the site are within the depth range appropriate for entry level divers.

Equipment

No special equipment required.

Back to Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay#Partridge Point area

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