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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/Castle Rocks

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The dive sites at Castle Rocks and Parson's Nose are a group of rocky reef areas in the Castle Rocks area on the False Bay coast of the Cape Peninsula, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Information is provided which may assist in planning Recreational and Research Scuba diving at this site, and links to photographs of marine organisms that have been found there.

These sites are good for fish and invertebrates, and in many places have spectacular topography. All are accessible as shore dives, but the shore access is not easy.

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Extent of the Castle Rocks Marine Restricted Zone.
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Aerial view of Castle Rocks dive sites.(Photo CDS&M)

Names "Castle Rocks" and "Parson's Nose"

Castle Rocks applies to the point as a whole and the offshore rocks to the South East. The point is a small rocky peninsula that is nearly an island at high tide. The name also applies to the Marine Restricted Zone which stretches from Rumbly Bay, just south of Miller's point, to Baboon Rock, just south of Partridge Point. Parson's Nose refers to a small rocky point inthe Castle Rocks South area.

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Map of the dive sites at Castle Rocks and Parson's Nose.

Position

S34°14.353’ E018°28.591’ (Grassy patch between entry points)

This site is in a Marine Protected Area (2009)

Access

There is limited parking on the gravel shoulder on both sides of the main road (M4). The path to the shoreline starts at steps at the apex of the bend in the road and goes between the houses. If you are parked further north, the gravel access road also leads to the path. The path can be a bit slippery and is not all in good repair, but it is not a difficult climb for a fit person. There are entry and exit points north and south of the grassy patch.

The north access depends to a large degree on tide and swell. Make your own choice after checking on site. There is a rock ridge at S34°14'19.98" E018°28'35.92", roughly parallel to the shoreline, which provides a fairly sheltered little gully which is often a convenient access point. This access point is also used for dives to Pyramid Rock.

There is also an entry point right at the tip of the point on the north side at S34°14'20.62" E018°28'39.38'. To get there go towards the tall rocks and skirt them to the left until you reach a series of Red-bait fringed rocks. These drop off directly into quite deep water, but are not an easy exit, specially at low tide.

The south access has more options for entry. The rocky little beach nearest the road is generally usable. Stay to the seaward side close in to the high ridge for exits (S34°14'22.43" E018°28'35.95). The gully to seaward of this ridge is deceptive and can be an unpleasant exit if a wave catches you as the surge can be strong.

You can use the large flat topped rock further to seaward at S34°14'22.84 E018°28'38.25" for entry and exit if it suits your dive plan. The top of this rock is almost black, and can be slippery when wet, however it is reasonably flat, and there is a convenient crack and ledge to help get back on if the tide is not too low.

All these shore access areas require walking over irregular rocks and boulders, some of which may be loose.

Facilities

None. Security at the parking area is said to be poor. Lock up your valuables where they can not be seen. The grassy patch at Castle Rocks is a pleasant spot for a picnic, but it may arract the attention of baboons.

Conditions

The site is exposed to (weather/sea conditions). (conditions which will result in poor diving and/or difficult access). The site is usually at it's best (conditions/season) but there are also occasional opportunities (conditions /season).

This is an area which sometimes has (special circumstances, caused by, resulting in).

Keep a lookout for times when (weather conditions which indicate good diving)

(weather conditions which indicate poor diving conditions)

(weather conditions which may make access difficult, and how to deal with them)

Depth

The depth of the different sectors varies, but the maximum is probably about 18m, with an average bottom depth nearer 10m

Geology

Granite of the Pre-Cambrian Peninsula pluton

Topography

North: This area has a fairly shallow rocky bottom with granite boulders and outcrops of moderate height near the entry point. Further east is a series of big outcrops and boulders, some reaching almost to the surface, with gullies and gaps between. Around the point there are a ridges and gullies running more or less north-south.

Along the north side about 20m off the big boulder with two vertical cracks, there are two entrances to a swim-through at about 9m depth, which can be found by following the edge of the kelp zone. The swim-throughs join under the boulders and split into three exits, to the left, sloping upwards, centre sloping upwards and right into a hole surrounded by boulders. There is a belt of sand bottom to the north of the north entry, separating the Castle Rocks reefs from the Shark Alley and Pyramid reefs. This belt is about 350m long and is parallel to the north coast of the Castle Rocks peninsula. The width varies from almost nothing in places to about 30m, and it tends to be wider inshore, with a narrow section about halfway along. The bottom in this belt is fine sand inshore, and sand and pebbles further out.

Pinnacles: To the northwest of the point is an area of large boulders and pinnacles. The pinnacles rise from a bottom of obout 15 to 18m to within 3m of the surface, and are huge sheer sided boulders. There are two groups, the first one is a single large block with a crack along the middle. The second, in line with the first, but further out, is a jumble of rocks with caves, gullies and overhangs. There are more further out. Point reefs (Outside Castle): Large high profile parallel ridges and gullies. Sand bottom to deeper gullies running approximately north-south (010° magnetic), with steep sided ridges between, of varied length, width and height. Further out the gullies are wider and the ridges shorter, but the general tendency is the same. The ridges are the same granite as the point. Further out the reef thins out and there is more sand. This is coarse shelly sand and the wave ripples may be spaced about 1.2m and indicate a northerly wave direction.

Further to the south of this is a mixture of high and low corestone ridges with sand bottomed gullies and gaps between them. some high, from bottom at 14m up to 7m, others lower, down to less than a metre. Quite spectacular in good visibility.

South (Inner Castle): The sandy bay visble from the roadside. Sand bottom sloping from about 4m near entry to about 12m at outside of rock group. Big granite ridges and with some small to medium holes and tunnels, most too small to enter. Deep gullies at back of offshore rocks. Flat fine sand bottom with very small ripples and occasional distantly spaced low rock outcrops to south of the Southern group

Hazards

No special hazards other than those associated with shore access at the sites.

Skill level

(any special skills required, suitability for novices. snorkelling)

(fitness level for shore entry)

(suitability for night dives, other special dives)

Photography

(photographic equipment suggestions)

Equipment

(equipment recommendations)

Marine life (and features)

(general indication of biodiversity: Fish, Invertebrates, algae)

Suggested Routes

  1. North Side: Use the north entry, swim out a few metres, descend and follow the coast toward the point in the kelp forest. As you approach the point, look out for the swim-through. Continue round the point and either return by the same route, or make your way through the gap between the point and the offshore rocks to the south.
  1. Pinnacles: This area is best dived in good conditions as the mood is then excellent. In autumn there are often large assemblies of fish, including schools of Roman, Bank Steenbras and Fransmadam. In winter, when the water is colder, there are fewer fish, but the whole area looks impressive in the better visibility.

Enter at the tip of the point on the north side. Descend and swim out to the north across the sand strip, then follow the edge of the sand to the west until you find the pinnacles. Return by compass or natural navigation to the gap and exit at the black rock.

  1. Point Reefs (Outside Castle):This is a vast area and there are no particular routes. Entry at the black rock, swim out through the gap and explore. Return to the entry point.
  1. South Side (Inner Castle): Concentrate on the boulders and reefs to the south of the point. The sandy bottom of the south cove can be interesting if there is not too much surge, which tends to pick up the fine sand and detritus and reduce the visibility. This area is where you may see sole and sand sharks, and near the boulders, snakelets, Platanna klipfish and Leprous platanna klipfish.
  1. Grand Tour: For the active swimmer, the rebreather diver, or the diver with large cylinders, it is possible to work your way through all these areas on a single dive, entering at the north entry and exiting at the rocky beach, or the reciprocal route.

Gallery

Views of the site from the shore.

Castle Rocks seen from the roadside at the top of the path leading to the entry areas. The path is at the extreme left foreground of the photo.

The Southern part of Castle Rocks as seen from the road includes the group of large rocks in the middle right of the photo. The water inshore of these rocks is fairly sheltered and has a sandy bottom with scattered rock outcrops where the kelp is visible. This area is suitable for training exercises and night dives.

Castle Rocks seen from the parking area at Miller’s Point

The north entry at Castle Rocks is shown here. It is often convenient to use the sheltered area inshore of the long rounded rock in the middle of the picture, and to swim out round the left end of the rock. In the centre background is Boat Rock, or Bakoven Rock, and the top of Pyramid rock can just be seen closer inshore to the left, beyond the kelp. This entry point can be used for dives to Pyramid, and anywhere on the North side of Castle Rocks. The boat just visible on the extreme right is probably anchored at Outer Castle.

This view of the South side of Castle rocks shows the entry and exit point most popular on this side, which is right beside the large rock in the middle left of the photo.

View of the Point entry

View of the Black rock entry


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