Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/MFV Orotava
Like the other wrecks of Smitswinkel Bay, the MV Orotava is reasonably accessible and a popular dive site for both local and visiting divers. The dive is moderately deep, but within the comfort range for many recreational divers, and the area is fairly well protected from the prevailing swell. The depth also protects the wrecks from the worst of the storm surge which would otherwise have broken them up much sooner. The Orotava is one of the better preserved wrecks of the Cape Peninsula, and is small enough to be fairly comprehensively visited on a single dive.
The MFV Orotava is the second from northernmost of the 5 wrecks in Smitswinkel bay.
This site is in a Marine Protected Area (2004). A permit is required.
The "MFV Orotava" was built in 1958 by Cook, Welton and Gemmel Ltd, of Beverly, East Yorkshire. The steel trawler was donated to the False Bay Conservation Society along with the MFV Princess Elizabeth by Irvin and Johnson. In August 1983 the vessels were towed out to Smitwinkel Bay and were scuttled.
Sand bottom is at about 34m, Gunwales 25 to 27m. Highest point on the wreck about 23m
The visibility on the wrecks in Smitswinkel Bay is often better than at sites closer inshore and shallower. This may be due to less water movement at depth. Visibility on a good day may be more than 10m, and on exceptional occasions has been more than 20m, but do not be too disappointed if it is no more than 6 to 8m.
The Orotava is the larger of the two trawlers and lies on the sand at about 34 metres. The highest part of the wreck is the top of the funnel at about 23 metres (2005). The vessel has an asymmetrical superstructure with the enclosed part offset to port and a covered walkway on the starboard side. The wreck lies heeled to port at an angle of about 20°. There is a large winch on the foredeck. There are several holes in the sides and upper deck where plating has rusted away leaving only the frames, which are probably too tight for most divers to exit. There is an open hatch on the foredeck forward of the winch, giving access below.
Geology: The bottom of the bay is flat white sand. There is no reef in the immediate vicinity.
The site is exposed to swell from the south east, and to a certain extent, from the south west. Longer period swell will make conditions on the wrecks uncomfortable or hazardous due to strong surge, but short period waves will just make it uncomfortable on the boat. Visibility is less predictable, and at this time is largely a matter of luck and reports from divers who were in the area recently.
The site is usually at its best in winter but there are also occasional opportunities at other times of the year, though least often in summer, when the south east wind tends to blow much of the time.
This site is only accessible by boat. It is about 5.2km from the slipway at Miller's Point.
The wreck is too deep for much seaweed, but it is heavily encrusted with invertebrates, some of which are seldom seen anywhere else but the Smits wrecks. There are large numbers of multicolour and other sea fans, large clusters of sea cucumbers and areas covered with srawberry anemones. The Frilled nudibranch and the Gas flame nudibranch are common. Barred fingerfin are possibly the most common fish, but others, including scorpion fish and horsefish may be seen.
Fairly intact wreck of steel trawler. The low funnel is the highest point on the forward part of the wreck, possibly on the whole wreck. There is a large and easily recognisable winch on the foredeck just forward of the superstructure. Much of the plating is wasted, and you can swim into the superstucture from the forward end above the winch.
There are plenty of macro subjects, but in good visibility a wide angle or fisheye lens wil give some interesting views
No particular route recommended. Penetrations are tight and limited due to the size of the vessel.
Scorpion fish have been seen on the wrecks, and are well camouflaged. Their spines carry a dangerous venom. The interior of the wreckage has deposits of fine silt, and visibility may be drastically reduced if this is kicked up, making it difficult to orientate within the wreck and this may hinder a diver from finding the way out.
Certification appropriate to the depth is expected. Some level of training or experience in wreck diving is recommended, and penetration should only be attempted by suitably competent divers after reconnaisance and appropriate planning.
Equipment appropriate for the depth should be used. Nitrox is recommended for those competent to use it. A light is strongly recommended, and penetration should not be attempted without the appropriate equipment and planning. If you are not entirely certain what this would be, you are not competent to do the penetration.