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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/Vogelsteen

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The dive site Vogelsteen is a shoreline rocky reef in the Gordon's Bay area on the east side of False Bay, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

Notable for the beds of pebbles, silt, and shells between the rocky inshore zone and the flat sand bottom further offshore, where large numbers of the False Bay burrowing anemone (Cerianthid) can be found.

Get in

Map of the Cow and Calf and Vogelsteen dive sites at Five Houses, Gordon’s Bay.
Aerial photograph of the dive sites at Cow and Calf and Vogelsteen. (Photo CDS&M)
File:View of Vogelsteen entry from the sea.jpg
View toward the shore entry from the sea.
File:(views of the entry point)
The entry gully at Vogelsteen

Access

Often dived from a boat, but shore access is an option.

Boat dive: From Gordon’s Bay (2.3km) or Harbour Island (2,9km). The site is off the large rock with guano stains (Vogelsteen) which is just North-East of the small gully behind the ridge of rock in the middle of the photo, and the path leads up behind the crag to the parking bay.

Shore dive: Access includes a bit of a climb. Park at Five Houses on the Faure Marine Drive (R44) from Gordon’s Bay to Rooi-Els. The parking bay is at S34°10.357’ E018°50.278’ on the seaward side of the road directly opposite three palm trees in front of a group of five houses that stand alone above the road outside Gordon’s Bay. The path leads north-east through the bush to the top of a gully, and down the gully to the water. There is a ledge on the seaward side of the gully which gives access to the water beyond the shallow area with boulders, and is convenient if there is a bit of a swell running.

Position

S34°10.302’ E018°50.355’

In front of the last group of five houses just beyond the built up area of Gordon's Bay.

This site is NOT in a Marine Protected Area (2009). A permit is not required.

Understand

File:Vogelsteen from the sea.jpg
View of the Vogelsteen from the sea. One of the "Five Houses" is visible at the top

Name

The site name "Vogelsteen" is from the early Afrikaans/Dutch meaning "Bird Rock". Named for the large rock favoured by seabirds as a perch and lightly coated in guano.

Depth

Maximum depth is about 12m quite far out on the sand. Most diving is 9m and shallower.


Topography

Moderate relief close to shore, but fairly flat with only small boulders and outcrops followed by a band of black mussel shells packed with silt and pebbles, then flat sand at about 11m. The bed of silted mussel shells is at a depth of generally about 8 to 10m along the coast about 20 to 50m from the water’s edge. The width of this zone varies considerably from place to place. There may be a lot of fine silt deposit on the bottom, concentrated at times in patches up to a few cm thick, and easily disturbed to reduce visibility. The coastline runs almost exactly magnetic east-west.

Geology: Ordovician sandstone of the Table Mountain group, probably ‘’Peninsula’’ formation. Strike is parallel to the shoreline and dip is steep, about 60° to the southwest

Conditions

The site is exposed to the north west wind. It is slightly protected from south west swell but is shallow and there will be surge, which will reduce visibility as there is a fine light silt in this area. It is very well protected from south easterly winds, and these will generally flatten the sea in this area, so it is usually best during or after south easterly winds. The site is usually at it's best in summer but there are also occasional opportunities at other times of the year.

This is an area which sometimes has plankton blooms (red tides) which will cause poor visibility.


Facilities

Paved roadside parking area with garbage bin. Security is probably no worse than any other roadside parking area.

See

File:False Bay burrowing anemone from Vogelsteen.jpg
The False Bay burrowing anemone is common at this site.

Marine life

This is a very good site for Cerianthids (burrowing anemones). Cerianthids are common here where black mussel shell beds exist. less common in stony rubble/gravel, and even less common in sand. Depth range from about 6 to 11m, as that is where the shell beds are. Colour variation from most common with very pale tentacles, to pale with dark inner tentacles, purple or blue outer tentacles, red-brown outer tentacles or base of outer tentacles. They are distributed along the coastline from Cow and Calf to at least a couple of hundred meters north east, and probably further. Generally if the substrate is black mussel shell beds with silt, they are common, and may be as many as about 5 in a square meter, sometimes quite close (within 150mm). Largest tentacle spread is about 100mm, largest tube diameter about 25mm. The amount of tube that extends above the surface varies from about 75mm to about 30mm. The tube is made of threads produced by nematocysts on the surface of the animal which form a felt-like material which entraps particles of sand and silt to form a soft, tough leathery tube which extends about 400mm into the substrate. The species has not yet been described and is new to science. Specimens have been sent to a specialist in Russia for description. This is likely to be the type locality for the species. The shallows close inshore and behind the Vogelsteen are worth a visit in very calm conditions as the biodiversity is considerable.


Photography

Macro and close up equipment is recommended as the visibility is often poor.

Suggested Routes

Swim out to the shell beds to see the burrowing anemones. If the conditions are suitable the entry gully and area around the Vogelsteen are quite interesting.

Stay safe

Hazards

No site specific hazards have been reported. Shore access is over a boulder slope.

Skills

No special skills required. This area is good for snorkelling.

Moderate fitness and agility is required for shore entry.

Equipment

No special equipment recommended. The cerianthid beds may be a bit dark due to low visibility, so a light is often helpful to see the true colours.

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