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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/Atlantis Reef

2,789 bytes added, 17:25, 1 May 2012
Marine life: added image
* Approximate position Pillars of Hercules: S34°15' E018°29' <!--Pillars of Hercules: S34°15.075' E018°29.027' --><!--Santorini pinnacles: S34°15.037' E018°28.928' -->
Maximum depth is about 29m at the eastern limit of the reef, and the top of the highest pinnacle is about 4m deep. Average depth on the immediately adjacent reef is likely to be about 20 to 25m.
<!--===Visibility===comment Visibility can vary like any other dive site in the area, but in diveable conditions is likely to be between 5 and 10m, and on a very good day, up to 20m. It is generally similar to, but often not quite as good as visibility to be expected-->on the Smitswinkel Bay wrecks
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 relatively small and rounded, and are probably in the order of 3m diameter, but they spread out to 15 to 20m wide with roughly rectangular plan at 12 to 15m depth. These have been named the "Pillars of Hercules, in keeping with the Greek mythology theme. On the western and souther southern sides of the eastern pinnacle there is a large overhang. The granite base between the two pinnacles has a deep crack in it, and to the offshore side of the pinnacles, there is a complex swimthrough formed by jumbled boulders. There is a ledge to the north at about 18m, and a number of very large boulders in the immediate vicinity to the north. A fairly large rock with a pointed top at about 17m known as the "Fang" stands a few metres to the east of the pinnacles. It is shaped a bit like a large canine tooth. There is sand a few metres to the south of the pinnacles at about 24m depth.
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.
South east of the pinnacles there is a large outcrop a few metres high which has a dense growth of Sinuous, Flagellar and Palmate gorgonian sea fans.
150m on a bearing of 145&deg;magnetic from the western pillar, there is another somewhat lower pinnacle, rising to 10m depth. This and the smaller pinnacle another 30m to the west have been named the "Santorini pinnacles". They are not as spectacular as the Pillars of Hercules, but are a good divesite in themselves, with plenty of steep walls and overhangs to shelter the reef life.
Pre-cambrian granite of the ''Peninsula'' pluton, with fine silica sand in the deeper areas and around the reef.
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Image:Top of 4m pinnicle Atlanits 2 WEB.jpg|Top of the pinnacle at 4m depth
Image:View up to the boat at the Atlantis Reef pinnacles PA157811.JPG|Looking up to the boat from about 12m deep at one of the pinnacles
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<!--The site is often at its best during or after a westerly wind, but may be good even during an easterly if it is not too strong and the swell has not built up yet. Surge may be considerable in long period swell even if low.  The site is exposed to (weather/sea condition)south east wind and waves, and is moderately exposed to south westerly swell, particularly long period swell, which bends round Cape Pointthough Atlantis is not far to the north of the reefs at [[Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay#Partridge Point|Partridge Point]], so should be dived and they provide some protection from south-westerly swell. The site is usually at its best in winter but there are also occasional opportunities in (weather/sea condition)autumn and spring, and sometimes even in summer a good day may occur.  Look for days when the forecast is for swell from the west, or low swell from the south-west. This can often good occur just before a cold front gets to the peninsula, and in (these cases the weather/sea condition)is often mild, even sunny, and with little wind in the day or two before the front arrives. The site During the passage of the front, the weather is reasonably protected from (weather/sea condition)generally windy, overcast and frequently rainy, but may still provide very good diving if (weather/sea condition occurs) then (response the wind is not too strong for the boats to weather/sea condition)-->operate, as it will be offshore until the front has passed.
<!--The site After the front has passed, in winter one can expect a day or two of good diving before the next front. In summer, a front is (usually) at it's best in (season1) but there are also occasional opportunities in (season2) commonly followed by strong south easterly winds, which kick up an unpleasant short onshore chop which makes the boat ride uncomfortable and (season3)messes up the visibility.-->
<!--This is an area which sometimes has (special circumstance), caused by (condition1), resulting in (condition2)-->
At present (October 2011) only <see name="Animal Ocean" alt="Steven Benjamin" address="" directions="" phone="0794885053" url="" hours="" price="" lat="" long=""></see> and Blue Flash charters have the exact GPS co-ordinates for the pinnacles.
The site is about 3.2km from [[Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay#Miller's Point slipway|Miller's Point slipway]].
===Marine life===
[[Image:Atlantis fish school.jpg|thumb|The resident fish school at the pinnacles]]
The marine life is extensive and varied. At the tops of the pinnacles and extending to about 12m is a heavy covering of red bait with both knobbly and false plum anemones living in between them. Descending the pinnacles, the more delicate invertebrates take over and the pinnacles' lower sections are densely covered with bryozoans of at least five different species, and a heavy covering of multicoloured seafans. Between the pinnacles is usually found a school of several species of fishes: blacktails, hottentots, fransmadam and zebras. Moderate numbers of bank steenbras have been seen on the western part of the reef. Nudibranchs such as the black, the crowned and gasflames are common on the pinnacles, with the occasional sighting of smaller nudis such as the orange-eyed nudi and the white-edged nudi.A school of janbruins Janbruins can often be seen in the cracks between the pinnacles as well as truly enormous romans, and there are somevery large Roman.
As Where the reef at the base of the pinnacles join meets the sand to the more horizontal south, the lower parts of the reef become are covered with red-chested sea cucumbers, strawberry polyp anemones and nippled sea fans.Moving north North from the pinnacles and into in the section of jumbled boulders is a luxuriant seafan forest, consisting of palmate, sinuous and whip seafans. The usual assortment of invertebrates associated with seafans can also be found: topshell snails, hermit crabs and basket stars in numberabundance. Continuing Further north to on a lower profile reef section there is more seafan forest but this has been which is sometimes overwhelmed with by hairy brittlestars so to the extent that it resmbles an afghan rug. The sand at about 29m seems to be a shyshark nursery because many small puffadder shysharks can be seen herethere.
Interestingly, the site also features an unusual number of dark shysharks, more usually seen on the Atlantic side of the peninsula.
<gallery widths="180px" heights="120px" perrow="3">
Image:Basket star Astroclaus euryale 002.jpg|juvenile Juvenile basket star on sinuous seafanImage:Strawberry anemones Corynactis annulata.jpg|strawberry Strawberry anemonesImage:Bonisa nakaza005.jpg|gasflame Gasflame nudibranch
Image:Lacy false coral at Atlantis Reef PA157784.JPG|Lacy false coral is very fragile
Image:Shoal of Hottentot between the pinnaclea at Atlantis reef PA157819.JPG|Shoal of Hottentot seabream between the pinnacles
Image:Striped anemones on red bait pods PA157871.JPG|The tops of the pinnacles are covered with large red bait pods
Image:Bell_stalked_jellyfish.jpg|The rare bell stalked jellyfish, ''Lipkea stephensoni''
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The site has only been dived Good wide angle scenic shots can be taken 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.The site has been praised as a photographic destination by several notable local underwater photographers, and frquently features on the Facebook site "Underwater Cape Town".
===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.
#One route worth trying is to drop in at the southernmost pinnaclesouth side of the Pillars, descend vertically to 23m, then to turn north swim east along the reef edge, heading through a small swimthrough and pass past the fang-shaped rock towards to the seafan forest. Since this is relatively deep (around 26m) , depending on your mix, it might be worth while heading back towards the pinnacles either on the inshore northern side, which has many jumbled boulders to explore, or else on the offshore southern side until reaching as far as the gap between the pinnacles. Swim inshore through this, under past the overhang and then head south. Look out for the vertical crack and the janbruin school often seen in it, as well as and the resident roman. There are overhangs and swimthroughs to explore and a narrow overhang at about 18m on the inshore side of the southernmost pinnacle which seems to attract many fish. Ascend on the wall of one of the pinnacles &mdash; They are shallow enough to do a safety stop on top if there is not too much surge.#If you like a bit more of a navigational challenge, you can try swimming to the Santorini pinnacles to the north west. Either start at the western Pillar, and swim on a bearing of 325&deg; magnetic for 150m, or follow the southern reef edge from the southernmost pinnaclePillars to the west up a sandy gap which goes about 50m into the reef, then carry straight on (north) another 25m.
==Stay safe==
No special hazards are known.
Certification to dive to the depths found at the site would be expected. Parts of the site are within the depth range appropriate for entry level divers, but not very much, and because the site is so pristine, it is recommended that entry level divers and others with imperfect buoyancy control avoid diving there.
Back to [[Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay#Partridge Point area]]

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