Open main menu

Wikitravel β

Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/Klein Tafelberg

Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay : Klein Tafelberg
Revision as of 18:08, 19 December 2010 by Pbsouthwood (talk | contribs) (Topography)

The dive site Klein Tafelberg Reef is an offshore rocky reef in the outer Hout Bay area on the Atlantic seaboard of the Cape Peninsula, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.


Map of the dive site Klein Tafelberg.

This can be a spectacular dive in good visibility as the reef profile is very rugged. The depth varies from about 42m to just under 15m over a small area. The reef structure provides a wide range of habitats and there is a large diversity of colourful invertebrates to be seen.

This site is a group of pinnacles at the south eastern end of the large Tafelberg Reef complex, which may extend all the way to Vulcan Rock in the west.


S34°04.442’ E018°19.191’ (Klein Tafelberg pinnacle)

S34°04.443’ E018°19.178’ (Table Top pinnacle)

S34°04.454’ E018°19.232’ (42m sand patch)

This site is in a Marine Protected Area (2004). A permit is required.


The name "Klein Tafelberg Reef" translates to Small Table Mountain Reef, it is a part of Tafelberg Reef complex and is slightly separate from the main reef, at the south eastern end. The alternative names "Salad Bowl" and "Yacht Wreck" refer to the large variety of colouful reef life on the rocks of the bowl shaped hollow in the side of the reef, and the wreck of the yacht that lies in it.


Maximum is about 42m, and the top of the pinnacle about 14m. The Table Top pinnacle a short distance to the west is at 15m and is much larger.


This is an area where visibility is likely to be better than average. On a good day it can exceed 20m, but 10m is more likely. Good visibility is often associated with several days of strong south easterly wind which causes upwelling of clear, cold water from the depths. This water is often rich in dissolved nutrients, and if the wind is followed by a few days of bright sunshine, there may be an plankton bloom, also known as a 'red tide' which may decrease the visibility, particularly in the surface layers. However, the deeper water may still be relatively clear, though the light levels will be less and the water will be much greener.

Divers on Klein Tafelberg reef
Divers over the pinnacle at Klein Tafelberg reef
The edge of the reef at 42m depth to the east of the pinnacle


The site is a huge granite outcrop with big boulders piled on top, and patches of sand bottom in the deeper areas. The relief is very rugged and spectacular in good visibility.

There are the remains of a small yacht on a ledge called the salad bowl part way down the north side of the pinnacle, and below that there are other outcrops to the north.

A short distance to the west, and visible from the pinnacle in good conditions, is a larger flat topped pinnacle at about 15m depth known as the Table Top, as it is roughly square and flat on top with sheer sides. This pinnacle is about 21m long and 17m wide, and is split by a huge crack about 2m wide into two unequal sections. The dropoff to the north east is much deeper than to the south west. The table top is covered by a fairly dense Split-fan kelp forest.

About 80m to the south east of the pinnacle there is a sand patch at 42m depth, and to the north the sand is at about 36m

To the southwest the depth drops to 45m in places, still quite close to the shallower parts. There is also an extensive area that is close to 24m deep and fairly flat from south to southwest of the pinnacle.

Geology: Granite of the late Pre-Cambrian Cape Peninsula pluton


The site is exposed to south westerly swells, which can cause a strong surge. The site is usually at it's best in summer but there are also occasional opportunities in autumn and winter.

This is an area which sometimes has upwellings, caused by strong south easterly winds, resulting in cold clear water, which may develop a plankton bloom over a few days, which will reduce the visibility again.

Keep a lookout for times when the south west swell is low and short period, and there is not too much south easterly wind forecast.

There is often a slight surface current. This is probably caused by wind, but on calm days the direction will be unpredictable until you are on site. It is not generally considered a hazard, but it would be prudent not to spend too long on the surface before descending. If ascending away from the shotline, a DSMB will allow the boat to keep track of your drift during the safety stop.

Get in

The site is only accessible by boat. It is about 4.5km from Hout Bay Harbour.


Colonial ascidian
Dreadlocks hydroid
Noble coral
Reef scene at Klein Tafelberg
Silvertip nudibranchs
Spiky nudibranchs

Marine life

Lots of great invertebrates on reefs, also seals, kelp, and some Hottentot seabream.

The tops of the shallower pinnacles are covered by a dense growth of large red-bait pods, and usually split-fan kelp, with an understorey of smaller red seaweeds, like the Coral plocamion, and supporting a variety of anemones, hydroids and other small invertebrates.

Even near the tops of the pinnacles, corals, false corals and sponges are abundant on the steeper rock faces and particularly under overhangs. Basket stars are frequently seen at this site, and there are several other starfish, including the brooding cushion star.


Wreck of yacht just north of pinnacle.

One of the most accessible 40m dive sites in the region, with plenty to see on your way up.


Good site for macro and wide angle photography.


Descend on shotline to the reef, swim down to the wreck of the yacht, continue to desired depth, then work your way up the rocks to the top of the pinnacle and deploy your DSMB.

Stay safe


Cold water, Nitrogen narcosis in the deeper areas. Strong offshore winds may develop over a short time.


No special skills are required, but appropriate certification for the depth is expected.


It is cold and relatively deep, and a dry suit is recommended. This is a dive site where the use of Nitrox can be worthwhile to extend no-stop time. A compass will help keep you orientated, a light will restore colour and allow you to look into crevices and overhangs, and a reel with DSMB is worth carrying in case you need to surface away from the shot line.

Back to Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay

This is a guide article. It has good, detailed information covering the entire topic. Plunge forward and help us make it a star!