Did you know?
It is illegal to remove any part of or object from a wreck without a permit from the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA).
The waters of the Cape Peninsula are home to hundreds of shipwrecks, and while some rusting ship skeletons remain undiscovered at great depths, others lie tantalisingly close on shallow reefs.
Some of the better-known shipwrecks suited to diving are those to be found in Smitswinkel Bay, along with the Maori, Astor, Katzu Maru, Pietermaritzburg and the Clan Stuart.
Lesser-known wrecks include the SAS Gelderland, a patrol boat scuttled in 1988 which today lies at just 25m, surrounded by outcrops teeming with reef species.
If you’re new to wreck diving in South Africa, the Ark Rock barge, which settled at 11m, makes an ideal beginner’s site as you’ll easily navigate in and out of the open hold.
About half a kilometre out to sea off the Glencairn quarry lies a large barge used to ferry rock to Simon’s Town during harbour construction. This wreck has a number of access points and is surrounded by a reef colonised by large ferns and favoured by smaller shark species.
In 1805 a wood-and-copper English East-Indiaman, the Brunswick, ran aground in about 8m of water. Due to her age and historical significance, nothing may be removed from this heritage site where marine life has proliferated over the past 200 years.
Smitswinkel Bay is a treasure trove featuring 5 wrecks. Of these the Good Hope, at 30m, offers the best dive with access points and luxuriant marine growth.
In 1965 a navy vessel, the SAS Fleur, sank in False Bay, off Miller’s Point. Large reef fish populate this wreck, where great white sharks are often seen. Nitrox is advisable for this 40m dive.
For highly experienced, competent divers only, the Portuguese passenger liner Lusitania awaits you at 35m below Bellow’s Rock off Cape Point, where she sank in 1911. Billed as a thrilling dive, this quest is only undertaken when conditions are perfect, since any swell turns this location into a swirling, pounding mass of white water. Nitrox is mandatory.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
All the dive sites are within a short commute of the Cape Town city centre.
Best time to visit
Summer is preferable, with calmer waters and better visibility.
Around the area
Specialist dives are available to view seals, penguins, sevengill sharks, great white sharks, blue sharks and makos.
Tours to do
For something a little more lively than wreck diving, try a day of great white shark viewing as they predate on fur seals in False Bay or Gansbaai.
Dive charters operate out of the main harbour and many offer transport to and from the departure point.
What to pack
Don’t worry about equipment as dive operators hire and sell everything you’ll need, from wetsuits and fins to tanks and oxygen.
It's a nice idea to combine a wreck dive with a great white shark or seal dive.