Facts about Scuba Diving in SA
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Have you ever experienced the feeling of becoming one with the ocean and its inhabitants, freely moving at depths of 20 to 30 m whilst surrounded by incredible and colourful marine life?
Scuba diving makes this possible thanks to a device (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus = SCUBA), which allows you to stay underwater far longer than breath-held divers can. You're assisted by a pair of flippers which will propel you through water with minimal effort form your side. In South Africa, the dive experience is extremely varied and will provide a close view of a huge variety of sea animals, from tiny sardines to throngs and big sharks. All one needs to do is firstly, complete a diving course and secondly, get hold of the necessary equipment (available for rent pretty much anywhere). Make sure to have company though, the buddy system is a crucial security measure and should be implemented with no exceptions.
Short History of Scuba Diving
The history of scuba diving is directly linked to the development of the respective equipment. Following a traumatic childhood experience of being thrown into water, a French inventor by the name of Maurice Fernez made it his mission to create a device that would allow people to stay under water without drowning. Having started experimenting as of 1905, he first came up with a flexible rubber tube which would connect a diver's mouth to the surface, sporting a T-shaped mouthpiece for the swimmer’s end and a non-return valve. Realizing this would only work at depths of about a meter, he added a manual Michelin air pump, a clamp for the diver's nose and goggles. During a demonstration which took place in 1925, Fernez was approached by Yves Le Prieur who invited him to jointly work on a new concept which would be fully autonomous from the surface. Only a year later did this duo introduce free-swimming gear consisting of a tank worn on diver’s back, with the pressure regulator designed by Le Prieur. A few years later, Le Prieur replaced all Fernez’ inventions (nose clip, googles, one-way valve mouthpiece) with a full face mask supplied by air directly from the tank.
With the idea in mind of making it simple for anybody to become a skilled diver, John Cronin and Ralph Erickson created the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, known as PADI, in 1966. Its introduction was followed by a steady increase in number of divers and a simultaneous fall in fatality rates. These days, scuba diving is very easy to learn, providing you follow some basic rules, it’s a very safe activity.
Where are some of South Africas top Scuba Diving Sites?
This beautiful country offers thousands of dive sites. Gansbaai, located east of Cape Town, is an area famous for cage diving encounters with the great white sharks. To the south of it you’ll find the Dyer Island Group which is home to a Cape fur seal colony, large number of African penguins, and once again, hundreds of great white sharks. False Bay and its somewhat warmer waters are inhabited by leopard cat sharks, Cape fur seals, puffadder shysharks, brightly coloured sea fans and feather stars. In Mossel Bay, situated in the heart of the Garden Route, you’ll get to dive to depths of between 7m and 30m and observe sponges, big fans, stingrays, small reef fish, rock cod and great white sharks. Great underwater visibility during the summer months will allow you to marvel stingrays, cuttlefish and a number of local reef species at Santos Reef in the north corner of Mossel Bay. This is also the area where you’ll find Innerpool, a surf spot offering great waves and home to a variety of marine life such as sharks, dolphins and nudibranch.
While summer is the ideal period to go diving in any of the above mentioned spots, you may also want to make note of the famous sardine run which normally takes place between May and July. A convoy consisting of billions of Sardines moving up the eastern seaboard that attracts numerous predators – sharks and dolphins, among others. The sight of a flock of sardines more than 6 km long, 1.6 km wide and 30m deep creates an impressive spectacle and is likely one of the greatest dives you’ll ever experience.
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