Did you know that one of the leading dive magazines named one of our local Atlantic shore dive sites, Coral Gardens, as one of the top 10 dive sites in South Africa? This is quite impressive, especially if you take into account that the site was competing with the likes of Sodwana and Aliwal Shoal.

Coral Gardens is one of the least dived sites in Cape Town, and also one of the least well known. Seeing the site named as one of the top ten I decided that there is no way that I was going to live in Cape Town and not go and explore this site – take out the and what an experience!

First off: Doing this site as a shore dive is not for the faint hearted, and is only for the seriously adventurous. It is done as a boat dive as well, but boats do not often venture here, as it is quite a long ride out from either Houtbay or the Waterfront. Getting in from the shore you have the choice of either a long surface swim (about 250 meters), or literally abseiling down a slope with a rope (with all your dive gear on).

If however you are willing to take on this kind of challenge, and you are willing to pay the entrance fee of R20 (it is inside the Oudekraal picnic area), an amazing dive awaits you. There are loads of swim-throughs, stunning coral (I’ve never seen nearly as much coral anywhere else in Cape Town, and this explains the name if the site for me – Coral Gardens), and quite a lot of fish life as well.

Over the past 5 years of diving, I have had a certain kind of “moment” 3 or 4 times. The best way to describe my “moment” is that it is like time stops, and what you see is so amazing that you have to remind yourself to take a breath every now and again. One of these “moments” was here in Coral Gardens. After we had been diving for about 20 minutes, I swam into a swim-through, and coming out on the other side I entered what I can best describe as an Amphitheatre. Swirling everywhere high up above me was Hottentot fish, and on every side of me there was the most beautiful coral on walls that seemed to form the perfect amphitheater. It was incredible! I just hung there, suspended in the water and unaware of time… I have never seen something like this before. After what must have been quite some time I snapped out of my euphoric stupor, and I swam on, exiting the Amphitheatre through another swim-through…

This is definitively a site that I can recommend, if you are up for the enormous challenge of getting in and getting out. You can easily make a nice day out of it as well – the picnic area has some good facilities, which means that you can make a family day out of it.

Max depth: about 17 meters

Water temperature: between 9 and 14 degrees.